Friday 10 May 2013

'The Lark and her Fledglings'

'The Lark and her Fledglings' an illustration by JVL in Aesop's Fables, Jonathan Cape, 1989.

This is a fable about self reliance. Below is an 18th century version of the fable by Samuel Croxall

The Lark, her Fledglings, and the Farmer
A Lark, who had young Ones in a Field of Corn which was almost ripe; was under some Fear, lest the Reapers should come to cut it, before her young brood was fledg’d, and able to remove from the Place. Wherefore, upon flying abroad to look for Food, she left this Charge with them, That they should take Notice what they heard talk’d of in her Absence and tell her of it when she came back again.

When she was gone, they heard the Owner of the Corn call to his Son; Well, says he, I think this Corn is ripe enough; I’d have you go, early to-morrow, and desire our Friends and neighbours to come, betimes in the Morning, and help us cut it. 

When the old Lark came home, the young Ones fell a quivering and chirping round her, and told her what had happen’d, begging her to remove them as fast as ever she could.  The Mother bid them be easy; for, says she, if the Owner depends upon Friends and Neighbours, I am pretty sure the Corn will not be reapt to-morrow. 

Next day, she went out again, upon the same Occasion, and left the same Orders with them as before. The Owner came, and stay’d, expecting those who he had sent to; but the Sun grew hot, and nothing was done; for not a Soul came to help him. Then says he to his Son, I perceive these Friends of ours are not to be depended upon, so that you must e’en go to your Uncles and Cousins, and tell them I desire they would be here betimes to-morrow Morning to help us reap. 

Well, this the young Ones, in a great Fright, reported also to their Mother. If that be all, says she,  don’t be frighten’d, Children; for Kindred and Relations don’t use to be so very forward to serve one another: But, take particular Notice what you hear said the next Time, and be sure you let me know it. 

She went abroad the next Day, as usual; and, the Owner, finding his Relations as slack as the rest of his Neighbours, said to his Son, Hearky George, do you get a Couple of good Sickles ready against to-morrow Morning, and we’ll e’en cut the Corn our selves. 

When the young Ones told their Mother this; then, says she, we must be gone indeed; For, when a Man undertakes to do his Business himself, ’tis not so likely that he will be disappointed. So, she remov’d her young Ones immediately, and the Corn was reapt the next Day by the good man, and his Son.

Moral: A person means real business when he relies on himself  rather than depend on the assistance of his friends and relations.

Text: Samuel Croxall (38, 1722).

Selected Parallels: Aulus Gellius (Attic Nights 2/29. Babrius 88. Avianus 21. La Fontaine 4/22. L’Estrange 52. Perry 325. TMI J1031.

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