The Hen and The Swallow

A Hen sat on eggs in am abandoned viper’s nest. A Swallow called her out asking why she would be incubating the eggs of a mortal enemy. Good question!

A good natured man will often assist his own destruction.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A hen finding the eggs of a viper and carefully keeping them warm, nourished them into life. A Swallow, observing what she had done, said, “You silly creature! why have you hatched these vipers which, when they shall have grown, will inflict injury on all, beginning with yourself?’

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

There was once a foolish Hen, that sat brooding upon a nest of Snakes’ eggs. A Swallow perceiving it, flew to her, and told her what danger she was in. “Be assured,” said she, “you are hatching your own destruction. The moment these young ones see the light, they will turn and wreak their venomous spite upon you.”

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

There was a foolish hen that sat brooding upon a nest of snakes eggs. A swallow, that observ’d it, went and told her the danger on’t. Little do you think, says she, what you are at this instant a doing, and that you are just now hatching your own destruction; for this good office will be your ruine.


‘Tis the hard fortune of many a good natur’d man to breed up a bird to peck out his own eyes, in despite of all cautions to the contrary.

1001Gallina et Ova Serpentis

Gallina reperta ova serpentis coepit studiose incubando fovere ut pullos excluderet. Hoc agentem conspicata, hirundo “Stulta!” inquit; “cur in hoc fetu educando operam ponis, qui eductus in te primum omnium iniuriosus est futurus?”

Perry #192