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Poem by John Gay


Part I. Fable 7. The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese


  A lion, tired with state affairs,
  Quite sick of pomp, and worn with cares,
  Resolved (remote from noise and strife)
  In peace to pass his latter life.
     It was proclaimed; the day was set;
  Behold the general council met,
  The fox was viceroy named. The crowd
  To the new regent humbly bowed.
  Wolves, bears, and mighty tigers bend,
  And strive who most shall condescend.

  He straight assumes a solemn grace,
  Collects his wisdom in his face.
  The crowd admire his wit, his sense:
  Each word hath weight and consequence.
  The flatterer all his art displays:
  He who hath power, is sure of praise.
  A fox stept forth before the rest,
  And thus the servile throng address'd.
     'How vast his talents, born to rule,
  And trained in virtue's honest school:

  What clemency his temper sways!
  How uncorrupt are all his ways!
  Beneath his conduct and command,
  Rapine shall cease to waste the land.
  His brain hath stratagem and art;
  Prudence and mercy rule his heart;
  What blessings must attend the nation
  Under this good administration!'
     He said. A goose who distant stood,
  Harangued apart the cackling brood:

     'W'hene'er I hear a knave commend,
  He bids me shun his worthy friend.
  What praise! what mighty commendation!
  But 'twas a fox who spoke the oration.
  Foxes this government may prize,
  As gentle, plentiful, and wise;
  If they enjoy the sweets, 'tis plain
  We geese must feel a tyrant reign.
  What havoc now shall thin our race,
  When every petty clerk in place,

  To prove his taste and seem polite,
  Will feed on geese both noon and night!'



                      John Gay


John Gay's other poems:
  1. Part II. Fable 17. Ay and No
  2. Sweet William's Farewell To Black-Ey'd Susan
  3. The Quidnunckis
  4. To A Young Lady, With Some Lampreys
  5. Part II. Fable 12. Pan and Fortune


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