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The Crane & The Fox, a Fable

Major Henry Livingston Jr. 1748 (Poughkeepsie, Province of New York) – 1828 (Poughkeepsie, New York)

In long gone years a fox and crane
Were bound in friendship's golden chain;
Whene'er they met, the fox would bow
And madame Crane would curtsie low-
-My lovely Crane how do you do?
-I'm very well - pray how are you?
Thus time passed on, both very civil
Till Reynard in an hour evil
Projected what he thought a stroke
The world would call a pretty joke -
A billet wrote on gilded paper
And sealed it with a perfumed wafer
Announced the day, if she saw fit
To take a tete-a-tetetit-bit;
The day arriv'd -she preen'd each feather
And summon'd ev'ry grace together;
At breakfast scarce a morsel eat
Intent to riot at the treat -

She came - wide stood the unfolded door
And roses deck'd the sanded floor -
- There hyacinths in festoons hung
- Here lillies their rich fragrance flung -

The table drawn - the damask laid
And soup prepared of bullock's marrow
Pour'd in each plate profuse - but shallow;
The fox began to lap in haste
And made a plentiful repast,
Pressed his fair friend to do the same
And to encourage, lap'd again -

The Crane be sure with her long beak
Could not a single morsel pick;
She felt the bite--but little said
And very soon her exit made,
Just beg'd the fox would come next day
And sup with her in her plain way;
Reynard declared she did him honor
-He certainly would wait upon her.

Her domicile was well prepar'd
No cost or labor had been spared;
Roses and tulips on the floor
And daffodils the ceiling bore;
Nor was a band of music wanting
For whippoorwills and frogs were chanting.
The sun had set and given way
To sober evening's mantle gray;
The fox arriv'd with stomach keen
-Hoped he saw in health his Queen
And added in his courtliest air
She ne'er before had look'd so fair.

The Crane replied in mildest mood
That all he said was very good,
She meekly meant to do her duty
And ne'er dream'd of praise or beauty.
-She spoke - The table soon was spread
And ev'rything in order paid;
Two narrow jars now graced the board
With nicely minced ven'son stored;
- Now let's fall to, sir, if you will--
And in she pok'd her slender bill
And gulp'd of viands at her leisure
- To see you eat would give me pleasure
She cried - eat, neighbor, eat
I fear you do not like my treat;
It suits my palate to a hair
Pray, Chummy, eat and do not spare.
- The fox looked on with rueful phys
Feeling in all its force the quiz.

The Crane enjoy'd his discontent
And thus address'd him as he went,
The truest adage ever spoke
Was "He that Gives must Take a joke."

H.L. to his beloved daughter Jane, Feb. 19, 1827.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Major Henry Livingston Jr.

Henry Beekman Livingston Jr. has been proposed as being the uncredited author of the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, more popularly known (after its first line) as The Night Before Christmas. more…

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