THE COUNTRYMAN AND SERPENT
A clown, as .Æsop tells the tale,
More charitable far than wise,
Trudging in winter through the vale,
One day a frozen serpent spies,
Stiff, motionless, upon the snow,
Having ten minutes’ life or so.
Hodge took him up, and brought him to his cot,
Without conceiving what a guest he’d got,
Or what might be the generous action’s price ;
Placed him along the hearth before his feet,
Warmed and restored him in a trice.
The animal, benumbed, scarce felt the heat,
Scarce had his life returned, ere rage did boil.
He raised his head, and hissed. and made a coil,
And then to leap against his saviour tried,
The father without whom the beast had died.
“ Wretch,” cried the clown, “ is this my fee
For what I did when starving threatened thee ?
Perish, thou beast ! ” and full of vengeance due,
He seized his axe and chopped the serpent through !
Two blows in three the serpent laid,
The tail, the body, and the head.
He writhed, and tried to join again,
But all his efforts were in vain.
’Tis right our generosity to show,
But unto whom's the needful point to know.
As to ungrateful men, their doom stands fast,
They die a miserable death at last.
THE SICK LION AND FOX (VI, 14)
The king of beasts, of animals the dread,
Who in his den lay sick upon his bed,
Ordered his vassals all to know his mind,
And send an embassy of every kind.
For deputy and suite him self would care,
He even promised them the best of fare.
The lion pledged his word ; ’twas written clear
Upon their passports ; they’d no teeth to fear ;
Nor eke his paws, of terrible repute.
The monarch’s edict soon they execute :
Of every kind the deputations come,
Except the foxes, who remained at home.
One of them thus explained their want of trust :
“ We see that all the footsteps on the dust,
Of those who travelled to the sick one's court,
Without exception look towards his cave
But not a vestige of return ; in short,
Some strong misgiving in our minds we have—
A want of trust about the journey's end‑
And therefore beg our visit to suspend.
Thanks for the passport ; it is very clear
There's nothing on the road to fear.
That beasts get in, we make no doubt,
But we don't see that they get out.”
|Illustr. E. Delacroix
THE FOWLER, HAWK, AND LARK (VI, 15)
The injustice by the wicked shown,
Serves often to excuse our own ;
Such is the law from heaven to earth declared :
Spare others as thou hopest to be spared.
A rustic with a mirror watched for prey,
The shining vision lured a lark astray
To her untimely doom,
When straight a hawk that hovered o'er the clown,
Came darting down
On her that sang so sweet so near her tomb.
She had escaped the fowler's snare,
Just as she met the tyrant of the air,
And felt his claws her tender body tear.
While only of his prey he thought,
Himself within the net was caught.
“ Pray free me, fowler,” said his hawkish tongue,
“I never sure did you the smallest wrong.”
“ Be it so,” said the fowler, “ false or true ;
What harm did that poor little bird to you ? ”
THE HORSE AND ASS (VI, 15)
We ought to help each other when in need
In this world ; should your neighbour die,
On you the heavy load will lie.
An ass accompanied a haughty steed :
The latter had his harness and no more,
Poor Jack was sinking with the load he bore,
And begged the horse a little help to give,
Or till ho reached the town he could not live.
“ I am not rude,” said he, “ when I implore ;
Half of my load for you would be a song.”
The horse said “ No ! ” and let a cracker fly,
And Jack beneath his load lay down to die.
Then he acknowledged he was wrong.
They laid the ass’s load upon his back,
And over that the skin of Master Jack.