The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Two Young Warriors

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FABLE XVI.
THE TWO YOUNG WARRIORS.

Two farmer-boys, genteel and bright,
Who in ill-doing took delight
(For they were by their father spoil’d),
Were seeking nests the garden round.
A brood of partridges they found,
And in their joy went nearly wild.
The fledglings scatter far and near
Under the impulse of their fear,

And to go free great efforts make;
But the two urchins here and there,
Meet and head them everywhere,
Till every single one they take.
The mother trails her wings in vain;
Now timid flies, and now makes bold;
But uselessly she'd longer feign;
The boys get all their pockets hold.
Each boy has six; one yet remains;
And for this odd one both contend;
Each of his rights and wrongs complains,
Till of dispute there seems no end.
"Let us draw lots!" "No!" "Yes!" "Yes!" "No!"
       So to and fro,
The bandied words between them go.
       "I'll knock you down!"
       "I'll break your crown!"
Hot and hotter the contest grew,
When th' older one the odd bird threw
       At his brother's head.
The younger brother in reply,
Then let another birdling fly.
The elder back another sped.
       Neither will yield,
Until the ground is strewn around
       Like any battle field,
With quiv'ring, gasping, dying birds.
The father, hap'ning round that way,
Stopp'd to observe the cruel play,
And to his boys address'd these words:—

"What! are you kings, that you should be
With lives of innocents so free?
What right have you, I'd like to know,
To deal around you death and woe,
Like emperors, whose sport it is,
To slay mankind like partridges?"