The Eagle and the Jackdaw

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the Egle and of the rauen

None ought to take on hym self to doo a thynge / whiche is peryllous withoute he fele hym self strong ynough to doo hit / As reherceth this Fable / Of an Egle / whiche fleynge took a lambe / wherof the Rauen hadde grete enuye wherfor vpon another tyme as the sayd rauen sawe a grete herd of sheep / by his grete enuy & pryde & by his grete oultrage descended on them / and by suche fachon and manere smote a wether that his clowes abode to the flyes of hit / In soo moche that he coude not flee awey / The sheepherd thenne came and brake and toke his wynges from hym / And after bare hym to his children to playe them with / And demaunded of hym / what byrd he was / And the Rauen ansuerd to hym / I suppose to haue ben an Egle / And by my ouerwenynge I wende to haue take a lambe / as the egle dyd / but now I knowe wel that I am a Rauen /

wherfore the feble ought not in no wyse to compare hym self to the stronge / For somtyme when he supposeth to doo more than he may / he falleth in to grete dishonour / as hit appiereth by this present Fable / Of a Rauen / whiche supposed to haue ben as stronge as the egle

L'Estrange's translation (1692)[edit]


An Eagle made a stoop and a Lamb; truss’d it, and took it cleverly away with her. A mimical Daw, that saw this Exploit, would needs try the same Experiment upon a Ram: But his claws were so shackled in the Fleece with lugging to get him up, the Shepherd came in, and caught him, before he could clear himself; he clipt his Wings, and carried him home to his Children to play withal. They came gaping about him, and ask’d their Father what strange Bird that was? Why, says he, he’ll tell you himself that he’s an Eagle; but if you’ll take my word for’t; I know him to be a Daw.

THE MORAL. ‘Tis a high degree of Vanity and folly, for Men to take more upon them than they are able to go through withal; and the End of those Undertakings is only Mockery and Disappointment in the Conclusion.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Eagle and the Jackdaw

An Eagle, flying down from his perch on a lofty rock, seized upon a lamb and carried him aloft in his talons. A Jackdaw, who witnessed the capture of the lamb, was stirred with envy and determined to emulate the strength and flight of the Eagle. He flew around with a great whir of his wings and settled upon a large ram, with the intention of carrying him off, but his claws became entangled in the ram's fleece and he was not able to release himself, although he fluttered with his feathers as much as he could. The shepherd, seeing what had happened, ran up and caught him. He at once clipped the Jackdaw's wings, and taking him home at night, gave him to his children. On their saying, "Father, what kind of bird is it?' he replied, "To my certain knowledge he is a Daw; but he would like you to think an Eagle."