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Richard Jefferies: The raven, a fable


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war


Richard Jefferies
From Wood Magic: A Fable

“In his rage Kapchack ordered a decimation of the wood-pigeons, which I myself think was a great mistake; but, as I have told you before, I do not meddle with politics. Still I cannot help thinking that if he had, instead, of his royal bounty and benevolence, given the wood-pigeons an increase of territory, seeing how near they sometimes came to a famine, that they would have been disarmed and their discontent turned to gratitude; but he ordered in his rage and terror that they should be decimated, and let loose the whole army of his hawks upon them, so that the slaughter was awful to behold, and the ground was strewn with their torn and mangled bodies….”


“I counsel instant attack. War to the beak is my motto!”

“War to the beak,” said the crow.

“War to the beak,” said the jay, carefully adjusting his brightest feathers, “and our ladies will view our deeds.”


The raven, you must know, my dear Sir Bevis, was once the principal judge and arbiter of justice amongst us, so much so that he was above kings, and it is certain that had he been here we should not have had to submit to the sanguinary tyranny of Kapchack, nor condemned to witness the scandalous behaviour of his court, or the still greater scandal of his own private life. But for some reason the raven mysteriously left this country about a hundred years ago, leaving behind him certain prophecies, some of which no doubt you have heard, especially that upon his return there will be no more famine, nor frost, nor slaughter, nor conflict, but we shall all live together in peace.

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