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Two shepherds sat on grassy hills
With distant miles between.
One watched his flock by water’s stills,
One by the moistened green.

The first was known for natural skill
With sheep of every kind,
Right words to say, with grace distill
Commands to woolly minds.

“He loves,” they say, “all sheep, you see.
No harm he’ll e’er inflict.
More liked a man no one can be.
He’s perfect, we predict.”

The second, less a way with sheep
A skill did he possess.
Their smell, their bleats, their high up-keep
Did often cause him stress.

“He’s adequate,” they say, “we’ll grant.
A faithful job he’ll do.
Respect him, yes, but like him? Can’t
We leave that up to you?”

These shepherds two on distant hills
Sat silently at peace,
When wolves attacked!, intent on kills
And hunger pangs to cease.

As wolves streamed down from hills around
The first, he took to flight.
He hid behind the hills and found
No stomach for a fight.

So one by one, his best sheep fell
To bloody bite and claw.
Their bleats and shrieks could not compel
Him act on what he saw.

“All animals he loves,” they shrug.
“Including wolves, you see.
A dozen died, but see him hug
Surviving sheep with glee!”

When wolves attacked the second’s flock
He quickly leaped to fight.
With mighty swings the hills did rock
Of battered wolves affright.

And one by one they limped away,
Sent howling, hungry, hurt.
Though injured, too, he stood all day
And night–keen and alert.

To them I ask: “Which shepherd now
Did truly love his sheep?
Which showed true virtue? Kept his vow?
Which shepherd held his keep?”

(Photo by: Kailish Kumar)