Aesop: The Hawk and the Farmer

After yesterday's fable about the bloodthirsty hawk and the poor pigeons, I thought I would share a different story about a hawk and a pigeon, one in which a quick-witted human character intervenes, and the hawk learns a fatal lesson. The Golden Rule tells us "to do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In this case, though, the fable is about the negative version: "do not do unto others what you would not have done to you."

This is one of the Aesop's fables that comes from the neo-Latin writer known as Abstemius; I had shared a fable from Abstemius here earlier: The Bear and the Bees.

Abstemius calls this fable De accipitre columbam insequente, About the Hawk Pursuing the Dove. I've collected various English-language versions and  illustrations, and the one I want to share here is the one in Croxall's Aesop:


A hawk, pursuing a pigeon over a corn-field with great eagerness and force, threw himself into a net, which a husbandman had planted there to take the crows; who, being employed not far off, and seeing the hawk fluttering in the net, came and took him.

But just as he was going to kill him, the hawk besought him to let him go, assuring him that he was only following a pigeon, and neither intended, nor had done any harm to him.

To whom the farmer replied, “And what harm had the poor pigeon done to you?”

Upon which he wrung his head off immediately.

Here's the illustration from Francis Barlow:

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