A certain hollow tree
Was tenanted by three.
An eagle held a lofty bough,
The hollow root a wild wood sow,
A female cat between the two.
All busy with maternal labours,
They lived awhile obliging neighbours.
At last the cat’s deceitful tongue
Broke up the peace of old and young.
Up climbing to the eagle’s nest,
She said, with whiskered lips compressed,
“Our death, or, what as much we mothers fear,
That of our helpless offspring dear,
Is surely drawing near.
Beneath our feet, see you not how
Destruction’s plotted by the sow?
Her constant digging, soon or late,
Our proud old castle will uproot.
And then—O, sad and shocking fate!—
She’ll eat our young ones, as the fruit!
Were there but hope of saving one,
“Twould soothe somewhat my bitter moan.”
Thus leaving apprehensions hideous,
Down went the puss perfidious
To where the sow, no longer digging,
Was in the very act of pigging.
“Good friend and neighbour,” whispered she,
“I warn you on your guard to be.
Your pigs should you but leave a minute,
This eagle here will seize them in it.
Speak not of this, I beg, at all,
Lest on my head her wrath should fall.”
Another breast with fear inspired,
With fiendish joy the cat retired.
The eagle ventured no egress
To feed her young, the sow still less.
Fools they, to think that any curse
Than ghastly famine could be worse!
Both staid at home, resolved and obstinate,
To save their young ones from impending fate,—
The royal bird for fear of mine,
For fear of royal claws the swine.
All died, at length, with hunger,
The older and the younger;
There staid, of eagle race or boar,
Not one this side of death’s dread door;—
A sad misfortune, which
The wicked cats made rich.
O, what is there of hellish plot
The treacherous tongue dares not!
Of all the ills Pandora’s box outpoured,
Deceit, I think, is most to be abhorred.
The Eagle, the Wild Sow, and the Cat – Jean de La Fontaine Fables