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  • Fox and Crow, and: The Cat and the Two Sparrows
  • Fred Chappell (bio)

Fox and Crow


Fox spots Crow in the top of a tree.“That carrion she pecks must come to me.”He ponders how to ply his witAnd award himself the whole of it.

“Who is that who trills so grand?The great soprano Dame Sutherland,Whose voice charms every audienceFrom Sydney, Australia, to Paris, France.O fortunate hour! What blessing is mineTo catch a glimpse of the Diva divine!Can I persuade you, just for me,To sing one bar of ‘Un bel di,’Or the ‘Air des bijoux’ of Charles Gounod,Or a single note of ‘Dove sono’?”

Crow, unused to being wooed,Quickly adopts a musical mood.She fills her lungs and sings out “Croaw!”And delivers her morsel into Fox’s paw.


The flatterer has a plan in mindThat may not benefit all mankind.His words are honey, his smile is warm;His hand in your pocket intends no harm. [End Page 177]

The Cat and the Two Sparrows

—La Fontaine, XII, 2

        It was amusing to see    The quick pet Sparrow and the Cat    Engage in harmless duels thatExercised their friendly rivalry.

    Their sport continued for years.            Cat understood    The bird was not his proper food;        The Sparrow had no fears.

        These nimble sparring partners        Inhabited a château    And entertained the Maids and Gardeners        With many a mock set-to.

        Their range of acquaintance was narrow;        Cat thought his feathered friend        Was like every other Sparrow            The world around.

        But one unfortunate day        A window was left ajarAnd a stranger Sparrow entered from far                Away.

        This unknown interloper        Was very rude indeed    He had no notion of what was proper        And what was not allowed.

    He fluttered chattering about the house,        Through pantries, bedrooms, hallways,    Making in each dreadful mess        And insulting Cat all ways. [End Page 178]

        Fuzzbutt, he called him, The Big-Eared Wonder,        And Creepabout and Pillowdozer,        Old Spooky Slinker, Nature’s Blunder,                And Stripey Trouser.

        Down he swooped upon the Cat            And flittered at his nose,        Ever careful to estimate            The farthest reach of his paws.

        One time only he miscalculated        His necessary certain distance        And met the end for which he was fated            As an instructive instance.

    Cat swallowed him down with a surly growl;                In a curious mood,        He speculated how a creature so vile                Could taste so good.

            He began at length to ponder            The Wherefores and the WhysAnd gazed upon his playmate Sparrow with wonder                And strange surmise. [End Page 179]

Fred Chappell

Fred Chappell has published more than two dozen books of poetry, fiction, and essays, including The Fred Chappell Reader (St. Martin’s Press, 1987). A former North Carolina Poet Laureate, he has won the T. S. Eliot award, an award for literature from the American Academy for Arts and Letters, and the best foreign book award from the Academie Française. He taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for forty years and helped to establish its MFA program.



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