There's a clever classic story,
Such as poets used to write,
(You may find the tale in Ovid),
That the Raven once was white. White as yonder swan a-sailing
At this moment in the moat,
Till the bird, for misbehavior,
Lost, one day, his snowy coat. "Raven-white" was once the saying,
Till an accident, alack!
Spoiled its meaning, and thereafter
It was changed to "Raven-black." Shall I tell you how it happened
That the change was brought about?
List the story of CORONIS,
And you'll find the secret out. Young CORONIS, fairest maiden
Of Thessalia's girlish train,
Whom Apollo loved and courted,
Loved and courted not in vain, Flirted with another lover
(So at least the story goes)
And was wont to meet him slyly,
Underneath the blushing rose. Whereupon the bird of Phoebus,
Who their meetings chanced to view,
Went in haste unto his master,
Went and told him all he knew; Told him how his dear CORONIS,
False and faithless as could be,
Plainly loved another fellow--
If he doubted, come and see! Whereupon Apollo, angry
Thus to find himself betrayed,
With his silver bow-and-arrow
Went and shot the wretched maid! Now when he perceived her dying,
He was stricken to the heart,
And to stop her mortal bleeding,
Tried his famous healing art! But in vain; the god of Physic
Had no antidote; alack!
He who took her off so deftly
Couldn't bring the maiden back! Angry with himself, Apollo,
Yet more angry with his bird,
For a moment stood in silence--
Impotent to speak a word. Then he turned upon the Raven,
"Wanton babbler! See thy fate!
Messenger of mine no longer,
Go to Hades with thy prate! "Weary Pluto with thy tattle!
Hither, monster, come not back;
And--to match thy disposition--
Henceforth be thy plumage black!" MORAL When you're tempted to make mischief,
It is wisest to refuse;
People are not apt to fancy
Bearers of unwelcome news. SECOND MORAL Something of the pitch you handle,
On your fingers will remain;
As the Raven's tale of darkness
Gave the bird a lasting stain!