The Wolf and the Fox are neighbours strange,
And within their reach I′d not build my grange.
One of the latter had long espied
The fowls of a Farmer; but though he tried
Each art of his cunning, the hens were still
Safe from the jaws of the midnight ranger.
Perplex′d as he was ′twixt his hungry will
And the wholesome dread of impending danger,
"Alas!" he cried, "it is fine, forsooth,
That wretches like these should mock me.
I come and I go, and I whet my tooth,
And with brilliant schemes I stock me;
And all this time that horrible lout,
The Farmer, makes money, week in, week out,
Of chicken and capon, or roasts or boils;
Whilst I, who surpass him in wit and sense,
Would be glad if I could but carry from hence
The toughest old hen, as reward for my toils.
By the gods above and the gods below,
Omnipotent Jove! I should like to know,
And I will know, too, why you made me a Fox
To suffer such troubles and impudent mocks."
So breathing his vengeance, Sir Sly Fox chose
A night when the world was bathed in repose;
When the Farmer, his servants, and even his dogs,
Cocks, chickens, and hens slept as sound as logs.
Now the Farmer himself, with a folly extreme,
Had left the door open ere he went to dream;
And the consequence was, that the Fox entered in it,
And its feathered inhabitants slew in a minute.
With the morrow′s new-born sun,
All the slaughter that was done
Struck the eye with huge dismay,
And almost made the sun avert his rising ray.
′Twas a parallel, in fact,
With Apollo′s direful act,
When, with Atreus′ son enraged,
With the Greeks such war he waged,
That great hillocks of the slain
Lay heaped high upon the plain.
Not unlike the ghastly scene
When great Ajax, filled with spleen,
Flocks of sheep and herds of oxen madly slew,
Dreaming that he smote the crew
Who, with famed Ulysses wise,
Had deprived him of his prize.
Then the Fox, whom none could parry,
Having seized on what he might,
Thought it quite unwise to tarry,
And discreetly took to flight.
Now when the Master rose, be sure
Against his men and dogs he swore,
For ′tis a common trick of masters
Others to blame for their disasters.
"Oh, wretched Dog!" he shouted forth;
"O Dog! for drowning only worth,
Why barked you not to let us know?"
"Master," the Dog replied, "I trow,
Master and Farmer, ′tis not fair
That I your anger now should share.
The fowls are yours, and yours the gain;
Then why should I, sir, suffer pain,
Because you leave your fowls exposed
To any thief that way disposed?"
Such reasoning, we must all admit,
For a mere Dog, was fraught with wit;
But, on the other hand, ′tis sure
That masters can′t such wit endure,
As Carlo found, when soundly whipped
For words of sense unwisely slipped.
Now, fathers all, whoe′er you be
(I aim not at that high degree),
When you would sleep, trust none of those
Around you, but your own doors close.
He who would have a thing well done
Should trust unto himself alone.