The Spendthrift and The Swallow

A man saw a Swallow early in the season and sold his coat. The weather turned cold again and the man bemoaned that it would kill him and the Swallow.

Don’t draw a conclusion based on a single observation.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

Spendthrift Swallow

Milo Winter (1919)

A young fellow, who was very popular among his boon companions as a good spender, quickly wasted his fortune trying to live up to his reputation. Then one fine day in early spring he found himself with not a penny left, and no property save the clothes he wore.

He was to meet some jolly young men that morning, and he was at his wits’ end how to get enough money to keep up appearances. Just then a Swallow flew by, twittering merrily, and the young man, thinking summer had come, hastened off to a clothes dealer, to whom he sold all the clothes he wore down to his very tunic.

A few days later a change in weather brought a severe frost; and the poor swallow and that foolish young man in his light tunic, and with his arms and knees bare, could scarcely keep life in their shivering bodies.


One swallow does not make a summer.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A young man, a great spendthrift, had run through all his patrimony and had but one good cloak left. One day he happened to see a Swallow, which had appeared before its season, skimming along a pool and twittering gaily. He supposed that summer had come, and went and sold his cloak. Not many days later, winter set in again with renewed frost and cold. When he found the unfortunate Swallow lifeless on the ground, he said, “Unhappy bird! what have you done? By thus appearing before the springtime you have not only killed yourself, but you have wrought my destruction also.”

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

A Prodigal young fellow, who had run through all his money, and even sold all his outer clothes except his cloak, seeing a Swallow skimming over the meadows one fine day in the early spring, believed that summer was really come, and sold his cloak too. The next morning there happened to be a severe frost, and, shivering and nearly frozen himself, he found the Swallow lying stiff and dead upon the ground. He thereupon upbraided the poor bird as the cause of all his misfortunes. “Stupid thing,” said he, “had you not come before your time, I should not now be so wretched as I am.”

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version (A Young Man and A Swallow)

A prodigal young fellow that had sold his cloths to his very shirt, upon the sight of a swallow that came abroad before her time, made account that summer was now at hand, and away went that too. There happen’d after this, a fit of bitter cold weather, that almost starv’d both the bird, and the spendthrift. Well (says the fellow to himself) this sot of a swallow has been the ruine of us both.


Extraordinary cases are excepted out of the general rules of life: so that irregular accidents and instances are not to be drawn into precedent.

1001Hirundo et Iuvenis

Temulentus et dissolutus quidem iuvenis, qui patrimonium integrum decoxerat, ipsa etiam vestimenta solebat pro pecuniis venum dare. Ad hoc, ex augurio circumvolantis hirundinis coniiciens iam aestatem appropinquasse, illico vestitus exuit et seminudus in popinas delituit. Sed, cum brumae reliquiae redeuntes maiori frigore saeviebant et hirundinem enecassent, iuvenis tandem circumvagabatur et, aviculam mortuam offendens, inquit, “O infelicem augurem et tui et mei infortunii!”

Perry #169