The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Three Rivals

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The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps) by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian, translated by John Wolcott Phelps
The Three Rivals
Fables of Florian4.jpg

FABLE III.
THE THREE RIVALS.

Once on a time rose fierce disputes
Between three very gentle brutes—
           The ox, the horse, and ass.
Their overweening pride, alas!
As oft with men of seeming sense,
Led them to strive for precedence.
Perhaps, my friend, you may deride
The thought of asses having pride;
But are not others sometimes vain,
And aim at rank they can't attain?

The patient ox with humble mien,
Describ'd what worker he had been;
           How great his strength;
           And then at length
Dwelt on his great docility.
The courser boasted of his worth,
His noble carriage and his birth;
The ass of his utility.
"Let's leave the question to three men;
For here they come," exclaimed the horse;
"If two decide for one, why then
We'll yield the palm to him of course."
The ox, who bore an honest face,
Was charged to plainly state the case,
           And ask for judgment thereupon.
One of the men a jockey was,
And therefore plead the horse's cause,
           Because the horse could run.
"Nay, nay, my friend, it is not so,"
One of the men—a cartman—said,
"The horse is only fit for show;
I put the useful ass ahead."
"Oh, what great folly!" said the third,
"Whoever falser notions heard?
'Tis plain to farmers of good sense,
The ox should have the preference."
"What!" said the courser in a huff,
"Judgment like this is merest stuff!
'Tis interest that rules with you."
"Pooh!" said the jockey, "that is true;
But is it something strange or new?"