THE LION AND GNAT (II, 9)
“ Begone, vile insect ! excrement of earth,
Great foes brought down, of lesser foes beware.
And from the lion keep afar ! ”
Thus spake the beast of royal birth.
The gnat declared immediate war :
“ You think your title, proudest sire,
Excites my fear or breaks my ease ?
The bull's far mightier in his ire,
And yet I lead him as I please.”
He said ; nor deigning to enlarge,
Sounded himself the battle charge ;
At once the hero and the herald too,
On to the conflict he at leisure drew.
He took his time ; jumped on the lion's mane,
And drove the royal beast almost insane.
The quadruped now foamed with sparkling eyes,
He roared—all, trembling, hid themselves around ;
With piercing cries he told the skies,
It was a gnat that gave the wound !
The gnat still led him raging mad about,
Now on his back, anon upon his snout ;
And sometimes up his very nose
The conqueror to conquest goes.
The lion suffered to the last degree ;
Triumphed his hidden foe, and laughed to see
His fangs and teeth against himself engaged.
Tearing his flesh, the lion roared, enraged,
Lashing his agonising sides in vain ;
Beating the harmless air in awful pain,
Falling exhausted, vanquished on the plain.
The gnat returned triumphant from his back,
And sounded victory as before the attack.
He went to spread the tidings all around ;
But in his way,
In ambuscade, a spider lay,
And sudden death he found.
From such example two things we may know,
What's most to dread is oft the smallest foe :
The victor too, must, if for life he care,
THE ASS LADEN WITH SPONGES,
AND THE ASS LADEN WITH SALT. (II, 10)
An ass-conductor, of a lordly mind,
Sceptre in hand, set off from home,
Looking an emperor of Borne,
Leading two steeds—but of the long-eared kind.
The one with sponges laden, prancing goes;
The other needed coaxing, eke, and blows,
And bore a load of salt. O'er hill and dale
The happy pilgrims passed,
And at a fording-place arrived at last.
They stopped quite puzzled there, so runs the tale ;
The driver was determined to go through,
’Twas what he daily had been forced to do;
Mounted the Jack that load of sponges bore,
And drove the other in before ;
Which, loth indeed ahead to go,
Plunged deep into a hole below.
The beast had learnt to swim, they say.
The water melted down his salt ;
’Twas net at all poor Jackey's fault
That he escaped and got away.
His spongy brother had a different fate,
Who followed the example of his mate.
More silly than a sheep,
In the same hole he plonges,
And drops down in the deep,
Himself, his guide, and sponges ;
For all the three together sank,
And each an equal portion drank—
So much that sponges, ass, and guide,
Had nothing left to match the tide.
Poor Jackey such a burthen bore,
He could not reach again the shore ;
His guide embraced him in the fear
Of death so certain now and near.
His life was saved, it matters not by whom,
Enough he met not too severe a doom.
This fable shows that howsoe'er we stray,
We must not all act in the self-same way.
THE LION AND RAT (II, 11)
“ Be kind whene'er you can,” should be your creed,
There's none so small but you his aid may need.
This striking truth two fables now shall prove ;
Matter enough is here your faith to move.
A blundering rat burst through the earth,
And fell into the lion's paws.
The animal of royal birth
Scorned with such blood to stain his claws :
He spared his life, the kindness was repaid ;
Who'd think the lion could e'er require his aid ?
However, 'twas the lion's lot,
Leaving the forest, in a net to fall,
Nor could his rage and roaring break the thrall.
The rat ran to his aid, and speedily
Gnawed through a mesh and set him free.
Patience and length of time will still
Much more than force and rage fulfil.
The ass laden with sponges ...
THE DOVE AND ANT (II, 12)
“Are not, I see, so easy to be had.”
Yet lesser animals our moral prove.
Along a limpid stream a sipping dove
Beheld an ant, which, bending o'er its brink,
Had fallen in whilst stooping there to drink.
To reach the shore the ant now vainly tried,
Amidst this dreaded raging ocean tide.
The kind bird promptly threw a blade of grass,
By which the ant again to shore did pass.
A certain beggar wandered there,
Barefoot and hungry, seeking better fare;
A bow and arrow he had got :
The bird of Venus saw, sought to destroy,
Nay, thought he had her in his pot ;
And licked his lips for joy.
While ho prepared to make the dove his prey,
The ant severely stung his heel.
The fellow turned, for she had made him feel.
The dove, alarmed in time, flew far away.
“Pigeons,” said he, at loss of dinner sad