Australian and Other Poems/Fable II
A merry fox, in former times
(I owe a fable for my rhymes),
A stork invited, to partake
At his expense, of a beef-steak,
And make him merry at his hall,
Away 'mid forest dense and tall,
Where Reynard oft found good defence,
When pressed right hard for an offence:
As helping goose or pullet rich
Down from roost or up from ditch;
Or, as the Scriptures doth propound,
Lifting a neighbour from the ground,
That near some highway he had met,
And deemed for house and home hard set.
Well, to our tale—his note polite
The stork did answer with a flight,
And bowed with all a courtier's grace,
When he and fox stood face to face.
The table spread, they lost no time
To sit them down, and 'gin to dine.
The cover off, two plates came forth,
Filled up with richest steaming broth.
Stork made a dive, but lo! his beak
Upon the delf resounded creak;
For well you know from shallow cup
A crane or stork can never sup.
Fox in his sleeve at this faux pas
Did laugh right hearty—stretched his paw,
And helped his friend to some more food.
Until his dish had near o'erflowed.
"Your appetite, sir, is it keen?"
The rogue inquired, with cunning grin.
"Very, indeed, sir," biped replied
(With hunger, faith, he could have cried).
Again he tried to have a taste—
Again he only made a waste.
He tried his bill in every way,
But no receipt his pains would pay;
Yet still he "hemmed," and coughed, and said:
" 'Twas splendid broth, and very well made."
"Tis middling," modestly replied,
The host; "I hope you're satisfied."
"I've dined quite hearty, sir, thank you,
(While inwardly he cursed the stew).
He took his hat, and bade good day;
Bowed to his host, and walked away;
Betook him to a neighb'ring brook
With rapid flight, and hungry look,
Then set to work, and here at last
He caught a fish to break his fast.