The Mouse and The Oyster (Oxford Sausage)

from The Oxford Sausage; Or Select Poetical Pieces, Written By The Most Celebrated Wits Of The University Of Oxford edited by Thomas Warton

WHEN midnight’s sable veil o’erspread the plain,
When bats and fairies, mice and Morpheus reign,
A bold undaunted mouse, that long defy’d
The various strategems that KATE had try’d,
His destin’d doom receiv’d, for soon or late
Both mice and monarchs must submit to fate.

Oft was the moon with silver lustre crown’d,
Since the nocturnal pirate march’d his round;
Soon as his foe, the sun, had took his flight,
Trips forth the little champion of the night;
With cautious tread, secure from fell mishap,
Of puss, of poisons, or tremendous trap;
Still at the head of his rapacious clan,
He skipt from shelf to shelf, from pan to pan;
With nose sagacious smok’d the baited gin,
Wary and conscious of the snare within:
Now feasts on rich variety of meats,
And oft in cheese his own apartments eats;
Regales on floods of cream, ragouts, and cakes,
Of all the dainties of the day partakes:
Now storms rich conserves with voluptuous taste,
And saps the tender tenements of paste.
As yet unharm’d the epicure patroll’d,
And fearless o’er his silent suburbs stroll’d;
Luxurious nights in pleasing plunder past,
Nor dreamt that this was doom’d to be his last.
For now the time — the destin’d time was sent;
So fate ordain’d — and who can fate prevent?

Thick shades once more had veil’d the haunted house,
Once more from coverts bolts th’ adventrous mouse,
Lighting in evil hour, in quest of prey,
Where in a groupe th’ avenging oyster lay:
A fish commission’d from the wat’ry throng,
With ligament of scaly armour strong,
Lay with expanded jaws, and gaping shell,
(But who the sad catastrophe can tell?)
The dainty mouse, still craving some new dish,
Enters the gloomy mansions of the fish ;
With beard exploring, and with luscious lip,
He longs the pickle of the seas to sip.
Rous’d by his tusks the elastic oyster fell,
Caught close the caitiff’s head in wat’ry cell ;
In vain the victim labours to get free,
From durance hard, and dread captivity :
Lock’d in the close embrace, ensnar’d he lies,
In pill’ry safe, pants, struggles, squeaks, and dies.
Thus the just fate of his own crimes he meets,
Like rakes expiring in destructive sweets.

Now plac’d on high, the master views the prize,
And hails the conquest with exulting eyes!
And when beneath sedate he sits and smokes,
And cracks his nuts, his bottles, or his jokes,
This tale he tells to grace the Christmas pie,
And to the trophy’d relics points on high.

Thomas Warton

Thomas Warton was an ordained minister, a professor at Oxford and poet laureate of England. Samuel Johnson claimed that in speech Warton “gobbled like a turkey” and was, in appearance, “a little, thick, squat, red -faced man… in a very odd dress.”

Warton’s notable achievements include Observations On The Fairy Queen Of Spenser and his monumental History of English Poetry. He compiled The Oxford Sausage, his best attempt at satire, in 1764. Dr. Samuel Bowden was the author of the original poem.

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