by JOHN CUNNINGHAM (1729-1773)
The Fox and the Cat, as they traveled one day,
With moral discourses cut shorter the way:
“‘Tis good,” said the Fox, “to make justice our guide!”
“How godlike is mercy!” Grimalkin replied.
As thus they proceeded, a Wolf from the wood,
Impatient from hunger and thirsting for blood,
Rushed forth, as he saw the dull shepherd asleep,
And seized for his breakfast an innocent sheep.
“‘Tis in vain,” cried the Wolf, “Mistress Sheep, that you bleat.
When mutton’s at hand, you know well I must eat.”
The Cat was astounded, the Fox stood aghast,
To see the fierce beast at his cruel repast.
“What a wretch!” said the Cat; “what a bloodthirsty brute,
To seize a poor sheep when there’s herbage and fruit!”
Cried the Fox, “With the acorns so sweet and so good,
What a tyrant this is to spill innocent blood!”
Then onward they went and discoursed by the way,
And with still more wise maxims enlivened the day,
And on as they traveled they moralized still,
Till they came where some poultry pecked chaff by a mill.
Then the Fox, without ceasing his sayings so wise,
Now snapped up a chicken by way of a prize;
And a mouse, which then chanced from her covert to stray,
The thoughtful Grimalkin secured as her prey.
A Spider who sat in her web on the wall
Perceived the poor victims and pitied their fall;
She cried, “Of such murders how guiltless am I!”
Then ran to regale on a new-taken fly.