The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Hedgehog and the Rabbits
THE HEDGEHOG AND THE RABBITS.
Some characters are ne'er at ease,
And always must be making war:
They like to sting, and to displease,
And highly gifted at it are.
To me they are a perfect pest.
Though they be wise as Solomon,
And have e'en royal garments on,
Yet their rude manners I detest.
The robes of virtue's self should be
Politeness and civility.
A hedgehog once of evil fame,
Forc'd from his home by some disgrace,
Unto a rabbit-warren came,
Burning with hate against his race.
He told the gentle inmates there,
All that he'd suffer'd everywhere;
Against his foes exhal'd his bile,
And ask'd asylum for a while.
"With pleasure, sir," the leader said,
"You'll here find shelter, board, and bed.
Be one of us; make free and bold;
We all things here in common hold.
We simple, frugal people are,
And have no great affairs on hand;
To crop the clover our chief care,
Or nibble o'er the dewy land.
At the first streak of early dawn,
We're out betimes upon the lawn.
The dangers from our homes to ward,
Each takes his turn in standing guard.
And when the sentry gives alarm,
We're off at once to hide from harm.
Thus with our little ones and wives,
We pass our happy, cheerful lives.
These lives, 'tis true, are oft cut short,
And made of dogs and boys the sport.
But this good reason serves to give
Why we make merry while we live.
We study friendship, love, and peace,
And our enjoyments thus increase.
Life we embellish all we may,
By kind attentions all the day.
If you're content with us to be,
Then come and join our colony.
If not, why then at least you'll stay,
And take your dinner here to-day.
You'd please us with your company."
The hedgehog to these words replied—
"It would, indeed, give me great pride,
With such good people to reside."
Then every rabbit forward press'd,
And civilly their joy express'd,
With offer'd welcome to their guest.
All things went well till night had come,
When discord rent the happy home.
For when at supper they began
For morrow's work to fix the plan,
The hedgehog, bent to have his will,
At a young rabbit shot a quill.
"Excuse me, friend," the father says;
"I'm not accustom'd to such ways."
This rais'd the bristling hedgehog's ire,
And caus'd him right and left to fire
His angry darts.
First one and then another smarts,
Until no longer they can stand
The stings he gives on ev'ry hand.
They gather round him and complain.
"Messieurs," said he, "your talk is vain;
It is my nature so to do,
And I can't change it to please you."
The leader then exclaim'd—"My friend,
If such bad manners you can't mend;
If you cannot your quills suppress,
At least draw over them some dress;
Or, failing this, then let me say,
From decent people stay away."