The Swallow and the Other Birds

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the swalowe / and other byrdes

He that byleueth not good counceyll / may not fayll to be euylle counceylled / wherof Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable / of a plowgh man / whiche sowed lynseed / & the swalowe seyng that of the same lynseed men myght make nettes and gynnes / wente and sayd to alle other byrdes / Come with me ye al & lete vs plucke vp al this / For yf we leue hit growe / the labourer shal mowe make therof gynnes and nettes for to take vs al / Alle the byrdes dispraysed his counceyl / And thenne as the swalowe sawe this / he wente and herberowed her in the plough mans hows / And whanne the flaxe was growen and pulled vp / the labourer made grynnes and nettes to take byrdes / wherwith he took euery day many other byrdes / and brought them in to his hows / to the whiche byrdes the swalowe thenne sayd / I told yow wel / what that shold happe therof / wherfore men ought not to disprayse good counceylle /

For he that is euyl aduysed and not wel counceyled shalle haue moche payne

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

A SWALLOW AND OTHER BIRDS

There was a Country Fellow at work a sowing his grounds, and a Swallow (being a Bird famous for Providence and Foresight) call'd a company of little Birds about her, and bade 'em take good notice what that Fellow was a doing. You must know (says the Swallow) that all the Fowlers Nets and Snares are made of Hemp or Flax, and that's the Seed that he is now a sowing. Pick it up in time, for fear of what may come on't. In short, they put it off, till it took root; and then again, till it was sprung up into the Blade: Upon this, the Swallow told 'em once for all, that it was not yet too late to prevent the Mischief, if they would but bestir themselves, and set heartily about it; but finding that no heed was given to what she said, she e'en bade adieu to her old Companions in the Woods, and so betook herself to a City-Life, and to the Conversation of Men. This Flax and Hemp came in time to be gather'd and wrought, and it was this Swallow's Fortune to see several of the very same Birds that she had forewarned, taken in Nets made of the very Stuff she told them of. They came at last to be sensible fo the folly of slipping their Opportunity; but they were lost beyond all Redemption first.

THE MORAL. Wise Men read Effects in their Causes; but Fools will not believe them till 'tis too late to prevent the Mischief. Delay in these Cases is mortal.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Swallow and the Other Birds

It happened that a Countryman was sowing some hemp seeds in a field where a Swallow and some other birds were hopping about picking up their food. "Beware of that man," quoth the Swallow. "Why, what is he doing?" said the others. "That is hemp seed he is sowing; be careful to pick up every one of the seeds, or else you will repent it." The birds paid no heed to the Swallow's words, and by and by the hemp grew up and was made into cord, and of the cords nets were made, and many a bird that had despised the Swallow's advice was caught in nets made out of that very hemp. "What did I tell you?" said the Swallow.

Destroy the seed of evil, or it will grow up to your ruin.