Charles Lamb

The Rook And The Sparrows

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A little boy with crumbs of bread
Many a hungry sparrow fed.
It was a child of little sense,
Who this kind bounty did dispense;
For suddenly it was withdrawn,
And all the birds were left forlorn,
In a hard time of frost and snow,
Not knowing where for food to go.
He would no longer give them bread,
Because he had observed (he said)
That sometimes to the window came
A great black bird, a rook by name,
And took away a small bird's share.
So foolish Henry did not care
What became of the great rook,
That from the little sparrows took,
Now and then, as 'twere by stealth,
A part of their abundant wealth;
Nor ever more would feed his sparrows.
Thus ignorance a kind heart narrows.
I wish I had been there, I would
Have told the child, rooks live by food
In the same way that sparrows do.
I also would have told him too,
Birds act by instinct, and ne'er can
Attain the rectitude of man.
Nay that even, when distress
Does on poor human nature press,
We need not be too strict in seeing
The failings of a fellow being.

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Charles Lamb