John Quincy Adams

The Plague In The Forest

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Time was, when round the lion's den,
A peopled city raised its head;
'Twas not inhabited by men,
But by four-footed beasts instead.
The lynx, the leopard, and the bear,
The tiger and the wolf, were there;
The hoof-defended steed;
The bull, prepared with horns to gore,
The cat with claws, the tusky boar,
And all the canine breed.
I Icial compact thus combined,
Together dwelt the beasts of prey;
Their murderous weapons all resigned,
And vowed each other not to slay.
Among them Reynard thrust his phiz;
Not hoof, nor horn, nor tusk was his,
For warfare all unfit;
He whispered to the royal dunce,
And gained a settlement at once;
His weapon was,-his wit.
One summer, by some fatal spell,
(Phebus was peevish for some scoff,)
The plague upon that city fell,
And swept the beasts by thousands off.
The lion, as became his part,
Loved his own people from his heart,
And taking counsel sage,
His peerage summoned to advise
And offer up a sacrifice,
To soothe Apollo's rage.
Quoth lion, "We are sinners all,
And even it must be confessed,
If among sheep I chance to fall, I,
I am guilty as the rest.
To me the sight of lamb is curst,
It kindles in my throat a thirst,
I struggle to refrain,
Poor innocent! his blood so sweet!
His flesh so delicate to eat!
I find resistance vain.
"Now to be candid, I must own
The sheep are weak and I am strong,
But when we find ourselves alone,
The sheep have never done me wrong.
And, since I purpose to reveal
All my offences, nor conceal
One trespass from your view;
My appetite is made so keen,
That with the sheep the time has been
I took,-the shepherd too.
"Then let us all our sins confess,
And whosesoe'er the blackest guilt,
To ease my people's deep distress,
Let his atoning blood be spilt.
My own confession now you hear,
Should none of deeper dye appear,
Your sentence freely give;
And if on me should fall the lot,
Make me the victim on the spot,
And let my people live.
" The council with applauses rung,
To hear the Codrus of the wood;
Though still some doubt suspended hung,
If he would make his promise good,
Quoth Reynard,-" Since the world was made,
Was ever love like this displayed?
Let us like subjects true
Swear, as before your feet we fall,
Sooner than you should die for all,
We all will die for you.
"But please your majesty, I deem,
Submissive to your royal grace,
You hold in far too high esteem
That paltry, poltroon, sheepish race;
For oft, reflecting in thie shade,
I ask myself why sheep were made
By all-creating power?
And howsoe'er I tax my mind,
This the sole reason I can find,
For lions to devour.
And as for eating now and then,
As well the shepherd as the sheep,
How can that braggart breed of men
Expect with you the, peace to keep?
'Tis time their blustering boast to stem,
That all the world was made for them,
And prove creation's plan;
Teach them by evidence profuse
That man was made for lion's use,
Not lions made for man."
And now the noble peers begin,
And, cheered witlh such examples bright,
Disclosing each his secret sin,
Some midnight murder brought to light;
Reynard was counsel for them all,
No crime the assembly could appall
But he could botch with paint:
Hark! as his honeyed accents roll,
Each tiger is a gentle soul:
Each blood-hound is a saint
When each had told his tale in turn,
The long-eared beast of burden came,
And meekly said, "My bowels yearn
To make confession of my shame;
But I remember on a time
I passed, not thinking of a crime,
A haystack on my way:
His lure some tempting devil spread,
I stretched across the fence my head,
And cropped,-a lock of hay.
"Oh, monster! villain!" Reynard cried,
"No longer seek the victim, sire;
Nor why your subjects thus have died,
To expiate Apollo's ire."
The council with one voice decreed;
All joined to execrate the deed,
"What, steal another's grass!"
The blackest crime their lives could show,
Was washed as white as virgin snow;
The victim was,-The Ass.

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John Quincy Adams