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A Fable Of The Lion And Other Beasts

Jonathan Swift 1667 (Dublin) – 1745 (Ireland)

One time a mighty plague did pester
All beasts domestic and sylvester,
The doctors all in concert join'd,
To see if they the cause could find;
And tried a world of remedies,
But none could conquer the disease.
The lion in this consternation.
Sends out his royal proclamation,
To all his loving subjects greeting,
Appointing them a solemn meeting:
And when they're gather'd round his den,
He spoke, - My lords and gentlemen,
I hope you're met full of the sense
Of this devouring pestilence;
For sure such heavy punishment,
On common crimes is rarely sent;
It must be some important cause,
Some great infraction of the laws.
Then let us search our consciences,
And every one his faults confess:
Let's judge from biggest to the least
That he that is the foulest beast,
May for a sacrifice be given
To stop the wrath of angry Heaven.
And since no one is free from sin,
I with myself will first begin.
I have done many a thing that's ill
From a propensity to kill,
Slain many an ox, and, what is worse,
Have murder'd many a gallant horse;
Robb'd woods and fens, and, like a glutton,
Devour'd whole flocks of lamb and mutton;
Nay sometimes, for I dare not lie,
The shepherd went for company. -
He had gone on, but Chancellor Fox
Stands up - - What signifies an ox?
What signifies a horse? Such things
Are honour'd when made sport for kings.
Then for the sheep, those foolish cattle,
Not fit for courage, or for battle;
And being tolerable meat,
They're good for nothing but to eat.
The shepherd too, young enemy,
Deserves no better destiny.
Sir, sir, your conscience is too nice,
Hunting's a princely exercise:
And those being all your subjects born,
Just when you please are to be torn.
And, sir, if this will not content ye,
We'll vote it nemine contradicente.
Thus after him they all confess,
They had been rogues, some more some less;
And yet by little slight excuses,
They all get clear of great abuses.
The Bear, the Tiger, beasts of flight,
And all that could but scratch and bite,
Nay e'en the Cat, of wicked nature,
That kills in sport her fellow-creature,
Went scot-free; but his gravity,
An ass of stupid memory,
Confess'd, as he went to a fair,
His back half broke with wooden-ware,
Chancing unluckily to pass
By a church-yard full of good grass,
Finding they'd open left the gate,
He ventured in, stoop'd down and ate
Hold, says Judge Wolf, such are the crimes
Have brought upon us these sad times,
'Twas sacrilege, and this vile ass
Shall die for eating holy grass.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. more…

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