The Old Man and the Ass.
An old man, riding on his ass,
Had found a spot of thrifty grass,
And there turn'd loose his weary beast.
Old Grizzle, pleased with such a feast,
Flung up his heels, and caper'd round,
Then roll'd and rubb'd upon the ground,
And frisk'd and browsed and bray'd,
And many a clean spot made.
Arm'd men came on them as he fed:
"Let's fly," in haste the old man said.
"And wherefore so?" the ass replied;
"With heavier burdens will they ride?"
"No," said the man, already started.
"Then," cried the ass, as he departed
"I'll stay, and be--no matter whose;
Save you yourself, and leave me loose
But let me tell you, ere you go,
(I speak plain English, as you know,)
My master is my only foe."
The Ass and his Masters.
A gardener's ass complain'd to Destiny
Of being made to rise before the dawn.
"The cocks their matins have not sung," said he,
"Ere I am up and gone.
And all for what? To market herbs, it seems.
Fine cause, indeed, to interrupt my dreams!"
Fate, moved by such a prayer,
Sent him a currier's load to bear,
Whose hides so heavy and ill-scented were,
They almost choked the foolish beast.
"I wish me with my former lord," he said:
"For then, whene'er he turn'd his head,
If on the watch, I caught
A cabbage-leaf, which cost me nought.
But, in this horrid place, I find
No chance or windfall of the kind;--
Or if, indeed, I do,
The cruel blows I rue."
Anon it came to pass
He was a collier's ass.
Still more complaint. "What now?" said Fate,
Quite out of patience.
"If on this jackass I must wait,
What will become of kings and nations?
Has none but he aught here to tease him?
Have I no business but to please him?"
And Fate had cause;--for all are so
Unsatisfied while here below.
Our present lot is aye the worst.
Our foolish prayers the skies infest.
Were Jove to grant all we request,
The din renew'd, his head would burst.
From bowers of gods the bees came down to man.
On Mount Hymettus, first, they say,
They made their home, and stored away
The treasures which the zephyrs fan.
When men had robb'd these daughters of the sky,
And left their palaces of nectar dry,--
Or, in English as the thing's explain'd,
When hives were of their honey drain'd--
The spoilers 'gan the wax to handle,
And fashion'd from it many a candle.
Of these, one, seeing clay, made brick by fire,
Remain uninjured by the teeth of time,
Was kindled into great desire
For immortality sublime.
And so this new Empedocles
Upon the blazing pile one sees,
Self-doom'd by purest folly
To fate so melancholy.
The candle lack'd philosophy:
All things are made diverse to be.
To wander from our destined tracks--
There cannot be a vainer wish;
But this Empedocles of wax,
That melted in chafing-dish
Was truly not a greater fool
Than he of whom we read at school.
The Shepherd and his Flock.
"What! shall I lose them one by one,
This stupid coward throng?
And never shall the wolf have done?
They were at least a thousand strong,
But still they've let poor Robin fall a prey!
Ah, woe's the day!
Poor Robin Wether lying dead!
He follow'd for a bit of bread
His master through the crowded city,
And would have follow'd, had he led,
Around the world. Oh! what a pity!
My pipe, and even step, he knew;
To meet me when I came, he flew;
In hedge-row shade we napp'd together;
Alas, alas, my Robin Wether!"
When Willy thus had duly said
His eulogy upon the dead,
And unto everlasting fame
Consign'd poor Robin Wether's name,
He then harangued the flock at large,
From proud old chieftain rams
Down to the smallest lambs,
Addressing them this weighty charge,--
Against the wolf, as one, to stand,
In firm, united, fearless band,
By which they might expel him from their land.
Upon their faith, they would not flinch,
They promised him, a single inch.
"We'll choke," said they, "the murderous glutton
Who robb'd us of our Robin Mutton."
Their lives they pledged against the beast,
And Willy gave them all a feast.
But evil Fate, than Phoebus faster,
Ere night had brought a new disaster:
A wolf there came. By nature's law,
The total flock were prompt to run;
And yet 'twas not the wolf they saw,
But shadow of him from the setting sun.
_Harangue a craven soldiery,_
_What heroes they will seem to be!_
_But let them snuff the smoke of battle,_
_Or even hear the ramrods rattle,_
_Adieu to all their boast and mettle:_
_Your own example will be vain,_
_And exhortations, to retain_
_The timid cattle._
The Tortoise and the Two Ducks.
A light-brain'd tortoise, anciently,
Tired of her hole, the world would see.
Prone are all such, self-banish'd, to roam--
Prone are all cripples to abhor their home.
Two ducks, to whom the gossip told
The secret of her purpose bold,
Profess'd to have the means whereby
They could her wishes gratify.
"Our boundless road," said they, "behold!
It is the open air;
And through it we will bear
You safe o'er land and ocean.
Republics, kingdoms, you will view,
And famous cities, old and new;
And get of customs, laws, a notion,--
Of various wisdom, various pieces,
As did, indeed, the sage Ulysses."
The eager tortoise waited not
To question what Ulysses got,
But closed the bargain on the spot.
A nice machine the birds devise
To bear their pilgrim through the skies.
Athwart her mouth a stick they throw:
"Now bite it hard, and don't let go,"
They say, and seize each duck an end,
And, swiftly flying, upward tend.
It made the people gape and stare
Beyond the expressive power of words,
To see a tortoise cut the air,
Exactly poised between two birds.
"A miracle," they cried, "is seen!
There goes the flying tortoise queen!"
"The queen!" ('twas thus the tortoise spoke;)
"I'm truly that, without a joke."
Much better had she held her tongue,
For, opening that whereby she clung,
Before the gazing crowd she fell,
And dash'd to bits her brittle shell.
_Imprudence, vanity, and babble,_
_And idle curiosity,_
_An ever-undivided rabble,_
_Have all the same paternity._