Snake, the Goose, and Nightingale

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The Snake, the Goose, and Nightingale. Fable XIV (1754)
by Christopher Smart

From Fables.

258651The Snake, the Goose, and Nightingale. Fable XIV1754Christopher Smart



Humbly addressed to the Hissers
and Catcallers attending both Houses.[1]


When rul'd by truth and nature's ways,
When just to blame, yet fix'd to praise,
As votary of the Delphic God,
I reverence the critic's rod;
5 But when inflam'd with spite alone,
I hold all critics but as one;
For tho' they class themselves with art,
And each man takes a different part;
Yet whatsoe'er they praise and blame;
10 They in their motives are the same.
      Forth as she waddled in the brake,
A grey Goose stumbled on a Snake,
And took th'occasion to abuse her,
And of rank plagiarism accuse her.
15 “'Twas I, quoth she, in every vale,
First hiss'd the noisy Nightingale;
And boldly cavill'd at each note,
That twitter'd in the Woodlark's throat:

"I, who sublime and more than mortal,
20 Must stoop to enter at the portal,
Have ever been the first to show
My hate to every thing that's low;
While thou, mean mimic of my manner,
(Without inlisting to my banner)
25 Dar'st in thy grov'ling situation,[2]
To counterfeit my sibilation.”

The Snake enrag'd, reply'd, “Know, Madam,
I date my charter down from Adam;
Nor can I, since I bear the bell,
30 E'er imitate where I excell.
Had any other creature dar'd
Once to aver, what you've aver'd,
I might have been more fierce and fervent,
But you're a Goose,—and so your servant.”
35 “Truce with your folly and your pride,”
The warbling Philomela cry'd;
“Since no more animals we find
“In nature, of the hissing kind,
You should be friends with one another,
40 Nay, kind as brother is to brother.
For know, thou pattern of abuse,
Thou Snake art but a crawling goose;
And thou dull dabbler in each lake,
Art nothing but a feather'd Snake.”



First published in The Gentleman's Magazine (Dec. 1754). Reprinted 1791. Title: The Goose, the Snake, and Nightingale. A Fable, (1754).

  1. Omitted in The Gentleman's Magazine.
  2. 25. Presume, where'er you take your station, (Text 1754)

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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