The Rude Rat and the Unostentatious Oyster

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The Rude Rat and the Unostentatious Oyster
by Guy Wetmore Carryl
This poem was published in Wetmore’s 1898 anthology Fables for the Frivolous, which are parodies of Aesop's Fables

Upon the shore, a mile or more
      From traffic and confusion,
An oyster dwelt, because he felt
      A longing for seclusion;
Said he: “I love the stillness of
      This spot. It’s like a cloister.”
(These words I quote because, you note,
      They rhyme so well with oyster.)

A prying rat, believing that
      She needed change of diet,
In search of such disturbed this much-
      To-be-desired quiet.
To say the least, this tactless beast
      Was apt to rudely roister:
She tapped his shell, and called him—well,
      A name that hurt the oyster.

“I see,” she cried, “you’re open wide,
      And, searching for a reason,
September’s here, and so it’s clear
      That oysters are in season.”
She smiled a smile that showed this style
      Of badinage rejoiced her,
Advanced a pace with easy grace,
      And sniffed the silent oyster.

The latter’s pride was sorely tried,
      He thought of what he could say,
Reflected what the common lot
      Of vulgar molluscs would say;
Then caught his breath, grew pale as death,
      And, as his brow turned moister,
Began to close, and nipped her nose!
      Superb, dramatic oyster!

We note with joy that oi polloi,
      Whom maidens bite the thumb at,
Are apt to try some weak reply
      To things they should be dumb at.
THE MORAL, then, for crafty men
      Is: When a maid has voiced her
Contemptuous heart, don’t think you’re smart,
      But shut up—like the oyster.