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Poem by John Gay


Part I. Fable 43. The Council of Horses


  Upon a time a neighing steed,
  Who grazed among a numerous breed,
  With mutiny had fired the train,
  And spread dissension through the plain.
  On matters that concerned the state
  The council met in grand debate.
  A colt, whose eye-balls flamed with ire,
  Elate with strength and youthful fire,
  In haste stept forth before the rest,
  And thus the listening throng addressed:

     'Good gods! how abject is our race,
  Condemned to slavery and disgrace!
  Shall we our servitude retain,
  Because our sires have borne the chain?
  Consider, friends, your strength and might;
  'Tis conquest to assert your right.
  How cumbrous is the gilded coach!
  The pride of man is our reproach.
  Were we designed for daily toil,
  To drag the ploughshare through, the soil,

  To sweat in harness through the road,
  To groan beneath the carrier's load?
  How feeble are the two-legged kind!
  What force is in our nerves combined!
  Shall then our nobler jaws submit
  To foam and champ the galling bit?
  Shall haughty man my back bestride?
  Shall the sharp spur provoke my side?
  Forbid it, heavens! Reject the rein;
  Your shame, your infamy disdain.

  Let him the lion first control,
  And still the tiger's famished growl.
  Let us, like them, our freedom claim,
  And make him tremble at our name.'
     A general nod approved the cause,
  And all the circle neighed applause.
     When, lo! with grave and solemn pace,
  A steed advanced before the race,
  With age and long experience wise;
  Around he cast his thoughtful eyes,

  And, to the murmurs of the train,
  Thus spoke the Nestor of the plain:
     'When I had health and strength, like you,
  The toils of servitude I knew;
  Now grateful man rewards my pains,
  And gives me all these wide domains.
  At will I crop the year's increase
  My latter life is rest and peace.
  I grant, to man we lend our pains,
  And aid him to correct the plains.

  But doth not he divide the care,
  Through all the labours of the year?
  How many thousand structures rise,
  To fence us from inclement skies!
  For us he bears the sultry day,
  And stores up all our winter's hay.
  He sows, he reaps the harvest's gain;
  We share the toil, and share the grain.
  Since every creature was decreed
  To aid each other's mutual need,

  Appease your discontented mind,
  And act the part by heaven assigned.'
     The tumult ceased. The colt submitted,
  And, like his ancestors, was bitted.



                      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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