Moonlight, a Poem: with Several Copies of Verses/The Frog-And-Mouse-Fight

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For other versions of this work, see Batrachomyomachia.





Beginning first, I call upon the Choir
Of Muses to come out of Helicon
Into my Heart, and aid the Song, of late
Which in my Tablets on their Knees I lay,
The mighty Contest, warlike Toil of Mars,
Exulting to convey to all Men's Ears,
How rushing on the Frogs, the leading Mice
Rivall'd the Feats of Giant-Men, Earth-born:
And, as reported, thus the Tale begins—

One Day a thirsty Mouse, from Cats escap'd,
Thrust his soft Chin into a Lake hard by,
Enjoying the sweet Water: Him espied
Loquacious Pool-Diver, and thus bespake—

"Who art Thou, Guest? whence cam'st Thou to this Bank?
"Who is thy Father? and speak Truth in all,
"That I may n't catch Thee lying: If I find
"Thee worth my Friendship, I will take Thee home,
"And welcome Thee with hospitable Gifts,
"Many and good: For I am Bladder-Cheek,
"The King, throughout the Pool rever'd; Of Frogs
"Præscriptive Leader; Since Mud-Born, my Sire,
"In fond Embraces with his Pond-Rule mix'd,
"Engender'd me upon the Banks of Po.
" And I discern Thee also fair, and strong
" Above the rest, a scepter'd King, in War
"A Champion: but come, strait thy Birth disclose:"

Him Crumb-Catch answer'd quick in vocal Sounds;
"Why, Friend, My Birth demand, so known to Men,
"To Gods, and to the Fowl, who wing the Sky?
"My Name is Crumb-Catch, and I am the Son
"Of Nibble-Biscuit, my great-hearted Sire;
"Lick-Mill's my Mother, King Gnaw-Gammon's Child.
"She bore me in a Hole, and brought me up
"With Figs, and Nuts, and ev'ry sort of Food.
"But how make Me thy Friend, unlike in Kind?
"Thy Living is in Waters, but my Food,
"Whatever Man is us'd to eat. The Loaf
"Thrice-kneaded, in the neat round Basket kept,
"Escapes not Me, nor Wafer flat and long
"Mix'd with much Sesame, nor Bacon-Slice,
"Nor Liver, cloth'd in Jacket of white Lard,
"Nor Cheese, fresh curdled from delicious Milk,
"Nor the good Sweet-Meats, which the Wealthy love,
"Nor what else Cooks prepare to feast Mankind,
"Dressing their Dishes with each Kind of Sauce—
"Nor ever do I fly the deadly Shout
"Of War: But with the Host advancing straight
"The foremost Champions join; Nor Man himself
"I dread, although He bears so huge a Trunk
"But scale his Bed, and bite his Fingers' Ends,
"And seize his Heel; and yet no Pain invades
"The Man, nor flies his sweet Sleep at my Bite.
"But these two chief I fear in all the Earth,
"The Hawk and Cat; who work me heavy Woe;
"And doleful Trap, where treach'rous Death resides;
"And most I dread a Cat of the first Kind,
"Who, when a Mouse takes Hole, belays the Hole.
"I eat no Cabbage, Radishes, or Gourd;
"Nor can I on pale Beet, or Parsley brouse;
"This is your Food, whose Dwelling is the Pool."

Bladder-Cheek smiling to all this replied:
"Upon the Belly's Fare Thou vauntest high,
"My Guest! We, too, have Wonders to behold,
"Numberless, both by Water and by Sod;
"For to the Frogs the Son of Saturn gave
"A Lot amphibious, to leap on Earth,
"And under Water hide their Body safe.
"If Thou would'st these explore, they are at Hand:
"I'll take Thee on my Back; but hold Me fast,
"Lest Thou be somehow lost; and so with Joy
"Safe at my Palace shalt Thou soon arrive."

He spake, and gave his Back: then with light Spring
The other mounted, holding with both Hands
His slimy Neck. At first He was much pleased,
Seeing Ports near, delighted with the Glide
Of Bladder-Cheek: but, now by purple Waves
Dash'd, his vain After-Thought with many a Tear
He wail'd, and tore his Hair, and strain'd his Feet
Close to his Side; within him shook his Heart
Unpractis'd; and He long'd to see the Land;
And sobb'd aloud by chilly Fear constrain'd.
His Tail He first into the Water plash'd,
Trail'd like an Oar, and praying of the Gods
To reach the Land: o'er Him the purple Flood
Dash'd noisy; aloud He bawl'd, and made this Speech;
But from the Mouth alone cajoling spake.

"Not so the Bull upon his Back sustain'd
"His lovely Burden, when to Crete He bore
"Europa through the Wave; as now the Frog
"To his Court sailing on his Back bears Me,
"O'er the white Flood, his yellow Body rais'd."

Sudden a Water-Snake appear'd, to both
A dreadful Sight, His Neck above the Wave
Erect; whom spying, Bladder-Cheek div'd down,
Without once thinking, what a Friend He thus
Was going in the Pool to overwhelm.
He gain'd the Bottom of the Lake, and shunn'd
Black Fate; thus left, the other fell forthwith
Supine into the Water; clasp'd his Hands
And scream'd, till He was lost; He often sunk
Beneath the Flood, and struggling oft again
He rose, not so to shun his Destiny.
His drench'd Poil[1] dragg'd him down with added Weight:
And, Water-slain, He loud exclaim'd these Words:

"Thou shalt not, Bladder-Cheek, by Gods unseen,
"Do thus from off thy Back, as from a Rock,
"Flinging Me wreck'd: at any Exercise,
"Villain! Thou could'st not foil Me, in the Race
"Or Wrestling: now inveigled in the Pond
"Thou slayest Me: But God has vengeful Eyes:
"Thou 'lt rue it, nor escape the Host of Mice."

Thus saying, in the Flood He breath'd his last.
Lick-Table sitting on the oozy Bank,
Saw Him, and wailing ran to tell the Mice.
Learning his Fate, sharp Anger seiz'd Them all.
They bade the Heralds strait, by Dawn of Day
A Council call at Nibble-Biscuit's Court,
The wretched Sire of Crumb-Catch, Who, supine,
Lay floating, a dead Carcase on the Lake,
Not by the Bank, poor Mouse, but in Mid Pool.


When with the Morning's Dawn in Haste They came,
Among the first, in Dudgeon for his Son,
Rose Nibble-Biscuit, and these Words address'd:
"Oh Friends, if I alone have yet sustain'd
"Much Wrong from Frogs, ill Turns await Us all.
"Wretched I am, for I have lost three Sons;
"The first a Cat, our deadliest Foe, surpriz'd,
"And slew Him taken just without his Hole;
"Again another Men remorseless kill'd,
"Having with modern Arts a wooden Gin
"Found out, They call a Trap, the Bane of Mice;
"The third, to Me and his good Mother dear,
"Bladder-Cheek took upon the Deep, and drown'd;
"But arm We, and go out against the Race;
"Our Bodies in gay Panoply array'd."

Thus saying, He induced Them all to arm.
And now Mars dress'd Them, on the War intent;
Greaves on their Legs They first girt, fitted well,
Of green split Bean Shells, such as over Night
They bit with Skill; and Gorgets, which were made
Of Reed-bound Leather, They with Art combin'd,
Flaying a Cat; the Lamp's Mid-Tin their Shield,
Their Spears long Needles, brazen Tools of War,
Their Helmet on the Head a Nutshell worn.

Thus arm'd the Mice; which as the Frogs perceiv'd,
They left the Water, in one Plot conven'd,
And held a Council of destructive War.
Now musing whence the Quarrel, what the Stir,
A Herald, with his Wand in Hand, approach'd,
Pot-Diver, of great-hearted Scoop-Cheese Son,
Denouncing baneful War; and thus He spake.

"Oh Frogs! the Mice, defying You, have sent
"To bid You arm for Battle and for War;
"For They saw Crumb-Catch in the Water slain
"By your King Bladder-Cheek; fight, therefore, all
"Among the Frogs, who take a valiant Lead."

This said, He disappear'd. Reaching their Ears,
The Message of the Mice disturb'd the Minds
Of the proud Frogs, and while They blam'd the Deed,
Bladder-Cheek rising thus began to speak.

"The Mouse I slew not, Friends, nor saw Him die,
"'Twas merely by his playing on the Lake,
"And mimicking the Swimming of the Frogs,
"That He was drown'd; and now, most villainous,
"Without a Cause, they lay the Blame on Me;
"But come, let Us consult how to repel
"These treach'rous Mice: I'll tell You what seems best;
"Our Bodies harness'd, let Us all be arm'd
"On the Bank-Top, where headlong is the Place;
"And when the Mice come out, and on Us rush,
"Seizing their Helmets, as each meets Us near,
"We'll plunge Them strait all arm'd into the Lake;
"So drowning Them, in Swimming inexpert,
"We'll raise a Trophy o'er the Mice here slain."

Thus having spoke, He clad them all in Arms;
With Mallow Leaves They cover'd round their Legs,
And Gorgets wore of broad green Beet, for Shields
The Leaves of Cabbages They fitted well,
A long sharp Rush each fashion'd to a Spear,
And Helmets of thin Snail-Shells hid their Heads.
They stood upon their Guard on the high Bank,
Shaking their Spears, and each was full of Wrath.

Jove in the starry Sky conven'd the Gods,
And, pointing to the warlike Multitude,
Strong Champions, many, huge, with long Spears arm'd,
As Hosts of Centaurs or of Giants march,
Ask'd with a gracious Smile, who were engag'd,
Among the Immortals, Frogs or Mice to aid?
And to Minerva He address'd his Speech.

"Thou, Daughter, sure wilt hasten to defend
"The Mice, who always dance before thy Fane,
"The Fume enjoying, and the sacred Food."

So spake the Son of Saturn; Pallas thus;
"Oh! never, Father, would I go to help
"The Mice distress'd, for they do Me much Harm,
"Spoiling my Wreaths, and Lamps, to get the Oil.
"And this much frets my Mind, which They have done:
"They gnaw'd my Robe I took such Pains to weave,
"Threading with slender Warp the slender Woof,
"And made Holes in it; Now the Clothier comes
"For Interest on Me: I am downright mad,
"I wove on Tick, and have it not to pay.
"But in like manner I'll not aid the Frogs,
"For They are not discreet. But, weary once,
"And just return'd from Battle, wanting Sleep,
"Clam'ring They would not let Me wink the least;
"Sleepless I lay, and with an aching Head,
"Till the Cock crow'd. But let us, Gods, refrain
"Our Aid, lest some of You from Weapon sharp
"Receive a Wound; for in close Fight They meet
"In adverse Battle even with a God:
"Here looking on, let's all enjoy the Fray."
She spake, and strait the other Gods complied.


As with a Whirlwind all together come
Into one Spot. Two Heralds also come,
Carrying the Signal for the Fight: The Gnats,
Holding great Trumpets, sound the dread Alarm
Of Battle; while Saturnian Jove on high
Thunders the Signal of disastrous War.

High-Croak first wounded Lap-well with his Spear;
Among the foremost, through the Belly pierc'd
In the mid-Liver, down He tumbled prone,
And soil'd his soft Down: Next him Creep-Hole spear'd
The Son of Mud-born, and his stubborn Lance
Fix'd in his Breast; Him falling sable Death
Surpriz'd, and from the Body fled the Soul.
But Love-Beet struck Pot-Diver to the Heart,
And slew Him; Munch-Loaf in the Belly hit
Loud-Clack, who falling prone, the Soul forsook
His Limbs. When Pool-Diver saw Loud-Clack slain,
With Rock as Millstone vast, He by Surprize
Struck Creep-Hole on Mid-Neck, and Darkness veil'd
His Eyes: at Him again with glitt'ring Spear
Lap-Well aim'd right, and in the Liver struck.
When Suck-Cabbage saw this, He fled, and fell
Down the deep Bank; but He escap'd not so:
He plung'd Himself into the Flood; He fell;
And never more look'd up; The Lake was stain'd
With purple Blood; He lay upon the Shore
Outstretch'd, his small Guts and fat Bowels mash'd.
Then Marsh-Love slew Scoop-Cheese upon the Bank;
At Sight of Scrape-Ham, Calamint took Fright:
Flying, He plung'd into the Lake, and threw
His Shield away. Water-Love slew the King
Gnaw-Gammon: with a Stone in Hand he struck
The fore-Part of his Head, and through His Nose
The Brain rill'd; and the Earth was splash'd with Blood.
Lick-Table slew good Mud-Bed with his Spear,
Assailing Him, and Darkness veil'd his Eyes.
Weed-Biter spying Hunt-Steam, by the Feet
Dragg'd Him, and strangled in the Marsh, his Neck
Clasp'd in his Hand. Crumb-Catch his dying Friend
Reveng'd, and wounded Mud-Robe in the Paunch,
To the Mid-Liver; prone He fell; His Soul
To Pluto went. This Mud-Foot seeing threw
A Handfull, grasp'd, of Soil at Him, and daub'd
His Forehead, and well nigh put out his Eyes;
Enrag'd, the other seizing with strong Hand
A mighty Stone, which lay upon the Plain,
The Earth incumb'ring, Mud-Foot smote with It
Below the Knees; the whole Right Leg was crush'd,
And down He tumbled in the Dirt supine.
Hoarse-croak, revenging Him, again assail'd
The Foe, and smote his Navel; the sharp Rush
Went all in; on the Ground his Bowels pour'd
Following the Spear, drawn out with violent Hand.
When Cate-Munch, on the Margin of the Flood,
Saw this, He limping from the Fight retir'd;
Afflicted much, He plung'd into a Ditch,
That He might shun by Flight a grievous Death.
But Nibble-Biscuit on the Instep smote
Bladder-Cheek; wounded quick He fled, and plung'd
Into the Lake: when Nibble-Biscuit saw
Him fall half dead, He rush'd on Him again
Eager to slay: but Weedy, when He saw
Him fall half dead, pass'd through the foremost Rank,
And darted his sharp Rush; which could not pierce
The Shield through, but his Spear-Point was repell'd.

There was among the Mice a stripling Boy,
Above the rest tall, fighting close, the Son
Of blameless Snare-Loaf; He resembled Mars
Himself, bold Scrap-Catch: singly He excell'd
In Battle all the Mice: He stood alone,
Aloof from others, by the Lake, elate
Threat'ning to end the Race of warlike Frogs:
And He had done it, for his Might was great,
Had not the Sire of Gods and Men look'd sharp.
But Jove took Pity on the ruin'd Frogs;
And, moving slow his Head, pronounc'd this Speech.

"Good Gods! important Deeds my Eyes behold;
"Scrap-Catch no little has astonish'd Me,
"Beside the Lake, with eager Eyes intent
"To cut the Frogs quite off: but send We quick
"Pallas, and also Mars in Battle strong,
"Bold as He is, to drive Him from the Field."

So spake the Son of Saturn: Mars replied;
"Neither the Might of Pallas, nor of Mars,
"Jove will avail from grievous Death to save
"The Frogs: but let Us all go to their Aid:
"Or wield thy own great Giant-killing Arms,
"Of Force impetuous, wherewith the Chiefs
"Thou slewest of all the Titans, binding fast
"Enceladus, and those fierce Giant-Tribes."

He spake; and Jove his fiery Light'ning lanc'd;
It thunder'd first, and vast Olympus shook:
But then the dreadful Bolt, the Arms of Jove,
Whirling He sent; It flew from the King's Hand,
And, lighting, frighten'd all the Frogs and Mice.

Yet, not so check'd, the Mouse Host press'd still more
To cut the Race of warlike Frogs quite off;
But that from Heaven the Son of Saturn saw
The Frogs with Pity, and strait sent Them Aid.

Sudden, with Anvil-Backs, and crooked Claws,
Marching awry, They came, in Track oblique,
Pincer-mouth'd, Shell-skinn'd, Bodies all of Bone,
Broad-back'd, their Shoulders shining forth, Bow-legg❜d,
Their Joints well-knitted, in the Breast their Eyes,
Eight-footed, double-headed, many-claw'd,
They are call'd Crabs. Their Mouths snapp'd Tails of Mice,
And Feet, and Hands; and back their Spears were bent;
Whom the poor Mice shrunk under, nor bore up;
But turn'd to Flight. The Sun was setting now,
And of this One-Day War an End was made.

  1. The word, Poil, is written so plainly in the Manuscript, that I cannot doubt its being the word intended by the venerable Writer: but, I confess, I know not its meaning; unless it be derived from the Latin word, Pelles; and signifies the Coat of the Mouse.