THE JAY DECKED IN PEACOCK'S FEATHERS
A jay got dressed in courtly pride,
From plumes a moulting peacock threw aside,
Went to the peacock's grand repair,
And like a lord was strutting there.
Alas ! he was discovered in the throng‑
Hissed, mocked, and pecked, and hooted all along ;
The lordly peacocks stripped him with disdain,
And sent him sneaking to his tribe again,
And there in turn,
His tribe him spurn.
Like him is many a biped jay,
Who would his borrowed plumes display :
They call them plagiaries to be plain.
But mum ! I would not cause them pain ;
Such business is not in my way.
THE CAMEL AND FLOATING STICKS (IV, 10)
The first who saw a camel, fled
From this new object of his dread –
The next drew near; the third,’tis said,
A halter for the dromedary made.
Custom makes things familiar to our sight
That strike us first with wonder and affright.
We lose our panic and surprise
As they grow tame before our eyes.
And here a tale, since we this subject treat :
Some men were placed to watch the shore ;
Their eyes a distant object meet—
“ A Man of War ! ” they all began to roar ;
Anon a fire-ship they the object deemed ;
And now a boat, and next a bale it seemed :
’Twas floating sticks, and nothing more.
Many, I know, to whom this may apply ;
Afar a monster, and a mouse when nigh.
THE FROG AND RAT (IV, 11)
As Merlin says, the biter’s often bit
In biting others. I regret to say,
This word t is out of date to day ;
I've always thought it forcible and fit.
But to the point--a well-fed bloated rat,
Who let no fasting days impair his fat,
Was sporting on the borders of a lake :
A frog drew near, and croaked ; “ Pray, sir, partake
Of rich repast which I’ve prepared below.”
Sir Rat consented with a ready bow.
There was no need of any long harangue,
And yet the pleasures of the bath she sang,
The scenery in the way they had to take,
A hundred rarities along the lake ;
That with the beauties, customs of the place,
He might one day amuse his infant, race,
Of the aquatic rule the conduct show
With all the wonders of the world below.
One point alone the gallant rat delayed ;
He swam a little, but he needed aid ;
The frog for this a remedy soon found ;
Fast to her foot her neighbour's paw she bound
With slip of reed, and thought him good as drowned.
Down, down her guest the dame began to draw,
Perjured against all nature and all law ;
A dainty treat, an excellent collation,
She cracked his bones in her imagination.
“ Witness, ye gods ! ” he cried. She laughed at that,
And pulled along the poor resisting rat.
A kite high up in air above their head
Beheld the struggle in the liquid bed,
And darting down upon the rat full speed,
Seized him, and eke the frog tied by the reed ;
Then rose rejoicing with his double prey,
And dined and supped on fish and flesh that day.
The best invented trick may be
Fraught with its own inventor's woe ;
And perfidy, we often see,
Returns its author blow for blow
THE TRIBUTE SENT BY THE BEASTS
TO ALEXANDER (IV, 12)
Of old they held a certain fable high ;
I cannot tell the reason why :
Here is the fable in its naked state ;
I leave the moral to the reader's pate.
Fame having spread through town, field, wood, and grove,
That one called Alexander, son of Jove,
Had ruled that all should bend beneath his sway,
Had given orders that without delay
Each nation should repair
Before his footstool ; all the varions forms
Of men and beasts, from elephants to worms,
All Freedom's feathered tribes that cleave the air
The goddess with her hundred trumps, I say,
Having spread everywhere intense disrnay,
And made the edict known,
That issued from the new imperial throne,
The animals, and those kinds that alone
By appetite are swayed, believed that now-
Before some other laws they'd have to bow.
They in the desert met, each left his den,
And, after much talk, settled there and then
To send their homage and their tribute too :
The first the monkey very well could do.
They put in writing what he had to say,
And gave it him before he went away.
The tribute puzzled them, and that alone ;
Money was wanted, and the beasts had none.
A prince who chanced a mine of gold to own,
Kindly, at length, obliged them with a loan.
The question now was,
Who should bear the load ?
The mule and ass agreed to trudge the road,
The horse and camel joined, and thus the four
Went with the monkey as ambassador.
At last the cavalcade, to their affray,
Met their great lord the Lion in the way :—
“ A lucky meeting, just in time, ” cried he ;
“ Myself your fellow-traveller will be.
I meant to offer up my mite alone,
But, though it's small, I am fatigued, I own :
I pray ye therefore, neighbours, if you please,
To take of this light weight a fourth a-piece ;
It won't be very heavy, don't you see?
And I’ll be far more fit if I am free :
If thieves attack, they'll find their match in me.”
Relieved, received, he guides the band,
For seldom is refused his dread command ;
Feasts on the public purse as they march on,
In spite of Jupiter’s immortal son.
They gained a mead, bedeeked with varied flowers,
Where brooks ran murmuring to the softest showers,
And sheep and lambkins passed their happy hours.
Just as they came where zephyrs played at will,
The lion said that he was taken ill:
“ Go on with the embassy, my friends, ” said he;
“ I feel a fire within consuming me,
And wish to find some cooling herbage here.
Give me my money back, for fear
I’ll need it in this unknown clime.
For you, I pray, don't lose your time.”
The sacks were opened, which the lion spied ;
In loudest raptures at the sight, he cried:
“ Hey ! what a swarm my pieces have begot
Of-daughters to their mother's bigness grown ;
Their father I, with pride this produce own. ”
This said, he seized the offering for the throne.
The monkey and his mates dared not
Reply, but, dumb with fear, the road regained,
And to the son of Jove,’tis said, complained,
For which but little credit they obtained.
What had he done, Lion with Lion met ?
For, as the proverb says,
“ Pirates 'gainst pirates little get
Of plunder or of praise.