THE MAN AND ADDER (X, 1)
" Ah, wretch ! " exclaimed a man who saw a snake,
" Of thee I'll such example make,
Asshall delight the universe."
On which upon the animal perverse-
I mean the snake, and not the man,
.. For here 'tis easy to mistake-
On which, upon the snake he ran,
..Who yielded to be sacked away,
And, what was worse, condemned to die that day,
Guilty or not. And yet, to grace the deed,
With show of justice spake the man and said
" Symbol of all the ungrateful ! thou must bleed ;
To spare thee I should be an arrant fool ;
Die-and of thee I live no more afraid."
The serpent spoke his best, in answer cool;
" If all the ungrateful you condemn to die,
Who may for pardon raise a hoping eye ?
You're self-accused—look at yourself, and see
The very crime that you condemn in me.
My days are yours, so limit here their measure ;
Your laws are whim, self-interest, or pleasure ;
Strike then, as these your fancy set on fire ;
But let me frankly say e'er I expire,
That of ingratitude, since Lime began,
The symbol's not in serpents, but in man."
This for a moment turned the blow aside :
" Trifling is thy defence," at last he cried :
" I have the right, and could thy fate decide ;
But to an umpire I submit my mind."
" With all my heart," the serpent quick rejoined.
A cow just by was beckoned to the place ;
She wondered when she heard the simple case :
" Must I be called for that ?" she cries,
" Serpent, you're right : why here the truth disguise ?
Long I have nourished him, and I may say
Without some gift he never passed a day
For him my calves, for him my milk distilled ;
Homeward from me his hands went ever filled ;
..Him I've restored, when old and weak,
.. Sick came he health from me to seek ;
.. .For him a life of pain I lead,
To please him or supply his need.
Now I am old-I'm of my grass bereft ;
Might I but graze ! but there tied up I'm left,
Neglected in a corner all the day.
If then a serpent were my master, pray,
Could lie show more ingratitude ?
Adieu—I've done." The man astonished stood,
Said to the snake : " And must her sentence bind,
Doting old fool, not in her proper mind ?
Let's hear the ox." The snake cried, " Be it so !"
Soon done as said, the ox came moving slow.
When ruminating o'er the case he hears,
He said, that through the labour of long years,
For man alone ,he bore oppressing fears ;
For us unceasing all his toils and pains,
Ours the abundance from his labour brought,
That with revolving seasons decked our plains,
Which Ceres gives to man ; but dearly bought
By the poor brute who for the plenty wrought;
His toil rewarded but with cruel blows ;
And when grown old, his blood as freely flows,
Honoured at last before the gods to bleed,
To purchase pardons mortels only need.
Thus spoke the ox : The man exclaimed : " Give o'er !
I'll hear such idle eloquence no more :
Instead of arbitrator here,
He comes accusing to seduce the ear.
Let us," he said, " before the tree appear.
" But this was worse—he gives asylum kind
Against the heat, the rain, the roaring wind.
For us alone the garden decks and fields ;
Nor is the shade the only food he yields ;
He bends beneath his fruit, and yet his hire
Is to be levelled and cut up for fire ;
Though every season owned his generous root,
Flowers in the Spring, and in the Autumn fruit,
In Summer shade, in Winter faggots too.
Why take the axe, while pruning still might do,
And he might live, and still his strength renew ?
The man enraged at evidence so strong,
Who wished to gain his lave-suit right or wrong :
" I am too mild," he cried, " to hear you all,"
And straight dashed sack and snake against the wall.
The great thus ever crush the small ;
Reason offends them, for their empty heads
Think all things theirs, both men and quadrupeds,
And serpents too that make them tremble.
Foolish are they that let their tongues run on.
What then, you'll ask, is to be done ?
Speak at a distance, or with art dissemble.
THE TORTOISE AND TWO DUCKS (X, 2)
A tortoise of a giddy brain,
Desired to quit her hole and native plain.
They willingly to foreign countries roam,
Who walk but lame in their affaire at home.
Two ducks, to whom our lady told
Her undertaking wise and bold,
Promised to lead her to some blessed abode :
" Do you perceive," they said, " that spacious road ?
We'll raise and wing thee to Columbus' shore ;
Many republics you'll explore,
Many a kingdom, people, great and small,
You'll mark their customs, and you'll learn them all.
Thus did Ulysses." Little dreamt we here,
To see Ulysses for such folks appear.
The tortoise jumped at this proposal fair ;
And straight the birds an instrument prepare,
To bear our lady pilgrim through the air.
Across her mouth a stick they passed ;
" Bite hard," they cried, " and hold it fast."
Each holding tight his end, they leave the ground :
The rising tortoise wonder spread around,
To see the animal so slow before,
Between two hobbies thus with house to soar.
" Come, come, and see a miracle ! " they cry ;
" The queen of tortoises pass through the sky ! "
" The queen ! ay, sure I am ; no laughing, pray.
" Better had she moved silent on her way:
For letting go the stick, and there no seat,
She fell, and burst at her spectators' feet ;
Her indiscretion caused her death that day.
Imprudence, prate, with empty pride, in fine,
And idle curiosity to stray,
As nearest kindred ever join,
The offspring all of one unbroken line.
publicity picture (Dentol)
THE FISHES AND CORMORAN (X, 3)
There was no pond the quarter round
But paid the cormorant in taxes sound :
He drew from every pool and basin known ;
Well went his kitchen till old age came on,
Which froze the feeble creature's blood,
And he at last came short of food.
The cormorant must for himself purvey ;
Ours was too old to see where fiches lay ;
He had not nets, and starved to all intention,
Till want, that fruitful mother of invention,
Showed him the method he must take :
He saw a crayfish by a lake :
" Goody," he cried, " this instant go,
Carry important news below ;
Tell the good folks that they are doomed to die,
The master in a week will fish and fry."
The crayfish bore the tidings of despair,
Which raised alarm enough and riot there.
They meet in haste-a deputation. choose,
Who trembling came and thus addressed the bird :
" Lord Cormorant, whence had you, pray, the news ?
And is there ground to credit what we've heard ?
If so, what must we do, or whither run ?"
" Remove ! " he cried. "How is it to be done ? "
" For that give you yourselves no care;
All, one by one, to my retreat bear.
None but myself and God can find the road, Secret the way, and secret the abode ;
A pond there dug by nature's hand alone, And to perfidious morfals quite unknown :
Here you may cave your commonwealth forlori. " The watery tribes believed there words, this mock, And one by one the whole were thither borne, And lodged beneath an unfrequented rock.
The cormorant with good apostle face
There found them a convenient place ; A. narrow, shallow, and transparent lake,
Where as hic hunger called, 'twas but to take.
Alas ! he taught them to their cost,
How wrong they were, however crost, To trust false eaters of their kind and base.
And yet they here but little lost,
Since otherwise the human race
Had picked their bones. What matters it to thee If man or wolf thy dark sepulchre be ?
Or if a little soon or later hurried hence ?
The same to me ; the same is man's offence.