A Fable

William Cowper 1731 (Berkhamsted) – 1800 (Dereham)



A raven, while with glossy breast
Her new-laid eggs she fondly press'd,
And, on her wicker-work high mounted,
Her chickens prematurely counted
(A fault philosophers might blame,
If quite exempted from the same),
Enjoy'd at ease the genial day;
'Twas April, as the bumpkins say,
The legislature call'd it May.
But suddenly a wind, as high
As ever swept a winter sky,
Shook the young leaves about her ears,
And fill'd her with a thousand fears,
Lest the rude blast should snap the bough,
And spread her golden hopes below.
But just at eve the blowing weather
And all her fears were hush'd together:
And now, quoth poor unthinking Ralph.
'Tis over, and the brood is safe;
(For ravens, though, as birds of omen,
They teach both conjurors and old women
To tell us what is to befall,
Can’t prophesy themselves at all.)
The morning came, when neighbour Hodge,
Who long had mark'd her airy lodge,
And destined all the treasure there
A gift to his expecting fair,
Climb’d like a squirrel to his dray,
And bore the worthless prize away.

Moral:
'Tis Providence alone secures
In every change both mine and yours:
Safety consists not in escape
From dangers of a frightful shape;
An earthquake may be bid to spare
The man that’s strangled by a hair.
Fate steals along with silent tread,
Found oft’nest in what least we dread,
Frowns in the storm with angry brow,
But in the sunshine strikes the blow.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on April 15, 2023

1:16 min read
103

Quick analysis:

Scheme AABBCCDDDEEFFGHIIXXJJKKLLMMDD XNNOOMMPPGH
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,363
Words 248
Stanzas 2
Stanza Lengths 29, 11

William Cowper

William Macquarie Cowper was an Australian Anglican archdeacon and Dean of Sydney. more…

All William Cowper poems | William Cowper Books

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