Excerpt for The Fables of John Gay, Volume One by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



First published by Tonson and Watts in 1727

This edition published by Dodo Books 2008

Illustrations © Dandi Palmer 2008



John Gay

dedicated these Fables to the infant

William, Duke of Cumberland,

second son of George II.



The illustrator of this edition would like

to add an appreciation for the

wit, words, and wisdom

of

Stephen Fry

and all those like minds who

have the same humour and

interest in the World.




CONTENTS


John Gay

Introduction - The Shepherd and the Philosopher

1 -- The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller

2 -- The Spaniel and the Chameleon

3 -- The Mother, the Nurse, and the Fairy

4 -- The Eagle and the Assembly of Animals

5 -- The Wild Boar and the Ram

6 -- The Miser and Plutus

7 -- The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese

8 -- The Lady and the Wasp

9 -- The Bull and the Mastiff

10 -- The Elephant and the Bookseller

11 -- The Peacock, the Turkey, and Goose

12 -- Cupid, Hymen, and Plutus

13 -- The Tame Stag

14 -- The Monkey Who had Seen the World

15 -- The Philosopher and the Pheasant

16 -- The Pin and Needle

17 -- The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf

18 -- The Painter who Pleased Nobody and Everybody

19 -- The Lion and the Cub

20 -- The Old Hen and the Cock

21 -- The Rat-Catcher and Cats

22 -- The Goat Without a Beard

23 -- The Old Woman and Her Cats

24 -- The Butterfly and the Snail

25 -- The Scold and the Parrot

26 -- The Cur and the Mastiff

27 -- The Sick Man and the Angel

28 -- The Persian, the Sun, and the Cloud

29 -- The Fox at the Point of Death

30 -- The Setting-Dog and the Partridge

31 -- The Universal Apparition

32 -- The Two Owls and the Sparrow

33 -- The Courtier and Proteus

34 -- The Mastiff

35 -- The Barley-Mow and the Dunghill

36 -- Pythagoras and the Countryman

37 -- The Farmer's Wife and the Raven

38 -- The Turkey and the Ant

39 -- The Father and Jupiter

40 -- The Two Monkeys

41 -- The Owl and the Farmer

42 -- The Jugglers

43 -- The Council of Horses

44 -- The Hound and the Huntsman

45 -- The Poet and the Rose

46 -- The Cur, the Horse, and the Shepherd's Dog

47 -- The Court of Death

48 -- The Gardener and the Hog

49 -- The Man and the Flea

50 -- The Hare and Many Friends




John Gay


John Gay wrote a tragedy called 'The Captives', which was performed at Drury lane in January 1724. The Author also read it to the Princess of Wales. Impressed, she asked him to write some fables for her infant son, the Duke of Cumberland. In 1727, after some delay in the preparation of the illustrations and plates by John Wootton the animal painter and Kent, the architect, Tonson and Watts published Volume 1 of the Fables. The most noted edition of the Fables, with wood engravings by Thomas Bewick, appeared in 1779. Gay is now principally known as the author of 'The Beggar's Opera'. For some time his Fables had been just as popular, especially with the Victorians.

Gay completed a second volume of Fables in the year of his death in 1732 and they appeared in 1733. These poems are much longer and 'mostly on subjects of a graver and more political turn’.

John Gay was born in Barnstaple, Devon, and baptised on 16th, September 1685. He was the youngest child of William Gay and Katherine Hanmer. They also had an older son and two daughters, another daughter dying shortly before John's birth. The family were descended from the Le Gays of Oxford and Devonshire and, although not wealthy, were comfortably off. Gay's mother died in 1694 when he was only ten. His father died the next year. One of four paternal uncles took charge of the orphaned family. The elder brother, Jonathan, joined the army and rose to captain before dying in 1709 at the age of 31, and the two sisters, Catherine and Joanna, married.


After a grammar school education John Gay was apprenticed to a silk mercer in London. He gave up the vocation, or was dismissed, and returned to Barnstaple. He stayed with his mother's brother, the Rev. John Hanmer, a nonconformist minister, before returning to London. Some poems discovered in the minister’s favourite chair a century later were attributed to Gay. Authorship is not certain and these seem to be the only work from that period of his youth. Though in London for some while, little is known about how Gay survived until the publication of his poem 'Wine' in 1703. The poet’s friendly and compliant nature later earned for him such friends as Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and Dr. John Arbuthnot.

In 1712 Gay obtained the post of secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth, wife of Charles II's illegitimate son who had been beheaded for trying to overthrow James II. This eccentric and difficult employer dispensed with his services in 1714. In the middle of the year, owing to the influence of his friends, Gay was appointed secretary to Lord Clarendon who was about to visit the Court of Hanover. On payment of £100, Gay promptly used it to buy a sumptuous outfit to impress the German court. On the 1st, August Queen Anne died and Lord Clarendon and his secretary were recalled. Gay was once again left without a patron or employer.

From then on Gay willingly gave up his independence to become the protégé of anyone indulgent enough to support his indolent habits and liking for good food and wine.

By his own admission, Gay was fat and disliked exercise. It was probably the combination of the two that hastened his comparatively early death. Sooner than walk a short distance, he always made sure a coach was at his disposal when in London.

Gay could not cope wisely with penury or the sudden acquisition of wealth. Against all good advice, he invested the considerable fortune of £20,000 in South Sea stock. He lost it all when the bubble burst in 1720. Then came the success of his play, 'The Beggar's Opera' with music by Johann Pepusch. It was staged by John Rich at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1723.

Its profits enabled Rich to build the first theatre in Covent Garden. Though not well remunerated, John Gay became famous, as well as notorious with those who claimed the play was immoral. The real profit came from 'Polly', its sequel. The Lord Chamberlain, under instruction from Sir Robert Walpole, prohibited its performance. As a consequence, printed copies of the text sold at a phenomenal rate. Given Gay's easy and eager to please nature, it is unlikely he courted infamy of any description. Even the scandalous play 'Three Hours After Marriage', though attributed to him, was jointly written by Pope and Arbuthnot as well.

Gay was able to use language in a fluid and natural way all levels of society understood. Many of his moral stands did vary in height, although he does consistently declare his abhorrence of butchers.

In 1723, Gay's health deteriorated severely. With the attention of Dr. Arbuthnot and the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury, his last patrons, he survived.

Gay died in 1732 at the town house in Burlington Gardens of the Duke and Duchess. According to Dr. Arbuthnot 'of an inflammation and I believe at last a mortification of the bowels.'

Due to the management of Gay's money by the Duke of Queensbury, the poet left £6,000. As Gay made no will and never married, the money and the proceeds from a theatrical benefit went to his widowed sisters, Catherine Baller and Joanna Fortescue.

The Duke and Duchess of Queensbury had a memorial erected to John Gay in Westminster Abbey where he was buried. It was in Poet's Corner until 1936 when it was removed with some others after the discovery of two medieval paintings of St. Christopher and St. Thomas behind the wall they stood against. It is now in the Triforium, unfortunately out of the public view.

Alexander Pope's lines on the monument give an idea of Gay's character from someone who knew him well:-


Of Manners gentle, of Affections mild;

In Wit a Man; Simplicity a child:

With native Humour temp'ring virtuous Rage,

Form'd to delight at once and lash the Age:

Above Temptation, in a low Estate,

And uncorrupted, ev'n among the Great;

A safe Companion, and an easy Friend,

Unblam'd thro' Life, lamented in thy End.

These are thy Honours: not that here thy Bust.

Is mix'd with Heroes, or with Kings thy Dust;

But the Worthy and the Good shall say,

Striking their pensive bosoms _ Here lies GAY.


Gay's two line epitaph to himself probably says more about the poet and playwright:-


Life is a jest; and all things show it,

I thought so once: but now I know it.

Jane Palmer 1984


The illustrator wishes to thank the following:

The National Galleries of Scotland, who own the portrait of John Gay by William Aikman from which the title page illustration was taken;

The Dean and Chapter of Westminster for supplying the photograph of John Gay's memorial and other information, both of which were invaluable;

The Guildhall Library, who own the original picture of Gresham College in Bishopsgate Street, from which the illustration of Fable 16, 'The Pin and the Needle' was copied.


Other Works by John Gay


Wine 1708

The Mohocks 1712

The Present State of Wit 1711

Rural Sports 1713

The Wife of Bath 1713

The Shepherd's Week 1714

The What D'Ye Call It 1715

Trivia, or The Art of Walking the

Streets of London 1716

Three Hours After Marriage 1717

The Captives 1724

Fables, Volume One 1727

The Beggar's Opera 1728

Polly 1729

Acis and Galatea 1732

Fables, Volume Two 1733

Achilles 1733

The Distress'd Wife 1734





INTRODUCTION


The Shepherd and the Philosopher


Remote from cities lived a Swain,

Unvex’d with all the cares of gain;

His head was silver’d o’er with age,

And long experience made him sage;

In summer’s heat and winter’s cold

He fed his flock and penn’d the fold:

His hours in cheerful labour flew,

Nor envy nor ambition knew:

His wisdom and his honest fame

Through all the country raised his name.

A deep Philosopher (whose rules

Of moral life were drawn from schools)

The Shepherd’s homely cottage sought,

And thus explored his reach of thought:

“Whence is thy learning? Hath thy toil

O’er books consumed the midnight oil?

Hast thou old Greece and Rome survey’d,

And the vast sense of Plato weigh’d?

Hath Socrates thy soul refined,

And hast thou fathom’d Tully’s mind?

Or, like the wise Ulysses, thrown,

By various fates, on realms unknown,

Hast thou through many cities stray’d,

Their customs, laws, and manners weigh’d ?”

The Shepherd modestly replied,

“I ne’er the paths of learning tried;

Nor have I roam’d in foreign parts

To read mankind, their laws and arts;

For man is practised in disguise,

He cheats the most discerning eyes:

Who by that search shall wiser grow,

When we ourselves can never know?

The little knowledge I have gain’d,

Was all from simple Nature drain’d;

Hence my life’s maxims took their rise,

Hence grew my settled hate to vice.

The daily labours of the bee

Awake my soul to industry.

Who can observe the careful ant

And not provide for future want?

My dog (the trustiest of his kind)

With gratitude inflames my mind:

I mark his true, his faithful way,

And in my service copy Tray.

In constancy and nuptial love,

I learn my duty from the dove.

The hen, who from the chilly air,

With pious wing, protects her care,

And every fowl that flies at large

Instructs me in a parent’s charge.

“From Nature, too I take my rule,

To shun contempt and ridicule.

I never, with important air,

In conversation overbear.

Can grave and formal pass for wise,

When men the solemn owl despise?

My tongue within my lips I rein,

For who talks much, must talk in vain.

We from the wordy torrent fly:

Who listens to the chatt’ring pie?

Nor would I, with felonious sleight,

By stealth invade my neighbour’s right.

Rapacious animals we hate:

Kites, hawks, and wolves, deserve their fate.

Do not we just abhorrence find

Against the toad and serpent kind?

But Envy, Calumny, and Spite,

Bear stronger venom in their bite.

Thus every object of creation

Can furnish hints to contemplation,

And from the most minute and mean,

A virtuous mind can morals glean.”

“Thy fame is just,” the Sage replies,

“Thy virtue proves thee truly wise.

Pride often guides the author’s pen:

Books as affected are as men:

But he who studies Nature’s laws,

From certain truth his maxims draws;

And those, without our schools, suffice

To make men moral, good, and wise.”


FABLE I


The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller


Accept, young Prince! the moral lay,

And in these Tales mankind survey;

With early virtues plant your breast,

The specious arts of vice detest.

Princes, like beauties, from their youth,

Are strangers to the voice of Truth;

Learn to contemn all praise betimes,

For flattery’s the nurse of crimes;

Friendship by sweet reproof is shown,

(A virtue never near a throne;)

In courts such freedom must offend,

There, none presumes to be a friend.



To those of your exalted station,

Each courtier is a dedication.

Must I, too, flatter like the rest,

And turn my morals to a jest?

The Muse disdains to steal from those

Who thrive in courts by fulsome prose.

But shall I hide your real praise,

Or tell you what a nation says?

They in your infant bosom trace

The virtues of your royal race;

In the fair dawning of your mind

Discern you generous, mild, and kind;


They see you grieve to hear distress,

And pant already to redress.

Go on, the height of good attain,

Nor let a nation hope in vain:

For hence we justly may presage

The virtues of a riper age.

True courage shall your bosom fire,

And future actions own your sire.

Cowards are cruel, but the brave

Love mercy, and delight to save.


A Tiger, roaming for his prey,

Sprung on a Traveller in the way;

The prostrate game a Lion spies,

And on the greedy tyrant flies:

With mingled roar resounds the wood,

Their teeth, their claws, distil with blood,

Till, vanquish’d by the Lion’s strength,

The spotted foe extends his length.

The Man besought the shaggy lord,

And on his knees for life implored:

His life the generous hero gave.

Together walking to his cave,

The Lion thus bespoke his guest:

“What hardy beast shall dare contest

My matchless strength? you saw the fight,

And must attest my power and right.

Forced to forego their native home,

My starving slaves at distance roam.

Within these woods I reign alone,

The boundless forest is my own.

Bears, wolves, and all the savage brood

Have dyed the regal den with blood.

These carcases on either hand,

Those bones that whiten all the land,

My former deeds and triumphs tell,

Beneath these jaws what numbers fell.”

“True,” says the man, “the strength I saw

Might well the brutal nation awe:

But shall a monarch, brave, like you,

Place glory in so false a view?

Robbers invade their neighbour’s right:

Be loved: let justice bound your might.

Mean are ambitious heroes’ boasts

Of wasted lands, and slaughter’d hosts

Pirates their power by murders gain

Wise kings by love and mercy reign.

To me your clemency hath shown

The virtue worthy of a throne.

Heav’n gives you power above the rest,

Like Heav’n, to succour the distrest.”

“The case is plain,” the Monarch said,

“False glory hath my youth misled;

For beasts of prey, a servile train,

Have been the flatterers of my reign.

You reason well. Yet tell me, friend,

Did ever you in courts attend?

For all my fawning rogues agree

That human heroes rule like me.”


FABLE 2


The Spaniel and the Chameleon


A Spaniel, bred with all the care

That waits upon a favourite heir,

Ne’er felt correction’s rigid hand;

Indulged to disobey command,

In pamper’d ease his hours were spent;

He never knew what learning meant.

Such forward airs, so pert, so smart,

Were sure to win his lady’s heart;

Each little mischief gain’d him praise.

How pretty were his fawning ways!

The wind was south, the morning fair,

He ventures forth to take the air.

He ranges all the meadow round,

And rolls upon the softest ground;

When near him a Chameleon seen,

Was scarce distinguish’d from the green.

“Dear emblem of the flattering host!

What, live with clowns! a genius lost!

To cities and the court repair;

A fortune cannot fail thee there:

Preferment shall thy talents crown;

Believe me, friend; I know the town.”

“Sir,” says the Sycophant, “like you,

Of old, politer life I knew;

Like you, a courtier born and bred,

Kings lean’d their ear to what I said:

My whisper always met success;

The ladies praised me for address.

I knew to hit each courtier’s passion,

And flattered every vice in fashion;

But Jove, who hates the liar’s ways,

At once cut short my prosp’rous days,

And, sentenced to retain my nature,

Transform’d me to this crawling creature.

Doom’d to a life obscure and mean,

I wander in the sylvan scene:

For Jove the heart alone regards;

He punishes what man rewards.

How different is thy case and mine?

With men at least you sup and dine;

While I, condemn’d to thinnest fare,

Like those I flatter’d, feed on air.”
















FABLE 3


The Mother, the Nurse, and the Fairy


“Give me a son!” The blessing sent,

Were ever parents more content?

How partial are their doting eyes?

No child is half so fair and wise.

Wak’d to the morning’s pleasing care,

The Mother rose, and sought her heir:

She saw the Nurse like one possessed,

With wringing hands and sobbing breast;

“Sure some disaster has befell:

Speak, Nurse; I hope the boy is well.”

“Dear Madam, think not me to blame,

Invisible the Fairy came:

Your precious babe is hence convey’d,

And in the place a changeling laid.

Where are the father’s mouth and nose?

The mother’s eyes, as black as sloes?

See, here, a shocking awkward creature,

That speaks a fool in every feature.”

“The woman’s blind,” the Mother cries,

“I see wit sparkle in his eyes.”

“Lord, Madam, what a squinting leer!

No doubt the Fairy hath been here.”

Just as she spoke, a pigmy sprite

Pops through the keyhole swift as light;

Perch’d on the cradle’s top he stands,

And thus her folly reprimands.

“Whence sprung the vain conceited lie,

That we the world with fools supply?

What: give our sprightly race away

For the dull helpless sons of clay:

Besides, by partial fondness shown,

Like you, we dote upon our own.

Where yet was ever found a Mother,

Who’d give her booby for another?

And should we change for human breed,

Well might we pass for fools indeed.”







FABLE 4


The Eagle and the Assembly of Animals


As Jupiter’s all-seeing eye

Survey’d the worlds beneath the sky,

From this small speck of earth were sent

Murmurs and sounds of discontent;

For everything alive complain’d,

That he the hardest life sustain’d.

Jove calls his eagle. At the word

Before him stands the royal bird.

The bird, obedient, from heaven’s height,

Downward directs his rapid flight;

Then cited every living thing

To hear the mandates of his king.

“Ungrateful creatures! whence arise

These murmurs which offend the skies;

Why this disorder? say the cause;

For just are Jove’s eternal laws.

Let each his discontent reveal:

To yon sour Dog I first appeal.”

“Hard is my lot,” the Hound replies,

“On what fleet nerves the Greyhound flies;

While I, with weary step and slow,

O’er plains, and vales, and mountains go.

The morning sees my chase begun,

Nor ends it till the setting sun.”

“When,” says the Greyhound, “I pursue,

My game is lost, or caught in view;

Beyond my sight the prey’s secure;

The hound is slow, but always sure;

And had I his sagacious scent,

Jove ne’er had heard my discontent.”

The Lion craved the Fox’s art;

The Fox the Lion’s force and heart:

The Cock implored the Pigeon’s flight,

Whose wings were rapid, strong, and light;

The Pigeon strength of wing despised,

And the Cock’s matchless valour prized:

The Fishes wished to graze the plain,

The Beasts to skim beneath the main:

Thus, envious of another’s state,

Each blamed the partial hand of Fate.

The Bird of Heaven then cried aloud

“Jove bids disperse the murmuring crowd;

The God rejects your idle prayers.

Would ye, rebellious mutineers!

Entirely change your name and nature,

And be the very envied creature?

What, silent all, and none consent?

Be happy then, and learn content;

Nor imitate the restless mind,

And proud ambition of mankind.”









FABLE 5


The Wild Boar and the Ram


Against an elm a sheep was tied,

The butcher’s knife in blood was dyed;

The patient flock, in silent fright,

From far beheld the horrid sight:

A savage Boar, who near them stood,

Thus mock’d to scorn the fleecy brood.

“All cowards should be served like you.

See, see, your murd’rer is in view:

With purple hands, and reeking knife,

He strips the skin yet warm with life.

Your quarter’d sires, your bleeding dams,

The dying bleat of harmless lambs,

Call for revenge. O stupid race!

The heart that wants revenge is base.”

“I grant,” an ancient Ram replies,

“We bear no terror in our eyes;

Yet think us not of soul so tame,

Which no repeated wrongs inflame;

Insensible of every ill,

Because we want thy tusks to kill.

Know, those who violence pursue,

Give to themselves the vengeance due;

For in these massacres they find

The two chief plagues that waste mankind

Our skin supplies the wrangling bar,

It wakes their slumbering sons to war;

And well revenge may rest contented,

Since drums and parchment were invented.”





















FABLE 6


The Miser and Plutus


The wind was high, the window shakes,

With sudden start the Miser wakes;

Along the silent room he stalks,

Looks back, and trembles as he walks.

Each lock and every bolt he tries,

In every creek and corner pries;

Then opes the chest with treasure stored,

And stands in rapture o’er his hoard:

But now with sudden qualms possest,

He wrings his hands he beats his breast;

By conscience stung he wildly stares,

And thus his guilty soul declares:

“Had the deep earth her stores confined.

This heart had known sweet peace of mind.

But virtue’s sold. Good gods! what price

Can recompense the pangs of vice!

O bane of good! seducing cheat!

Can man, weak man, thy power defeat?

Gold banish’d honour from the mind,

And only left the name behind;

Gold sow’d the world with every ill;

Gold taught the murderer’s sword to kill:

‘Twas gold instructed coward hearts

In treachery’s more pernicious arts.

Who can recount the mischiefs o’er?

Virtue resides on earth no more!”

He spoke, and sigh’d. In angry mood,

Plutus, his god, before him stood.

The Miser, trembling, lock’d his chest;

The vision frown’d, and thus address’d:

“Whence is this vile ungrateful rant,

Each sordid meal’s daily cant?

Did I, base wretch! corrupt mankind?

The fault’s in thy rapacious mind.

Because my blessings are abused,

Must I be censured, cursed, accused?

Ev’n Virtue’s self by knaves is made

A cloak to carry on the trade;

And power (when lodged in their possession)

Grows tyranny, and rank oppression.

Thus, when the villain crams his chest,

Gold is the canker of the breast,

‘Tis avarice, insolence, and pride,

And every shocking vice beside;

But when to virtuous hands ‘tis given,

It blesses, like the dews of Heaven:

Like Heaven, it hears the orphan’s cries,

And wipes the tears from widows’ eyes.

Their crimes on gold shall misers lay,

Who pawn’d their sordid souls for pay?

Let bravos, then, when blood is spilt,

Upbraid the passive sword with guilt.”


FABLE 7


The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese


A Lion, tired with state affairs,

Quite sick of pomp, and worn with cares,

Resolv’d (remote from noise and strife)

In peace to pass his latter life.

It was proclaimed; the day was set;

Behold the general council met.

The Fox was Viceroy named. The crowd

To the new Regent humbly bow’d.

Wolves, bears, and mighty tigers bend,

And strive who most shall condescend.

He straight assumes a solemn grace,

Collects his wisdom in his face:

The crowd admire his wit, his sense:

Each word hath weight and consequence.

The flatterer all his art displays:

He who hath power is sure of praise!

A Fox stept forth before the rest,

And thus the servile throng addrest:

“How vast his talents, born to rule,

And train’d in Virtue’s honest school!

What clemency his temper sways!

How uncorrupt are all his ways!

Beneath his conduct and command

Rapine shall cease to waste the land.

His brain hath stratagem and art;

Prudence and mercy rule his heart.

What blessings must attend the nation

Under this good administration!”

He said. A Goose, who distant stood,

Harangued apart the cackling brood.

“Whene’er I hear a knave commend,

He bids me shun his worthy friend.

What praise, what mighty commendation!

But ‘twas a Fox who spoke the oration.

Foxes this government may prize

As gentle, plentiful, and wise;

If they enjoy the sweets, ‘tis plain

We Geese must feel a tyrant reign.

What havoc now shall thin our race,

When every petty clerk in place,

To prove his taste, and seem polite,

Will feed on Geese both noon and night.”








FABLE 8


The Lady and the Wasp


What whispers must the Beauty bear!

What hourly nonsense haunts her ear!

Where’er her eyes dispense their charms,

Impertinence around her swarms.

Did not the tender nonsense strike,

Contempt and scorn might look dislike;

Forbidding airs might thin the place,

The slightest flap a fly can chase:

But who can drive the num’rous breed?

Chase one, another will succeed;

Who knows a fool, must know his brother;

One fop will recommend another:

And with this plague she’s rightly curst,

Because she listen’d to the first.

As Doris, at her toilette’s duty,

Sat meditating on her beauty,

She now was pensive, now was gay,

And loll’d the sultry hours away.

As thus in indolence she lies,

A giddy Wasp around her flies:

He now advances, now retires,

Now to her neck and cheek aspires.

Her fan in vain defends her charms;

Swift he returns, again alarms;

For by repulse he bolder grew,

Perch’d on her lip, and sipt the dew.

She frowns, she frets. “Good gods!” she cries,

“Protect me from these teasing flies!

Of all the plagues that heaven hath sent,

A Wasp is most impertinent.”

The hovering insect thus complain’d,

“Am I then slighted, scorn’d, disdain’d?

Can such offence your anger wake?

Twas beauty caused the bold mistake.

The fairest peach that ever grew.”

Those cherry lips that breathe perfume,

That cheek so ripe with youthful bloom,

Made me with strong desire pursue

“Strike him not, Jenny!” Doris cries,

“Nor murder Wasps like vulgar flies;

For though he’s free (to do him right),

The creature’s civil and polite.

In ecstasies, away he posts;

Where’er he came, the favour boasts;

Brags, how her sweetest tea he sips,

And shows the sugar on his lips.

The hint alarm’d the forward crew

Sure of success, away they flew.

They share the dainties of the day,

Round her with airy music play:

And now they flutter, now they rest,

Now soar again, and skim her breast.

Nor were they banish’d till she found

That Wasps have stings, and felt the wound.


FABLE 9


The Bull and the Mastiff


Seek you to train your favourite boy?

Each caution, every care employ;

And ere you venture to confide,

Let his preceptor’s heart be tried:

Weigh well his manners, life, and scope;

On these depends thy future hope.

As on a time, in peaceful reign,

A Bull enjoy’d the flowery plain,

A Mastiff pass’d; inflamed with ire,

His eyeballs shot indignant fire;

He foam’d, he raged with thirst of blood.

Spurning the ground, the monarch stood,

And roar’d aloud: “Suspend the fight;

In a whole skin go sleep to-night;

Or tell me, ere the battle rage,

What wrongs provoke thee to engage?

Is it ambition fires thy breast,

Or avarice, that ne’er can rest?

From these alone unjustly springs

The world-destroying wrath of kings.”

The surly Mastiff thus returns:

Within my bosom, glory burns.

Like heroes of eternal name,

Whom poets sing, I fight for fame.

The butcher’s spirit-stirring mind

To daily war my youth inclined;

He train’d me to heroic deed,

Taught me to conquer or to bleed.”

“Curs’d Dog,” the Bull replied, “no more

I wonder at thy thirst of gore;

For thou (beneath a butcher train’d,

Whose hands with cruelty are stain’d,

His daily murders in thy view)

Must, like thy tutor, blood pursue.

Take, then, thy fate!” With goring wound

At once he lifts him from the ground:

Aloft the sprawling hero flies,

Mangled he falls, he howls, and dies.


FABLE 10


The Elephant and the Bookseller


The man who with undaunted toils

Sails unknown seas to unknown soils,

With various wonders feasts his sight:

What stranger wonders does he write?

We read, and in description view

Creatures which Adam never knew;

For when we risk no contradiction,

It prompts the tongue to deal in fiction.

Those things that startle me or you,

I grant are strange, yet may be true.

Who doubts that Elephants are found

For science and for sense renown’d?

Borri records their strength of parts,

Extent of thought, and skill in arts;

How they perform the law’s decrees,

And save the state, the hangman’s fees;

And how by travel understand

The language of another land.

Let those who question this report,

To Pliny’s ancient page resort.

How learn’d was that sagacious breed!

Who now (like them), the Greek can read?

As one of these, in days of yore,

Rummaged a shop of learning o’er;

Not, like our modern dealers, minding

Only the margin’s breadth and binding;

A book his curious eye detains,

Where, with exactest care and pains,

Were every beast and bird portray’d,

That e’er the search of man survey’d;

Their natures and their powers were writ

With all the pride of human wit.

The page, he, with attention spread,

And thus remark’d on what he read:

“Man with strong reason is endow’d,

A beast, scarce instinct is allow’d:

But let this author’s worth be tried,

Tis plain that neither was his guide.

Can he discern the different natures,

And weigh the power of other creatures,

Who by the partial work hath shown

He knows so little of his own?

How falsely is the spaniel drawn!

Did man from him, first learn to fawn?

A dog, proficient in the trade,

He, the chief flatterer Nature made!

Go, Man! the ways of courts discern,

You’ll find a spaniel still might learn.

How can the fox’s theft and plunder

Provoke his censure or his wonder?

From courtiers’ tricks and lawyers’ arts,

The fox might well improve his parts.

The lion, wolf, and tiger’s brood,

He curses, for their thirst of blood:

But is not man to man a prey?

Beasts kill for hunger, men for pay.”

The Bookseller, who heard him speak,

And saw him turn a page of Greek,

Thought, “What a genius have I found!”

Then thus address’d with bow profound:

“Learn’d Sir, if you’d employ your pen

Against the senseless sons of men,

Or write the history of Siam,

No man is better pay than I am;

Or, since you’re learn’d in Greek, let’s see

Something against the Trinity.”








When wrinkling with a sneer, his trunk,

“Friend,” quoth the Elephant, “you’re drunk;

E’en keep your money, and be wise:

Leave man on man, to criticise;

For that you ne’er can want a pen,

Among the senseless sons of men.

They unprovok’d, will court the fray:

Envy’s a sharper spur than pay.

No author ever spared a brother;

Wits are game-cocks, to one another.



FABLE 11


The Peacock, the Turkey, and the Goose


In beauty, faults conspicuous grow;

The smallest speck is seen on snow.

As near a barn, by hunger led,

A Peacock with the poultry fed,

All view’d him with an envious eye,

And mock’d his gaudy pageantry.

He, conscious of superior merit,

Contemns their base reviling spirit;

His state and dignity assumes,

And to the sun displays his plumes,

Which, like the heaven’s o’er-arching skies,

Are spangled with a thousand eyes,

The circling rays, and varied light,

At once confound their dazzled sight;

On every tongue detraction burns,

And malice prompts their spleen by turns.

“Mark with what insolence and pride

The creature takes his haughty stride,”

The Turkey cries. “Can spleen contain?

Sure never bird was half so vain!

But were intrinsic merit seen,

We Turkeys have the whiter skin.”



From tongue to tongue they caught abuse,

And next was heard the hissing Goose:

“What hideous legs! what filthy claws!

I scorn to censure little flaws;

Then what a horrid squalling throat!

Ev’n owls are frighted at the note.”

“True. Those are faults,” the Peacock cries,

“My scream, my shanks, you may despise;

But such blind critics rail in vain;

What, overlook my radiant train!

Know, did my legs (your scorn and sport),

The Turkey, or the Goose, support,

And did ye scream with harsher sound,

Those faults in you, had ne’er been found:

To all apparent beauties blind,

Each blemish strikes an envious mind.”

Thus in assemblies have I seen

A nymph, of brightest charms and mien,

Wake envy in each ugly face,

And buzzing scandal fills the place.




FABLE 12


Cupid, Hymen and Plutus


As Cupid in Cythera’s grove

Employ’d the lesser powers of Love;

Some shape the bow, or fit the string,

Some give the taper shaft its wing,

Or turn the polish’d quiver’s mould,

Or head the darts with temper’d gold.

Amidst their toil and various care

Thus Hymen, with assuming air,

Address’d the god: “Thou purblind chit,

Of awkward and ill-judging wit,

If matches are no better made,

At once I must forswear my trade

You send me such ill-coupled folks,

That ‘tis a shame to sell them yokes.

They squabble for a pin, a feather,

And wonder how they came together.

The husband’s sullen, dogged, shy,

The wife grows flippant in reply:

He loves command and due restriction,

And she as well likes contradiction:

She never slavishly submits,

She’ll have her will, or have her fits

He this way tugs, she t’other draws;

The man grows jealous, and with cause;

Nothing can save him but divorce,

And here the wife complies of course.”

“When,” says the boy, “had I to do

With either your affairs, or you?

I never idly spend my darts:

You trade in mercenary hearts.

For settlements the lawyer’s fee’d;

Is my hand witness to the deed?

If they like cat and dog agree.

Go rail at Plutus, not at me.”

Plutus appear’d, and said, “‘Tis true,

In marriage, gold is all their view;

They seek not beauty, wit, or sense,

And love is seldom the pretence.

All offer incense at my shrine,

And I alone the bargain sign.

How can Belinda blame her fate?

She only ask’d a great estate.

Doris was rich enough, ‘tis true,

Her lord must give her title too;

And every man, or rich or poor,

A fortune asks, and asks no more.”

Avarice, whatever shape it bears,

Must still be coupled with its cares.


FABLE 13


The Tame Stag


As a young Stag the thicket past,

The branches held his antlers fast;

A clown, who saw the captive hung,

Across the horns his halter flung.

Now safely hamper’d in the cord,

He bore the present to his lord.

His lord was pleased, as was the clown,

When he was tipp’d with half-a-crown.

The Stag was brought before his wife;

The tender lady begg’d his life;

“How sleek’s the skin! how speck’d like ermine!

Sure never creature was so charming!”







At first within the yard confined,

He flies and hides from all mankind;

Now bolder grown, with fix’d amaze,

And distant awe, presumes to gaze;

Munches the linen on the lines,

And on a hood or apron dines,

He steals my little master’s bread,

Follows the servants to be fed,

Nearer and nearer now he stands,

To feel the praise of patting hands;

Examines every fist for meat,

And, though repulsed, disdains retreat;

Attacks again with levell’d horns,

And man, that was his terror, scorns.

Such is the country maiden’s fright,

When first a red-coat is in sight;

Behind the door she hides her face,

Next time, at distance, eyes the lace.

She now can all his terrors stand,

Nor from his squeeze withdraws her hand.

She plays familiar in his arms,

And every soldier hath his charms:

From tent to tent she spreads her flame;

For custom conquers fear and shame.




FABLE 14


The Monkey Who Had Seen the World


A Monkey, to reform the times,

Resolved to visit foreign climes;

For men in distant regions roam

To bring politer manners home.

So forth he fares, all toil defies:

Misfortune serves to make us wise.

At length the treacherous snare was laid;

Poor Pug was caught; to town convey’d;

There sold. (How envied was his doom,

Made captive in a lady’s room!)

Proud, as a lover, of his chains,

He, day by day, her favour gains.

Whene’er the duty of the day

The toilet calls, with mimic play

He twirls her knots, he cracks her fan,

Like any other gentleman.

In visits, too, his parts and wit,

When jests grew dull, were sure to hit.

Proud with applause, he thought his mind

In every courtly art refined;

Like Orpheus, burnt with public zeal,

To civilise the monkey weal;

So watch’d occasion, broke his chain,

And sought his native woods again.

The hairy sylvans round him press,

Astonish’d at his strut and dress:

Some praise his sleeve, and others gloat

Upon his rich embroider’d coat.

His dapper periwig commending,

With the black tail behind depending;

His powder’d back, above, below,

Like hoary frosts, or fleecy snow;

But all, with envy and desire,

His fluttering shoulder-knot admire.

“Hear and improve,” he pertly cries,

“I come to make a nation wise.

Weigh your own worth; support your place,

The next in rank to human race.

In cities long I pass’d my days,

Conversed with men, and learn’d their ways.

Their dress, their courtly manners see;

Reform your state, and copy me.

Seek ye to thrive? In flattery deal;

Your scorn, your hate, with that conceal.

Seem only to regard your friends,

But use them for your private ends.

Stint not to truth the flow of wit,

Be prompt to lie, whene’er ‘tis fit.

Bend all your force to spatter merit;

Scandal is conversation’s spirit.

Boldly to everything pretend,

And men your talents shall commend.

I knew the great. Observe me right;

So shall you grow, like man, polite.”

He spoke and bow’d. With muttering jaws,

The wondering circle grinn’d applause.

Now, warm’d with malice, envy, spite,

Their most obliging friends they bite;

And fond to copy human ways,

Practise new mischiefs all their days.

Thus the dull lad, too tall for school,

With travel finishes the fool;

Studious of every coxcomb’s airs,

He drinks, games, dresses, whores, and swears;

O’erlooks with scorn all virtuous arts,

For vice is fitted to his parts.






FABLE 15


The Philosopher and the Pheasants


The Sage, awaked at early day,

Through the deep forest took his way;

Drawn by the music of the groves,

Along the winding gloom he roves;

From tree to tree the warbling throats

Prolong the sweet alternate notes.

But where he past, he terror threw,

The song broke short, the warblers flew;

The thrushes chatter’d with affright,

And nightingales abhorr’d his sight;

All animals before him ran,

To shun the hateful sight of man.

“Whence is this dread of every creature?

Fly they our figure or our nature?”

As thus he walk’d in musing thought,

His ear imperfect accents caught.

With cautious step he nearer drew,

By the thick shade conceal’d from view.

High on the branch a Pheasant stood,

Around her all her listening brood;

Proud of the blessings of her nest,

She thus a mother’s care express’d:

“No dangers here shall circumvent;

Within the woods enjoy content.

Sooner the hawk or vulture trust

Than man, of animals the worst:

In him ingratitude you find,

A vice peculiar to the kind.

The sheep, whose annual fleece is dyed,

To guard his health, and serve his pride;

Forced from his fold and native plain,

Is, in the cruel shambles, slain.

The swarms who, with industrious skill,

His hives with wax and honey fill,

In vain whole summer days employ’d;

Their stores are sold, the race destroy’d.

What tribute from the goose is paid!

Does not her wing all science aid?

(Does it not lovers’ hearts explain)

And drudge to raise the merchant’s gain?

What now rewards this general use?

He takes the quills, and eats the goose.

Man then avoid, detest his ways,

So safety shall prolong your days.

When services are thus acquitted,

Be sure we Pheasants must be spitted.”



FABLE 16


The Pin and the Needle


A Pin who long had served a beauty,

Proficient in the toilet’s duty,

Had form’d her sleeve, confined her hair;

Or given her knot a smarter air;

Now nearest to her heart was placed

Now in her manteau’s tail disgraced;

But could she partial fortune blame,

Who saw her lovers, served the same?

At length from all her honours cast,

Through various turns of life she past:

Now glittered on a tailor’s arm,

Now kept a beggar’s infant warm;

Now, ranged within a miser’s coat,

Contributes to his yearly groat;

Now, raised again from low approach,

She visits in the doctor’s coach:

Here, there, by various fortune tost,

At last in Gresham Hall was lost.

Charm’d with the wonders of the show,

On every side, above, below,

She now of this or that, inquires,

What least was understood, admires.


‘Tis plain each thing so struck her mind,

Her head’s of virtuoso kind.

“And pray what’s this, and this, dear Sir?”

“A needle,” says the interpreter.

She knew the name; and thus the fool

Address’d her, as a tailor’s tool:

“A needle with that filthy stone,

Quite idle, all with rust o’ergrown:

You better might employ your parts,

And aid the semstress in her arts.

But tell me how the friendship grew

Between that paltry flint and you?”

“Friend,” says the Needle, “cease to blame;

I follow real worth and fame.

Know’st thou the loadstone’s power and art,

That virtue, virtues can impart?

Of all his talents I partake,

Who then can such a friend forsake?

‘Tis I direct the pilot’s hand

To shun the rocks and treacherous sand:

By me the distant world is known,

And either India is our own.

Had I with milliners been bred,

What had I been? the guide of thread,

And drudged as vulgar Needles do,

Of no more consequence than you.”






FABLE 17


The Shepherd’s Dog and the Wolf


A Wolf, with hunger, fierce and bold,

Ravaged the plains, and thinn’d the fold;

Deep in the wood, secure he lay,

The thefts of night regaled the day.

In vain the shepherd’s wakeful care

Had spread the toils, and watch’d the snare;

In vain the dog pursued his pace,

The fleeter robber mock’d the chase.

As Lightfoot ranged the forest round,

By chance his foe’s retreat he found.

“Let us awhile the war suspend,

And reason as from friend to friend.”

“A truce!” replies the Wolf. ‘Tis done.

The Dog the parley thus begun:

“How can that strong intrepid mind

Attack a weak defenceless kind?

Those jaws should prey on nobler food,

And drink the boar’s and lion’s blood.

Great souls with generous pity melt,

Which coward tyrants never felt.

How harmless is our fleecy care!

Be brave, and let thy mercy spare.”

“Friend,” says the wolf, “the matter weigh;

Nature design’d us beasts of prey;

As such, when hunger finds a treat,

‘Tis necessary Wolves should eat.

If, mindful of the bleating weal,

Thy bosom burn with real zeal,

Hence, and thy tyrant lord beseech;

To him repeat the moving speech:

A Wolf eats Sheep but now and then,

Ten thousands are devour’d by men.

An open foe may prove a curse

But a pretended friend is worse.”



FABLE 18


The Painter Who Pleased Nobody and

Everybody


Lest men suspect your tale untrue,

Keep probability in view.

The traveller leaping o’er those bounds,

The credit of his book confounds.

Who with his tongue hath armies routed,

Makes ev’n his real courage doubted.

But flattery never seems absurd;

The flatter’d always take your word:

Impossibilities seem just,

They take the strongest praise on trust.

Hyperboles, though ne’er so great,

Will still come short of self-conceit.

So very like, a painter drew,

That every eye, the picture knew.

He hit complexion, feature, air,

So just, the life itself was there.



No flattery with his colours laid,

To bloom restored the faded maid;

He gave each muscle all its strength;

The mouth, the chin, the nose’s length;

His honest pencil touch’d with truth.

And mark’d the date of age and youth.

He lost his friends, his practice fail’d;

Truth should not always be reveal’d.

In dusty piles his pictures lay,

For no one sent the second pay.

Two bustos, fraught with every grace,

A Venus’ and Apollo’s face,

He placed in view; resolved to please,

Whoever sat, he drew from these,

From these corrected every feature,

And spirited each awkward creature.


All things were set, the hour was come,

His pallet ready o’er his thumb;

My Lord appear’d, and seated right,

In proper attitude and light,

The Painter look’d, he sketch’d the piece,

Then dipt his pencil, talk’d of Greece,

Of Titian’s tints, of Guido’s air;

“Those eyes, my Lord, the spirit there

Might well a Raphael’s hand require,

To give them all the native fire.

The features, fraught with sense and wit,

You’ll grant are very hard to hit;

But yet with patience you shall view

As much as paint and art can do.”

“Observe the work!” My Lord replied,

“Till now I thought my mouth was wide;

Besides, my nose is somewhat long:

Dear Sir, for me, ‘tis far too young.”

“Oh! pardon me,” (the artist cried)

“In this, we Painters must decide.




The piece, e’en common eyes must strike;

I warrant it extremely like.”

My Lord examined it anew;

No looking-glass seem’d half so true.

A lady came, with borrow’d grace

He, from his Venus, form’d her face.

Her lover praised the painter’s art;

So like the picture in his heart!

To every age, some charm he lent;

E’en beauties were almost content.

Through all the town his art they praised;

His custom grew, his price was raised.

Had he the real likeness shown,

Would any man the picture own?

But when thus happily he wrought,

Each found the likeness in his thought.


FABLE 19


The Lion and the Cub


How fond are men of rule and place,

Who court it from the mean and base!

These cannot bear an equal nigh,

But from superior merit fly.

They love the cellar’s vulgar joke,

And lose their hours in ale and smoke.

There o’er some petty club preside;

So poor, so paltry, is their pride!

Nay, e’en with fools, whole nights will sit,

In hopes to be supreme in wit.

If these can read, to these I write,

To set their worth in truest light.

A Lion-cub, of sordid mind,

Avoided all the lion kind;

Fond of applause, he sought the feasts

Of vulgar and ignoble beasts;

With asses all his time he spent,

Their club’s perpetual president.

He caught their manners, looks, and airs;

An ass in everything but ears!

If e’er his Highness meant a joke,

They grinn’d applause before he spoke;

But at each word what shouts of praise!

Good gods! how natural he brays!







Elate with flattery and conceit,

He seeks his royal sire’s retreat;

Forward, and fond to show his parts,

His Highness brays; the Lion starts.

“Puppy! that cursed vociferation

Betrays thy life and conversation:

Coxcombs, an ever-noisy race,

Are trumpets of their own disgrace.”

“Why so severe?” the Cub replies,

“Our senate always held me wise.”

“How weak is pride!” returns the sire;

“All fools are vain when fools admire!

But know, what stupid asses prize,

Lions and noble beasts despise.”


FABLE 20


The Old Hen and the Cock


“Restrain your child!” you’ll soon believe

The text which says we sprung from Eve.

As an old Hen led forth her train,

And seem’d to peck to show the grain,

She raked the chaff, she scratch’d the ground,

And glean’d the spacious yard around.

A giddy chick, to try her wings,

On the well’s narrow margin springs,

And prone she drops. The mother’s breast

All day with sorrow was possess’d.

A Cock she met; her son she knew;

And in her heart affection grew.

“My son,” says she, “I grant your years

Have reach’d beyond a mother’s cares;

I see you vigorous, strong, and bold;

I hear with joy your triumphs told.

‘Tis not from Cocks thy fate I dread;

But let thy ever-wary tread

Avoid yon well; that fatal place

Is sure perdition to our race.

Print this my counsel on thy breast;

To the just gods I leave the rest.”

He thank’d her care; yet day by day

His bosom burn’d to disobey,

And every time the well he saw,

Scorn’d in his heart the foolish law:

Near and more near each day he drew,

And long’d to try the dangerous view.

“What was this idle charge?” he cries,

“Let courage female fears despise.

Or did she doubt my heart was brave,

And therefore this injunction gave?

Or does her harvest store the place,

A treasure for her younger race?

And would she thus my search prevent?

I stand resolved, and dare th’ event.”

Thus said, he mounts the margin round,

And pries into the depths profound.

He stretch’d his neck, and from below,

With stretching neck, advanced a foe:

With wrath his ruffled plumes he rears,

The foe with ruffled plumes appears;

Threat answered threat, his fury grew,

Headlong to meet the war he flew,

But when the watery death he found,

He thus lamented as he drown’d;

“I ne’er had been in this condition,

But for my mother’s prohibition.”



FABLE 21


The Ratcatcher and Cats


The rats by night such mischief did,

Betty was every morning chid.

They undermined whole sides of bacon,

Her cheese was sapp’d, her tarts were taken;

Her pasties, fenced with thickest paste,

Were all demolish’d and laid waste:

She cursed the Cat, for want of duty,

Who left her foes a constant booty.

An engineer, of noted skill,

Engaged to stop the growing ill.

From room to room he now surveys

Their haunts, their works, their secret ways;

Finds where they ‘scape an ambuscade,

And whence the nightly sally’s made.

An envious Cat from place to place,

Unseen, attends his silent pace.

She saw that if his trade went on,

The purring race must be undone;

So secretly removes his baits,

And every stratagem defeats.

Again he sets the poison’d toils,

And puss again the labour foils.

“What foe, to frustrate my designs,

My schemes thus nightly countermines?”

Incensed, he cries; “this very hour

The wretch shall bleed beneath my power.”

So said, a pond’rous trap he brought,

And in the fact poor Puss was caught.

“Smuggler,” says he, “thou shalt be made

A victim to our loss of trade.”

The captive Cat, with piteous mews,

For pardon, life, and freedom sues:

“A sister of the science spare;

One interest is our common care.”

“What insolence!” the man replied;

“Shall Cats with us the game divide?

Were all your interloping band

Extinguish’d, or expell’d the land,

We ratcatchers might raise our fees,

Sole guardians of a nation’s cheese!”

A Cat, who saw the lifted knife,

Thus spoke, and saved her sister’s life:

“In every age and clime we see,

Two of a trade can ne’er agree.

Each hates his neighbour for encroaching;

‘Squire stigmatizes ‘squire for poaching;

Beauties with beauties are in arms,

And scandal pelts each other’s charms;

Kings, too, their neighbour kings dethrone,

In hope to make the world their own:

But let us limit our desires,

Not war like beauties, kings, and ‘squires!

For though we both one prey pursue,

There’s game enough for us and you.”








FABLE 22


The Goat Without a Beard


“Tis certain that the modish passions

Descend among the crowd, like fashions.

Excuse me, then, if pride, conceit,

(The manners of the fair and great)

I give to monkeys, asses, dogs,

Fleas, owls, goats, butterflies, and

I say that these are proud, what then?

I never said they equal men.

A Goat (as vain as Goat can be)

Affected singularity;

Whene’er a thymy bank he found,

He roll’d upon the fragrant ground,

And then with fond attention stood,

Fix’d o’er his image in the flood.

“I hate my frowzy beard,” he cries,

“My youth is lost in this disguise.

Did not the females know my vigour,

Well might they loath this reverend figure.”

Resolved to smooth his shaggy face,

He sought the barber of the place.

A flippant monkey, spruce and smart,

Hard by, profess’d the dapper art.

His pole with pewter basins hung,

Black rotten teeth in order strung,

Ranged cups, that in the window stood,

Lined with red rags, to look like blood,

Did well his threefold trade explain,

Who shaved, drew teeth, and breathed a vein.

The Goat he welcomes with an air,

And seats him in his wooden chair:

Mouth, nose, and cheek, the lather hides;

Light, smooth, and swift, the razor glides.

“I hope your custom, Sir,” says Pug,

“Sure never face was half so smug!”

The Goat, impatient for applause.

Swift to the neighbouring hill withdraws;

The shaggy people grinn’d and stared.

“Heyday! what’s here? without a beard!

Say, brother, whence the dire disgrace?

What envious hand hath robb’d your face?”

When thus the fop with smiles of scorn:

“Are beards by civil nations worn?

Ev’n Muscovites have mow’d their chins.

Shall we, like formal Capuchins,

Stubborn in pride, retain the mode,

And bear about the hairy load?

Whene’er we through the village stray,

Are we not mock’d along the way,

Insulted with loud shouts of scorn,

By boys, our beards disgraced and torn?”

“Were you no more with Goats to dwell,

Brother, I grant you reason well,”

Replies a bearded chief. “Beside,

If boys can mortify thy pride,

How wilt thou stand the ridicule

Of our whole flock? Affected fool!

Coxcombs, distinguish’d from the rest,

To all but coxcombs are a jest.”

FABLE 23


The Old Woman and Her Cats


Who friendship with a knave hath made,

Is judged a partner in the trade.

The matron who conducts abroad

A willing nymph, is thought a bawd;

And if a modest girl is seen

With one who cures a lover’s spleen,

We guess her not extremely nice,

And only wish to know her price.

‘Tis thus that on the choice of friends

Our good or evil name depends.

A wrinkled hag, of wicked fame,

Beside a little smoky flame

Sate hovering, pinch’d with age and frost;

Her shrivell’d hands, with veins emboss’d,

Upon her knees her weight sustains,

While palsy shook her crazy brains:

She mumbles forth her backward prayers,

An untamed scold of fourscore years:

About her swarm’d a numerous brood

Of Cats, who, lank with hunger, mew’d.

Teased with their cries her choler grew,

And thus she sputter’d, “Hence, ye crew!

Fool that I was, to entertain

Such imps, such fiends, a hellish train!

Had ye been never housed and nursed,

I for a witch had ne’er been cursed.

To you I owe that crowds of boys

Worry me with eternal noise;

The horseshoe’s nail’d (each threshold’s guard);

Straws laid across, my pace retard,

The stunted broom the wenches hide,

For fear that I should up and ride;

They stick with pins my bleeding seat,

And bid me show my secret teat.”

“To hear you prate would vex a saint;

Who hath most reason of complaint?”

Replies a Cat: “Let’s come to proof.

Had we ne’er starved beneath your roof,

We had, like others of our race,

In credit lived as beasts of chase.

‘Tis infamy to serve a Hag;

Cats are thought imps, her broom a nag!

And boys against our lives combine,

Because, ‘tis said, your Cats have nine.”


FABLE 24


The Butterfly and the Snail


All upstarts, insolent in place,

Remind us of their vulgar race.

As in the sunshine of the morn,

A Butterfly, but newly born,

Sat proudly perking on a rose,

With pert conceit his bosom glows;

His wings, all glorious to behold,

Bedropt with azure, jet, and gold,

Wide he displays; the spangled dew

Reflects his eyes and various hue.

His now-forgotten friend, a Snail,

Beneath his house, with slimy trail

Crawls o’er the grass, whom when he spies,

In wroth he to the gardener cries:

“What means yon peasant’s daily toil,

From choking weeds to rid the soil?

Why wake you to the morning’s care?

Why with new arts correct the year?

Why grows the peach with crimson hue?

And why the plum’s inviting blue?

Were they to feast his taste design’d,

That vermin of voracious kind?

Crush then the slow, the pilfering race,

So purge thy garden from disgrace.”

“What arrogance!” the Snail replied.

“How insolent is upstart pride!

Hadst thou not thus, with insult vain,

Provoked my patience to complain,

I had conceal’d thy meaner birth,

Nor traced thee to the scum of earth:

For scarce nine suns have waked the hours,

To swell the fruit, and paint the flowers,

Since I thy humbler life survey’d,

In base, in sordid guise array’d.

A hideous insect, vile, unclean,

You dragged a slow and noisome train,

And from your spider-bowels drew

Foul film, and spun the dirty clue.

I own my humble life, good friend;

Snail was I born, and Snail shall end.

And, what’s a Butterfly? At best,

He’s but a caterpillar drest;

And all thy race, a numerous seed,

Shall prove of caterpillar breed.”




FABLE 25


The Scold and the Parrot


The husband thus reproved his wife:

“Who deals in slander, lives in strife.

Art thou the herald of disgrace,

Denouncing war to all thy race?

Can nothing quell thy thunder’s rage,

Which spares nor friend, nor sex, nor age?

That vixen tongue of yours, my dear,

Alarms our neighbours far and near.

Good gods! ‘tis like a rolling river,

That murmuring flows, and flows for ever!

Ne’er tired, perpetual discord sowing!

Like fame, it gathers strength by going.”

“Hey-day,” the flippant tongue replies,

“How solemn is the fool! how wise!

Is Nature’s choicest gift debarr’d?

Nay, frown not, for I will be heard.

Women of late are finely ridden,

A Parrot’s privilege forbidden!

You praise his talk, his squalling song,

But wives are always in the wrong.”

Now reputations flew in pieces

Of mothers, daughters, aunts, and nieces:


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