Those that live by the sword perish by the sword, and those that live by the daily assault on the humble city pigeon will die by the pigeon.

Rhett, one of the celebrated Baltimore peregrine falcons who lived up on top of the U.S. Fidelity and Guaranty Co. skyscraper, was found dead last fall in a grain elevator at the edge of the Baltimore harbor. Nobody knew just what happened to him.

The original idea had been to make the wilderness bloom with the hiss of speeding wings as Rhett and his mate, Scarlett, sired a whole skyful of falcons. Turned loose on a wild island in Chesapeake Bay, the falcons soon mistook downtown Baltimore for the wide-open spaces, but it had been widely hoped that this would make no difference whatever and that they would breed as freely in Baltimore as in a windswept desert.

Ganging agley, however, he ate one too many Baltimore street pigeons and (as deduced over the weekend at Cornell University from the evidence of an autopsy) died of strychnine poisoning. It is speculated that some barbarian who did not like pigeons had put out the poison. However it was, the falcon ate the pigeon and wound up with the poison.

One of the early lessons of a child should be that nature and the world in general have ample use for violent types, who frequently flourish just fine and sail around at the top of a food chain.

So the death by strychnine (a pecuiarly painful poison) of Rhett is widely regarded as one of the significant sorrows of Baltimore. He was beautiful beyond words. Such grace, as he seized a slow-moving pigeon in midflight, spitting out the wings. It is hardly kind to say, as one pigeon-lover did, that frankly, Rhett, we don't give a damn.