From Immortal Poetry
Two formal owls together sat,
Conferring thus in solemn chat:
‘How is the modern taste decayed!
Where’s the respect to wisdom paid?
Our worth the Grecian sages knew;
They gave our sires the honour due;
They weighed the dignity of fowls,
And pried into the depth of owls.
Athens, the seat of learned fame,
With general voice revered our name;
On merit, title was conferred,
And all adored the Athenian bird.’
‘Brother, you reason well,’ replies
The solemn mate, with half-shut eyes;
‘Right. Athens was the seat of learning,
And truly wisdom is discerning.
Besides, on Pallas’ helm we sit,
The type and ornament of wit:
But now, alas! we’re quite neglected,
And a pert sparrow’s more respected.’
A sparrow, who was lodged beside,
O’erhears them soothe each other’s pride,
And thus he nimbly vents his heat:
‘Who meets a fool must find conceit.
I grant, you were at Athens graced,
And on Minerva’s helm were placed;
But every bird that wings the sky,
Except an owl, can tell you why.
From hence they taught their schools to know
How false we judge by outward show;
That we should never looks esteem,
Since fools as wise as you might seem.
Would ye contempt and scorn avoid,
Let your vain-glory be destroyed:
Humble your arrogance of thought,
Pursue the ways by Nature taught;
So shall you find delicious fare,
And grateful farmers praise your care:
So shall sleek mice your chase reward,
And no keen cat find more regard.’