The Vainglorious Oak and the Modest Bulrush

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The Vainglorious Oak and the Modest Bulrush
by Guy Wetmore Carryl
This poem was published in Wetmore’s 1898 anthology Fables for the Frivolous, which are parodies of Aesop's Fables

A bulrush stood on a river’s rim,
      And an oak that grew near by
Looked down with cold hauteur on him,
      And addressed him this way: “Hi!”
The rush was a proud patrician, and
      He retorted, “Don’t you know,
What the veriest boor should understand,
                        That ‘Hi’ is low?”

This cutting rebuke the oak ignored.
      He returned, “My slender friend,
I will frankly state that I’m somewhat bored
      With the way you bow and bend.”
“But you quite forget,” the rush replied,
      “It’s an art these bows to do,
An art I wouldn’t attempt if I’d
                        Such boughs as you.”

“Of course,” said the oak, “in my sapling days
      My habit it was to bow,
But the wildest storm that the winds could raise
      Would never disturb me now.
I challenge the breeze to make me bend,
      And the blast to make me sway.”
The shrewd little bulrush answered, “Friend,
                        Don’t get so gay.”

And the words had barely left his mouth
      When he saw the oak turn pale,
For, racing along south-east-by-south,
      Came ripping a raging gale.
And the rush bent low as the storm went past,
      But stiffly stood the oak,
Though not for long, for he found the blast
                        No idle joke.

     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Imagine the lightning’s gleaming bars,
      Imagine the thunder’s roar,
For that is exactly what eight stars
      Are set in a row here for!
The oak lay prone when the storm was done,
      While the rush, still quite erect,
Remarked aside, “What under the sun
                        Could one expect?”

And THE MORAL, I’d have you understand,
      Would have made La Fontaine[1] blush,
For it’s this: Some storms come early, and
                        Avoid the rush!


  1. Jean de La Fontaine