The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven
by GUY WETMORE CARRYL (1873-1904)
A RAVEN sat upon a tree,
And not a word he spoke, for
His beak contained a piece of Brie,
Or, maybe, it was Roquefort:
We’ll make it any kind you please;—
At all events, it was a cheese.
Beneath the tree’s umbrageous limb
A hungry fox sat smiling;
He saw the raven watching him,
And spoke in words beguiling:
“J’admire,” said he, “ton beau plumage,”
(The which was simply persiflage).
Two things there are, no doubt you know,
To which a fox is used:
A rooster that is bound to crow,
A crow that’s bound to roost,
And whichsoever he espies
He tells the most unblushing lies.
“Sweet fowl,” he said, “I understand
You’re more than merely natty:
I hear you sing to beat the band
And Adelina Patti.
Pray render with your liquid tongue
A bit from ‘Götterdämmerung.'”
This subtle speech was aimed to please
The crow, and it succeeded:
He thought no bird in all the trees
Could sing as well as he did.
In flattery completely doused,
He gave the “Jewel Song” from “Faust.”
But gravitation’s law, of course,
As Isaac Newton showed it,
Exerted on the cheese its force,
And elsewhere soon bestowed it.
In fact, there is no need to tell
What happened when to earth it fell.
I blush to add that when the bird
Took in the situation
He said one brief, emphatic word,
Unfit for publication.
The fox was greatly startled, but
He only sighed and answered “Tut!”
THE MORAL is: A fox is bound
To be a shameless sinner.
And also: When the cheese comes round
You know it’s after dinner.
But (what is only known to few)
The fox is after dinner, too.
Le Corbeau et Le Renard (in French by Jean de la Fontaine)
Guy Wetmore Carryl was the first-born son of author and poet, Charles E. Carryl, Guy began his literary career at age 20 with an article published in the New York Times, while still in school. He later graduated from Columbia University at age 22 and went to work for Munsey’s Magazine, working his way up to managing editor. He was sent to Paris when he later worked for Harper’s magazine. He died from a sudden illness in 1904.