An argosy of fables/English fables

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
An argosy of fables
Book 3. Part 1, English fables
1158517An argosy of fables — Book 3. Part 1, English fables




ONCE (says an author, where I need not say)
Two travellers found an Oyster in their way:
Both fierce, both hungry, the dispute grew strong,
While, scale in hand. Dame Justice pass'd along.
Before her each with clamour pleads the laws,
Explained the matter and would win the cause.
Dame Justice weighing long the doubtful right.
Takes, opens, swallows it before their sight.
The cause of strife remov'd so rarely well,
"There take (says Justice), take ye each a shell.
We thrive at Westminster on fools like you.
'Twas a fat Oyster—live in peace—Adieu."


A DERVISH was journeying alone in the desert, when two Merchants suddenly met him. "You have lost a Camel," said he to the Merchants. "Indeed we have," they replied. "Was he not blind in his right eye, and lame in his left leg?" said the Dervish. "He was," replied the Merchants. "Had he lost a front tooth?" said the Dervish. "He had," rejoined the Merchants. "And was he not loaded with honey on one side, and wheat on the other?"—"Most certainly he was," they replied; "and you have seen him so lately, and marked him so particularly, you can, in all probability, conduct us to him."—"My friends," said the Dervish, "I have never seen your Camel, nor ever heard of him but from yourselves."—"A pretty story, truly!" said the Merchants; "but where are the jewels which formed a part of his cargo?"—"I have neither seen your Camel nor your jewels," repeated the Dervish. On this, they seized him, and hurried him before the Cadi, or Judge, where, on the strictest search, nothing could be found upon him, nor could any evidence be offered to convict him, either of falsehood or of theft. They were then about to proceed against him as a sorcerer, when the Dervish, with great calmness, thus addressed the court: "I have been much amused with your surprise, and own that there has been some ground for your suspicions; but I have lived long, and alone; and I can find ample scope for observation, even in a desert. I knew that I had crossed the track of a Camel that had strayed from its owner, because I saw no mark of any human footsteps on the same route; I knew that the animal was blind of one eye, because it had cropped the herbage only on one side of the path: and I perceived that it was lame of one leg from the faint impression that one of its feet had produced upon the sand; I concluded that the animal had lost one tooth, because wherever it had grazed, a small tuft of grass was left uninjured, in the centre of its bite. As to that which formed the burden of the beast, the busy ants informed me that it was wheat on the one side, and the clustering flies, that it was honey on the other."


HOW strangely all mankind differ in their opinions! and how strongly each is attached to his own!

Jupiter one day, enjoying himself over a bowl of nectar, and in a merry humour, determined to make mankind a present. Momus was appointed to convey it to them; who, mounted on a rapid car, was presently on earth. "Come hither," said he, "ye happy mortals; great Jupiter has opened for your benefit his all-gracious hands. It is true, he made you somewhat short-sighted, but to remedy that inconvenience, behold how he has favoured you." So saying, he unloosed his portmanteau, when an infinite number of spectacles tumbled out, and were picked up by the crowd with all the eagerness imaginable. There were enough for all; every man had his pair: but it was soon found that these spectacles did not represent objects to all mankind alike; for one pair was purple, another blue; one was white, and another black: some of the glasses were red, some green, and some yellow. In short, they were of all manner of colours, and every shade of colour. However, notwithstanding this diversity, every man was charmed with his own, as believing it the truest, and enjoyed in opinion all the satisfaction of reality.

(Oliver Goldsmith.)


THERE was a little stubborn Dame,
Whom no authority could tame;
Restive by long indulgence grown,
No will she minded but her own:
At trifles oft she'd scold and fret,
Then in a corner take a seat,
And, sourly moping all the day,
Disdain alike to work or play.
Papa all softer arts had tried,
And sharper remedies applied;
But both were vain; for ev'ry course
He took, still made her worse and worse.
'Tis strange to think how female wit
So oft should make a lucky hit;
When man with all his high pretence
To deeper judgment, sounder sense,
Will err, and measures false pursue—
'Tis very strange, I own, but true—
Mamma observed the rising lass,
By stealth retiring to the glass,
To practise little airs unseen,
In the true genius of thirteen.
On this a deep design she laid
To tame the humour of the Maid;
Contriving like a prudent Mother,
To make one folly cure another.
Upon the wall, against the seat
Which Jessy used for her retreat,
Whene'er by accident offended,
A Looking-Glass was straight suspended,
That it might show her how deformed,
She looked, and frightful when she stormed;
And warn her as she prized her beauty,
To bend her humour to her duty.
All this the Looking-Glass achieved;
Its threats were minded and believed.
The Maid who spurned at all advice,
Grew tame and gentle in a trice:
So, when all other means had failed,
The silent monitor prevailed.

Thus, Fable to the human kind
Presents an image of the mind:
It is a mirror, where we spy
At large our own deformity:
And learn of course those faults to mend
Which but to mention would offend.


WHETHER in earth, in air, or main,
Sure everything alive is vain!
Does not the Hawk all fowls survey
As destined only for his prey?
And do not Tyrants, prouder things,
Think men were born for slaves to kings?
"What dignity's in human nature!"
Says Man, the most conceited creature,
As from a cliff he casts his eyes,
And views the sea with arching skies:
"When I behold this glorious show,
And the wide wat'ry world below,
The scaly people of the main,
The beasts that range the wood or plain,
The winged inhabitants of air,
The day, the night, the various year,
And know all these by Heaven designed
As gifts to pleasure human-kind:
I cannot raise my worth too high;
Of what vast consequence am I!"
"Not of th' importance you suppose,"
Replies a Flea upon his nose:
"Be humble, learn thyself to scan:
Know, pride was never made for Man.
'Tis vanity that swells thy mind.
What, Heaven and Earth for thee designed!
For thee! Made only for our need,
That more important Fleas might feed."


FRIENDSHIP, like love, is but a name,
Unless to one you stint the flame,
The child, whom many guardians share,
Hath seldom known a father's care.
'Tis thus in friendship; who depend
On many, rarely find a friend.
A hare, who in a civil way
Complied with ev'rything, like Gay,
Was known by all the bestial train
Who haunt the wood, or graze the plain.
Her care was, never to offend;
And ev'ry creature was her friend.
As forth she went, at early dawn,
To taste the dew-besprinkled lawn,
Behind she hears the hunter's cries,
And from the deep-mouth'd thunder flies;
She starts, she stops, she pants for breath,
She hears the near advance of death;
She doubles to mislead the hound
And measures back her mazy round;
Till, fainting in the public way
Half-dead with fear she gasping lay.
What transport in her bosom grew,
When first the horse appear'd in view!
"Let me," says she, "your back ascend,
And owe my safety to a friend.
You know my feet betray my flight;
To friendship ev'ry burthen's light."
The horse replied, "Poor honest Puss!
It grieves my heart to see thee thus:
Be comforted, relief is near;
For all your friends are in the rear."
She next the stately bull implor'd,
And thus replied the mighty lord;
"Since ev'ry beast alive can tell
That I sincerely wish you well,
I may, without offence, pretend
To take the freedom of a friend.
Love calls me hence; a fav'rite cow
Expects me near yon barley-mow;
And when a lady's in the case
You know all other things give place,
To leave you thus might seem unkind;
But see, the goat is just behind."
The goat remark'd her pulse was high,
Her languid head, her heavy eye;
"My back," says he, "may do you harm;
The sheep's at hand, and wool is warm."
The sheep was feeble, and complain'd
His sides a load of wool sustain'd:
Said he was slow, confess'd his fears,
For hounds eat sheep as well as hares.
She now the trotting calf address'd,
To save from death a friend distress'd,
"Shall I," says he, "of tender age,
In this important care engage?
Older and abler pass'd you by;
How strong are those! how weak am I!
Should I presume to bear you hence,
Those friends of mine may take offence.
Excuse me, then. You know my heart,
But dearest friends, alas! must part.
How shall we all lament! Adieu!
For see, the hounds are just in view."

(John Gay.)


A TURKEY, tired of common food,
Forsook the barn and sought the wood;
Behind her ran her infant train,
Collecting here and there a grain.
"Draw near, my birds," the mother cries,
"This hill delicious fare supplies;
Behold the busy negro race,
See millions blacken all the place!
Fear not; like me, with freedom eat;
An Ant is most delightful meat.
How bless'd, how envied were our life,
Could we but 'scape the polt'rer's knife!
But man, curs'd man, on Turkeys preys,
And Christmas shortens all our days!
Sometimes with oysters we combine,
Sometimes assist the savory chine;
From the low peasant to the lord,
The Turkey smokes upon the board.
Sure, men for gluttony are curs'd,
Of all the sev'n deadly sins the worst."

An Ant, who climbed beyond her reach,
Thus answered from a neighbouring beech:
"Ere you remark another's sin,
Bid thy own conscience look within;
Control thy more voracious bill,
Nor, for a breakfast, nations kill."

In other folks we faults can spy,
And blame the mote that dims their eye;
Each little speck and blemish find:—
To our own grosser errors blind.

(John Gay.)


ONE evening, as a simple Swain
His flocks attended on the plain,
The shining Bow he chanced to spy
Which warns us when a shower is nigh.

With brightest rays it seemed to glow;
Its distance, eighty yards or so.
This bumpkin had, it seems, been told
The story of the Cup of Gold,

Which, Fame reports, is to be found
Just where the Rainbow meets the ground.
He therefore felt a sudden itch
To seize the goblet and be rich;

Hoping, yet hopes are oft but vain,
No more to toil through wind and rain,
But sit indulging by the fire,
Midst ease and plenty like a Squire.

He marked the very spot of land
On which the Rainbow seemed to stand,
And, stepping forward at his leisure,
Expected to have found the treasure.

But as he moved, the coloured ray
Still changed its place and slipped away,
As seeming his approach to shun.
From walking, he began to run;

But all in vain; it still withdrew
As nimbly as he could pursue.
At last through many a bog and lake,
Rough, craggy road and thorny brake,

It led the easy fool till night
Approached, then vanished from his sight,
And left him to compute his gains,
With nought but Labour for his Pains.

(John Gay.)


BETWIXT her swagging panniers' load
A Farmer's Wife to market rode,
And jogging on, with thoughtful care,
Summ'd up the profits of her ware;
When starting from her silver dream,
Thus far and wide was heard her scream.
"That Raven on yon left-hand oak,
Curse on his ill-betiding croak,
Bodes me no good." No more she said,
When poor blind Bob, with stumbling tread,
Fell prone; o'erturn'd the panniers lay,
And her mash'd eggs bestrew'd the way.
She, sprawling on the yellow road,
Rail'd, swore, and curs'd: "Thou croaking Toad,
A murrain take thy rascal throat;
I knew misfortune in the note."
"Dame," quoth the Raven, "spare your oaths,
Unclench your fist, and wipe your clothes.
But why on me those curses thrown?
Goody, the fault was all your own;
For had you laid this brittle ware
On Dun, the old sure-footed Mare,
Though all the Ravens of the hundred
With croaking had your tongue out-thunder'd,
Sure-footed Dun had kept her legs,
And you, good Woman, sav'd your eggs."

(John Gay.)


TWO Cats having stolen some cheese could not agree about dividing it. To settle the quarrel they referred the matter to a Monkey. The latter readily consented to act as judge; and producing a pair of scales he put a part of the cheese in each scale. "Let me see," he said gravely, "Yes, this lump outweighs the other," and immediately bit off a piece, "to make it balance," as he explained. The opposite scale had now become the heavier, which gave this careful judge an excuse for a second mouthful. "Hold, hold!" cried the two Cats, who began to be alarmed as to the outcome, "Give us our respective shares and we will be satisfied."

"Even if you are satisfied," returned the Monkey, "Justice is not, A case of this difficult nature is not so quickly decided." Upon which he continued to nibble first one piece and then the other; until the poor Cats, seeing their cheese gradually diminishing, begged him to give himself no further trouble but hand over to them what remained.

"Not so fast, my good friends," replied the Monkey. "We owe justice to ourselves as well as to you. What remains is due to me for my services." Upon which he crammed the rest of the cheese into his mouth, and gravely dismissed the Court.

(Robert Dodsley, Original Fables.)


ON the margin of a large lake, which was inhabited by a great number of Frogs, a company of Boys happened to be at play. The game they were playing was ducks and drakes; and whole vollies of stones were thrown into the water, to the great annoyance and danger of the poor terrified Frogs. At length one of the boldest Frogs lifted up his head above the surface of the lake:

"Ah! dear children," said he, "why will you learn so soon the cruel habits of the human race? Consider, I beseech you, that though this may be sport for you, it is death to us."

(Robert Dodsley, Original Fables.)


A SOLEMN Owl, puffed up with vanity, sat repeating her screams at midnight from the hollow of a blasted oak. "For what reason," she cried, "is this awesome silence, unless for the sake of my superior music? Surely all the groves are hushed, in expectation of my song, and when I sing all Nature listens." An Echo, resounding from a neighbouring rock, at once replied: "All Nature listens."—"The Nightingale," resumed the Owl, "has usurped the sovereignty of night: her notes are indeed musical, but my own are far sweeter." Echo, confirming her opinion, again replied, "Are far sweeter."—"Then why should I be diffident," continued the Owl, "why should I hesitate to join the tuneful choir?" Echo, still flattering the Owl's vanity, repeated: "Join the tuneful choir."

Trusting to the encouragement of an empty Echo, the Owl on the following morning mingled her hootings with the sweet melodies of the grove. But the feathered songsters, disgusted with her noise, and indignant at her impudence, one and all drove her from their society, and still continue to pursue her whenever she appears.

The vain hear the flatteries of their own imagination, and believe them to be the voice of Fame.

{Robert Dodsley, Original Fables, No. 12.)


AS a Fly was crawling leisurely up one of the columns of the Cupola of Saint Paul's Cathedral he often stopped, surveyed, examined and at last broke forth into the following exclamation:

"How strange that any one who claims to be an artist should ever leave a superb structure like this so rough and unfinished!"

"Ah! my friend," returned that skilful architect, the Spider, who was just then hanging his web under one of the capitals of the columns, "you should never express opinions of matters beyond your understanding. This lofty building was not made for such tiny creatures as you and I, but for a very dififerent sort of beings, men, who are at least ten thousand times as large. To their eyes, perhaps, these columns may seem as smooth as the delicate wings of your beloved mate appear to yours."

(Robert Dodsley, Original Fables.)


HOW vainly do we promise ourselves that our flimsy productions will be rewarded with immortal honour!

A spider, busied in spreading his web from one side of the room to the other, was asked by an industrious silk-wrom, to what end he spent so much time and labour, in making such a number of lines and circles? The spider angrily replied: "Do not disturb me, thou ignorant thing. I transmit my ingenuity to posterity, and fame is the object of my wishes." Just as he had spoken, a chambermaid coming into the room to feed her silk-worms, saw the spider at his work: and with one stroke of her broom swept him away, destroying at once his labour and his hopes of fame.

(Robert Dodsley.)


AS two lizards were basking under a south wall: "How contemptible," said one of them, "is our condition! We exist, it is true, but that is all, for we hold no sort of rank in the creation, and are utterly unnoticed by the world. Cursed obscurity! why was I not born a stag, to range at large, the pride and glory of some royal forest?" It happened, that in the midst of these unjust murmurs, a pack of hounds was heard in full cry after the very creature he was envying, which being quite spent with the chase, was torn in pieces by the dogs, in sight of the two lizards. "And is this the lordly stag, whose place in the creation you wish to hold?" said the wiser lizard to his complaining friend. "Let his fate teach you to bless Providence for placing you in that humble situation which secures you from the dangers of a more elevated rank."

(Robert Dodsley.)


A CERTAIN Boy put his hand into a pitcher where great plenty of Figs and Filberts were deposited; he grasped as many as his fist could possibly hold, but when he endeavoured to pull it out, the narrowness of the neck prevented him. Unwilling to lose any of them, but unable to draw out his hand, he burst into tears, and bitterly bemoaned his hard fortune. An honest fellow who stood by, gave him this wise and reasonable advice:—"Grasp only half the quantity, my boy, and you will easily succeed."

(Dodsley, Fables.)


A BOY playing in the fields got stung by a Nettle. He ran home to his mother, telling her that he had but touched that nasty weed, and it had stung him. "It was just your touching it. my boy," said the mother, "that caused it to sting you; the next time you meddle with a Nettle, grasp it tightly, and it will do you no hurt."

Do boldly what you do at all.

{Dodsley, Original Fables, No. 19.)


AS a Rocket shot upward through the air, one holiday night, and saw the trail of light that marked his passage, he could not resist exulting in his proud ascent, and calling upon the Stars to do him homage.

"Behold," said he, "what gaping multitudes admire the brilliance of my train, while all your feeble sparks of light are disregarded!"

The Stars heard this foolish boast in silent indignation; only the Dog-star deigned to answer him:

"Do not measure your importance," said he, "by the capricious fancy of the fickle crowd. Remember that you are only a part of the gaudy display of a passing moment. Even while I speak, your blaze is half burnt out, and you are at this instant sinking into endless darkness. Whereas our fires are lighted up by Heaven for the admiration and benefit of the universe; and our glory shall endure forever."

(Dodsley, Original Fables, No. 38.)


A KINGFISHER was perched in a shady spot on the bank of a river, when she was surprised by the arrival of a Sparrow that had flown out from town to visit her. After the first greetings the Sparrow said:

"How is it possible that a bird so finely feathered should spend all her days in such a retired spot? The golden plumage of your breast, the shining azure of your wings were never given you to be concealed, but to attract the wonder of all beholders. Why do you not travel and see the world, and become known and admired yourself?"

"You are very kind," replied the Kingfisher, "to conclude that I need only to be known to be admired. But even in this lonesome valley I have sometimes heard of beauty that has been neglected, and of true worth that has been despised. I have learned, besides, not to base my happiness on what others think of me, but on the approval of my own conscience. It may be joy to a Sparrow to indulge his curiosity and display his eloquence. But I am a Kingfisher; these woods and streams are my delight, and so long as they are free from wind and storm I am perfectly content with my situation."

(Dodsley, Original Fables, No. 51.)


A TRAVELLER who had visited Asia, Africa and Europe, was at length, in making his tour through America, overcome with heat, and lay down to rest under a tree. He had scarcely begun to doze, when he was roused by a loud noise, of which he could not discover the cause. Looking about him, he perceived a small Bird issuing forth from the hollow of a tree, whose beautiful plumage was variegated like the rainbow, and whose size was hardly larger than that of a Bumble-bee.

"Is it you, little insect, that makes this loud humming noise?" exclaimed the Traveller.

"Yes," replied the Bird, "you need not be surprised at that, since it happens as often among men as among animals, that those of least consequence make the most noise."

(Dr. Aikin.)


OFT has it been my lot to mark
A proud, conceited, talking spark,
With eyes that hardly served at most
To guard their master 'gainst a post;
Yet round the world the blade has been,
To see whatever could be seen.
Returning from his finished tour,
Grown ten times perter than before;
Whatever word you chance to drop,
The travelled fool your mouth will stop:
"Sir, if my judgment you'll allow—
I've seen—and sure I ought to know."
So begs you pay a due submission,
And acquiesce in his decision.
Two travellers of such a cast,
As o'er Arabia's wilds they passed,
And on their way, in friendly chat,
Now talked of this, and then of that;
Discoursed awhile, 'mongst other matter.
Of the chameleon's form and nature.
"A stranger animal," cries one,
"Sure never lived beneath the sun:
A lizard's body lean and long,
A fish's head, a serpent's tongue,
Its foot with triple claw disjoined;
And what a length of tail behind!
How slow its pace! And then its hue,—
Who ever saw so fine a blue?"
"Hold there," the other quick replies,
" 'Tis green, I saw it with these eyes,
As late with open mouth it lay,
And warmed it in the sunny ray;
Stretched at its ease the beast I viewed,
And saw it eat the air for food."
"I've seen it, sir, as well as you,
And must again affirm it blue;
At leisure I the beast surveyed
Extended in the cooling shade."
" 'Tis green, 'tis green, sir, I assure ye."
"Green!" cries the other in a fury;
"Why, sir, d'ye think I've lost my eyes?"
"'Twere no great loss," the friend replies;
"For if they always serve you thus,
You'll find them but of little use."
So high at last the contest rose,
From words they almost came to blows:
When luckily came by a third;
To him the question they referred;
And begged he'd tell them, if he knew,
Whether the thing was green or blue.
"Sirs," cries the umpire, "cease your pother,
The creature's neither one nor t'other.
I caught the animal last night,
And viewed it o'er by candle-light;
I marked it well, 'twas black as jet—
You stare—but, sirs, I've got it yet,
And can produce it.""Pray, sir, do;
I'll lay my life the thing is blue."
"And I'll be sworn, that when you've seen
The reptile, you'll pronounce him green."
"Well, then, at once to ease the doubt,"
Replies the man, "I'll turn him out;
And when before your eyes I've set him,
If you don't find him black, I'll eat him."
He said; and full before their sight
Produced the beast, and lo!—'twas white.
Both stared; the man looked wondrous wise—
"My children," the chameleon cries
(Then first the chameleon found a tongue),
"You all are right, and all are wrong:
When next you talk of what you view,
Think others see as well as you:
Nor wonder if you find that none
Prefers your eyesight to his own."


AS two young Bears, in wanton mood,
 Forth issuing from a neighhouring wood.
Came where the industrious Bees had stored,
In artful cells, their luscious hoard;
O'erjoyed, they seized with eager haste,
Luxurious, on the rich repast.
Alarmed at this, the little crew
About their ears vindictive flew.
The beasts, unable to sustain
The unequal combat, quit the plain;
Half blind with rage and mad with pain,
Their native shelter they regain;
There sit, and now discreeter grown.
Too late their rashness they bemoan;
And this, by dear experience, gain:—
That pleasure's ever bought with pain.

So, when the gilded baits of vice
Are placed before our longing eyes.
With greedy haste we snatch our fill
And swallow down the latent ill:
But when experience opes our eyes,
Away the fancied pleasure flies.
It flies, but, oh! too late we find
It leaves a real sting behind.

(James Merrick.)


A NIGHTINGALE, that all day long
 Had cheered the village with his song.
Nor yet at eve his note suspended,
Nor yet when eventide was ended,
Began to feel, as well he might,
The keen demands of appetite;
When, looking eagerly around,
He spied far off, upon the ground,
A something shining in the dark,
And knew the glow-worm by his spark;
So, stooping down from hawthorn top,
He thought to put it in his crop.
The worm, aware of his intent,
Harangued him thus, right eloquent.
"Did you admire my lamp," quoth he,
"As much as I your minstrelsy,
You would abhor to do me wrong,
As much as I to spoil your song;
For 'twas the self-same power divine,
Taught you to sing and me to shine,
That you with music, I with light,
Might beautify and cheer the night."
The songster heard his short oration,
And warbling out his approbation,
Released him, as my story tells.
And found a supper somewhere else.


WITHIN the garden's peaceful scene,
Appear'd two lovely foes,
Aspiring to the rank of queen,—
The Lily and the Rose.

The Rose soon redden'd with rage:
And swelling with disdain,
Appeal'd to many a poet's page,
To prove her right to reign.

The Lily's height bespoke command,
A fair imperial flower;
She seemed designed for Flora's hand,
The sceptre of her power.

This civil bickering and debate,
The goddess chanced to hear,
And flew to save ere yet too late,
The pride of the parterre.

"Yours is," she said, "the nobler hue,
And yours the statelier mien;
And, till a third surpasses you,
Let each be deemed a queen.

Let no mean jealousies pervert your mind,
A blemish in another's fame to find;
Be grateful for the gifts that you possess.
Nor deem a rival's merit makes yours less.

(William Cowper.)


METHOUGHT I heard a butterfly
Say to a labouring bee:
"Thou hast no colours of the sky
On painted wings like me."

"Poor child of vanity! those dyes,
And colours bright and rare,"
With mild reproach, the bee replies,
"Are all beneath my care.

"Content I toil from morn to eve,
And scorning idleness,
To tribes of gaudy sloth I leave
The vanity of dress."


THE Mountain and the Squirrel
 Had a quarrel,
And the former called the latter, "Little Prig:"
Bun replied—
"You are doubtless very big;
But all sorts of things and weather
Must be taken in together
To make up a year,
And a sphere;
And I think it no disgrace
To occupy my place,
If I'm not so large as you,
You are not so small as I
And not half so spry;
I'll not deny you make
A very pretty squirrel track.
Talents differ; all is well and wisely put;
If I cannot carry forests on my back,
Neither can you crack a nut."


IT was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant
And, happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me!—but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried "Ho! What have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal.
And, happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands.
Thus boldly up and spake:—
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee;
"What most this wondrous beast is like.
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth who chanced to touch the ear,
Said, "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so the men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long.
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong!


So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!


THREE little bugs in a basket,
And hardly room for two!
And one was yellow, and one was black,
And one like me, or you.
The space was small, no doubt, for all;
But what should three bugs do?

Three little bugs in a basket,
And hardly crumbs for two;
And all were selfish in their hearts,
The same as I or you;
So the strong ones said, "We will eat the bread,
And that is what we'll do."

Three little bugs in a basket,
And the beds but two would hold;
So they all three fell to quarrelling—
The white, and the black, and the gold;
And two of the bugs got under the rugs,
And one was left out in the cold!

So he that was left in the basket,
Without a crumb to chew,
Or a thread to wrap himself withal,
When the wind across him blew,
Pulled one of the rugs from one of the bugs;
And so the quarrel grew!

And so there was war in the basket,
Ah, pity 'tis, 'tis true!
But he that was frozen and starved at last
A strength from his weakness drew,
And pulled the rugs from both of the bugs,
And killed and ate them, too!


A LITTLE chick one day
Asked leave to go on the water,
Where she saw a duck and her brood at play,
Swimming and splashing about her.

Indeed she began to peep and cry
When her mother wouldn't let her;
"If the ducks can swim there, why can't I?
Are they any bigger or better?"

Then the old hen answered: "Listen to me,
And hush your foolish talking;
Just look at your feet and you will see
They were only made for walking."


But chicky wistfully eyed the brook
And didn't half believe her,
For she seemed to say, by a knowing look,
Such stories couldn't deceive her.

And as her mother was scratching the ground,
She muttered, lower and lower,
"I know I can go there and not be drowned,
And so, I think, I'll show her."

Then she made a plunge where the stream was deep,
And saw, too late, her blunder,
For she had hardly time to peep;
When her foolish head went under.

And now I hope her fate will show
The child my story reading,
That those that are older sometimes know
What you will do well in heeding;

That each content in his place should dwell,
And envy not his brother;
For any part that is acted well,
Is just as good as another.

For we all have our proper sphere below,
And this is a truth worth knowing:
You will come to grief if you try to go
Where you were never made for going.


A HUNTSMAN, bearing his gun a-field,
Went whistling merrily,
When he heard the blackest of black crows
Call out from a withered tree:—

"You are going to kill the thievish birds,
And I would, if I were you;
But you must not touch my family.
Whatever else you do."

"I'm only going to kill the birds
That are eating up my crop;
And if your young ones do such things,
Be sure they'll have to stop."

"O," said the crow, "my children
Are the best ones ever born
There isn't one among them all
Would steal a grain of corn."

"But how shall I know which ones they are?
Do they resemble you?"
"O, no," said the crow, "they're the prettiest birds,
And the whitest, ever flew."

So off went the sportsman whistling,
And off, too, went his gun;
And its startling echoes never ceased
Again till the day was done.

And the old crow sat untroubled.
Cawing away in her nook.
For she said; "He'll never kill my birds,
Since I told him how they look.

"Now there's the hawk, my neighbour,
She'll see what'll come to pass soon,
And that saucy, whistling black-bird
May have to change his tune."

When, lo! she saw the hunter
Taking his homeward track.
With a string of crows as long as his gun,
Hanging down his back.

"Alack, alack!" said the mother,
"What in the world have you done?
You promised to spare my pretty birds,
And you've killed them, every one."

"Your birds," said the puzzled hunter;
"Why, I found them in my corn;
And, besides, they are black and ugly
As any that ever were born."

"Get out of my sight, you stupid!"
Said the angriest of crows;
"How good and fair the children are,
There's none but a parent knows."

"Ah! I see, I see," said the hunter,
"But not as you do, quite;
It takes a mother to be so blind
She can't tell black from white."


ON the ground lived a hen.
 In a tree lived a wren,
Who picked up her food here and there;
While biddy had wheat
And all nice things to eat.
Said the wren, "I declare, 'tisn't fair!"

"It is really too bad!"
She exclaimed—and was mad—
"To go out when it's raining this way!
And to earn what you eat,
Doesn't make your food sweet,
In spite of what some folks may say.

"Now there is that hen,"
Said the cross little wren,
"She's fed till she's fat as a drum;
While I strive and sweat
For each bug that I get,
And nobody gives me a crumb.

"I can't see for my life
Why the old farmer's wife
Treats her so much better than me.
Suppose on the ground
I hop carelessly round
For a while and just see what I'll see."

Said this cute little wren,
"I'll make friends with the hen,
And perhaps she will ask me to stay;
And then upon bread
Every day I'd be fed,
And life would be nothing but play."

So down flew the wren,
"Stop to tea," said the hen;
And soon biddy's supper was sent;
But scarce stopping to taste,
The poor bird left in haste
And this was the reason she went:

When the farmer's kind dame
To the poultry-yard came,
She said—and the wren shook with fright—
"Biddy's so fat she'll do
For a pie or a stew,
And I guess I shall kill her to-night."

(Phœbe Cary.)


ONCE a trap was baited
 With a piece of cheese;
It tickled so a little mouse
It almost made him sneeze;
An old rat said, "There's danger,
Be careful where you go!"
"Nonsense!" said the other,
"I don't think you know!"

So he walked in boldly—
Nobody in sight;
First he took a nibble,
Then he took a bite;
Close the trap together
Snapped as quick as wink,
Catching mousey fast there,
'Cause he didn't think.

Once a little turkey,
Fond of her own way,
Wouldn't ask the old ones
Where to go or stay;
She said, "I'm not a baby,
Here I am half-grown;
Surely I am big enough
To run about alone!"

Off she went, but somebody
Hiding saw her pass;
Soon like snow her feathers
Covered all the grass,
So she made a supper
For a sly young mink,
'Cause she was so headstrong
That she wouldn't think.

Once there was a robin.
Lived outside the door.
Who wanted to go inside
And hop upon the floor.
"Oh, no," said the mother,
"You must stay with me;
Little birds are safest
Sitting in a tree."

"I don't care," said Robin,
And gave his tail a fling,
"I don't think the old folks
Know quite everything."
Down he flew, and Kitty seized him
Before he'd time to blink
"Oh," he cried, "I'm sorry,
But I didn't think."

Now, my little children,
You who read this song,
Don't you see what trouble
Comes of thinking wrong?
And can't you take a warning
From their dreadful fate,
Who began their thinking
When it was too late?

Don't think there's always safety
Where no danger shows,
Don't suppose you know more
Than anybody knows;
But when you're warned of ruin,
Pause upon the brink,
And don't go under headlong
'Cause you didn't Think.

(Phœbe Cary.)