Tag Archives: animal fable

Anne Finch, “The Lyon and the Gnat”


“The Lyon and the Gnat”


To the still Covert of a Wood,
About the prime of Day,
A Lyon, satiated with Food,
With stately Pace, and sullen Mood,
Now took his lazy way.                                                            5

To Rest he there himself compos’d,
And in his Mind revolv’d,
How Great a Person it enclos’d,
How free from Danger he repos’d,
Though now in Ease dissolv’d!                                               10

Who Guard, nor Centinel did need,
Despising as a Jest
All whom the Forest else did feed,
As Creatures of an abject Breed,
Who durst not him molest.                                                     15

But in the Air a Sound he heard,
That gave him some dislike;
At which he shook his grisly Beard,
Enough to make the Woods affeard,
And stretch’d his Paw to strike.                                                20

When on his lifted Nose there fell
A Creature, slight of Wing,
Who neither fear’d his Grin, nor Yell,
Nor Strength, that in his Jaws did dwell,
But gores him with her Sting.                                                    25

Transported with th’ Affront and Pain,
He terribly exclaims,
Protesting, if it comes again,
Its guilty Blood the Grass shall stain,
And to surprize it aims.                                                               30

The scoffing Gnat now laugh’d aloud,
And bids him upwards view
The Jupiter within the Cloud,
That humbl’d him, who was so proud,
And his sharp Thunder threw.                                                  35

That Taunt no Lyon’s Heart cou’d bear;
And now much more he raves,
Whilst this new Perseus in the Air
Do’s War and Strife again declare,
And all his Terrour braves.                                                        40

Upon his haughty Neck she rides,
Then on his lashing Tail;
(Which need not now provoke his Sides)
Where she her slender Weapon guides,
And makes all Patience fail.                                                      45

A Truce at length he must propose,
The Terms to be her Own;
Who likewise Rest and Quiet chose,
Contented now her Life to close
When she’d such Triumph known.                                          50

You mighty Men, who meaner ones despise,
Learn from this Fable to become more Wise;
You see the Lyon may be vext with Flies.


Title  Originally an Aesop’s fable in which the moral is that no matter one’s station in life, they can always be undone.

1  Covert  “A place which gives shelter to wild animals or game” (OED).

prime of Day  “The early morning; the period between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a. m.” (OED).

11  Centinel  A guard similar to a soldier (OED).

15  durst  “Dared” (OED).

19  affeard  “Afraid” (OED).

33  Jupiter  “The supreme  deity of the ancient Romans…whose weapon was the thunderbolt” (OED).

38  Perseus  Greek demigod, slayer of the Gorgon Medusa and other monsters (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

53  vext  Vexed: Irritated or afflicted (OED).

SOURCE: Poems on Several Occasions (London, 1714), pp. 254-57.  [Google Books]

Edited by Lily Kratzer

Mary Leapor, “The Fox and the Hen. A Fable”


“The Fox and the Hen. A Fable”


‘Twas on a fair and healthy Plain,
There liv’d a poor but honest Swain,
Had to his Lot a little Ground,
Defended by a quick-set Mound:
‘Twas there he milk’d his brindled Kine,                               5
And there he fed his harmless Swine:
His Pigeons flutter’d to and fro,
And bask’d his Poultry in a Row:
Much we might say of each of these,
As how his Pigs in Consort wheeze;                                      10
How the sweet Hay his Heifers chew,
And how the Pigeons softly coo:
But we shall wave this motley Strain,
And keep to one that’s short and plain:
Nor paint the Dunghill’s feather’d King,                               15
For of the Hen we mean to sing.

A Hen there was, a strange one too,
Cou’d sing (believe me, it is true)
Or rather (as you may persume)
Wou’d prate and cackle in a Tune:                                         20
This quickly spread the Pullet’s Fame,
And Birds and Beasts together came:
All mixt in one promiscuous Throng,
To visit Partlet and her Song.
It chanc’d there came amongst the Crew,                             25
Of witty Foxes not a few:
But one more smart than all the rest,
His serious Neighbour thus addrest:
“What think you of this Partlet here?
‘Tis true her Voice is pretty clear:                                            30
Yet without pausing I can tell,
In what much more she wou’d excel:
Methinks she’d eat exceeding well.”
This heard the list’ning Hen, as she
Sat perch’d upon a Maple-tree.                                               35

The shrewd Proposal gall’d her Pride,
And thus to Reynard she reply’d:
“Sir , you’re extremely right I vow,
But how will you come at me now?
You dare not mount this lofty Tree,                                        40
So there I’m pretty safe, you see.
From long ago, (or Record lies)
You Foxes have been counted wise:
But sure this Story don’t agree
With your Device of eating me.                                               45
For you, Dame Fortune still intends
Some coarser Food than singing Hens:
Besides e’er you can reach so high.
Remember you must learn to fly.

I own ‘tis but a scurvy way,
You have as yet to seize your Prey,                                       50
By sculking from the Beams of Light,
And robbing Hen-roosts in the Night:
Yet you must keep this vulgar Trade
Of thieving till your Wings are made.

Had I the keeping of you tho’,                                        55
I’d make your subtle Worship know,
We Chickens are your Betters due,
Not fatted up for such as you:
Shut up in Cub with rusty Chain,
I’d make you lick your Lips in vain:                                        60
And take a special Care, be sure,
No Pullet shou’d come near your Door:
But try if you cou’d feed or no,
Upon a Kite or Carrion Crow.”
Here ceas’d the Hen. The baffl’d Beast                                 65
March’d off without his promis’d Feast.


4 quick-set Mound Likely a raised boundary “formed of living plants, esp. thorny ones such as hawthorne” (OED).

15 the Dunghill’s feather’d King A rooster, or “cock.”

21 Pullet “A young domestic hen” (OED).

23 Throng “A large densely packed gathering of people or animals” (OED).

24 Partlet “A name traditionally applied to a hen” (OED).

37 Reynard “A proper name applied traditionally (chiefly in literature) to a fox” (OED).

59 Cub “A stall, pen, or shed” for farm animals (OED).

64 Kite “A bird of prey” (OED).

SOURCE: Poems Upon Several Occasions (London, 1748), pp. 97-100. [Google Books]

Edited by Josh Hernandez


John Gay, “Fable I: The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller”


“Fable I:  The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller


Accept, young PRINCE, the moral lay,
And in these tales mankind survey;
With early virtues plant your breast,
The specious arts of vice detest.
Princes, like Beauties, from their youth,                           5
Are strangers to the voice of truth:
Learn to contemn all praise betimes;
For flattery’s the nurse of crimes;
Friendship by sweet reproof is shewn,
(A virtue never near a throne;)                                           10
In courts such freedom must offend,
There none presumes to be a friend,
To those of your exalted station
Each courtier is a dedication;
Must I too flatter like the rest,                                              15
And turn my morals to a jest?
The muse disdains to steal from those,
Who thrive in courts by fulsome prose.
But shall I hide your real praise,
Or tell you what a nation says?                                             20
They in your infant bosom trace
The virtues of your Royal race,
In the fair dawning of your mind,
Discern you gen’rous, mild and kind,
They see you grieve and hear distress,                                 25
And pant already to redress.
Go on, the height of good attain,
Nor let a nation hope in vain.
For hence we justly may presage
The virtues of a riper age.                                                        30
True courage shall your bosom fire,
And future Actions own your Sire.
Cowards are cruel; but the brave
Love mercy, and delight to save.
A Tiger, roaming for his prey,                                                  35
Sprung on a Trav’ler in the way;
The prostrate game a Lion spies,
And on the greedy tyrant flies:
With mingle roar resounds the wood,
Their teeth, their claws distill with blood,                               40
Till, vanquish’d by the Lion’s strength,
The spotted foe extends his length.
The Man besought the shaggy lord,
And on his knees for life implor’d;
His life the gen’rous hero gave.                                                45
Together walking to his Cave,
The Lion thus bespoke his guest.

What hardy beast shall dare contest
My matchless strength? You saw the fight,
And must attest my pow’r and right.                                      50
Forc’d to forego their native home
My starving slaves at distance roam,
Within these woods I reign alone,
The boundless forest is my own;
Bears, wolves, and all the savage brood                                55
Have dy’d the regal den with blood;
These carcases on either hand,
Those bones that whiten all the land
My former deeds and triumphs tell,
Beneath these jaws what number fell.                                   60
True, says the Man, the strength I saw
Might well the brutal nation awe;
But shall a monarch, brave like you,
Place glory in so false a view?
Robbers invade their neighbor’s right.                                   65
Be lov’d. Let justice bound your might.
Mean are ambitious heroes boasts
Of wasted lands and slaughter’d hosts;
Pirates their power by murders gain,
Wise kings by love and mercy reign;                                      70
To me your clemency hath shewn
The virtue worthy of a throne;
Heav’n gives you power above the rest,
Like Heav’n to succour the distrest.
The case is plain, the Monarch said;                                      75
False glory hath my youth mis-led,
For beasts of prey, a servile train,
Have been the flatt’rers of my reign.
You reason well. Yet tell me, friend,
Did ever you in courts attend?                                                 80
For all my fawning rogues agree
That human heroes rule like me.


1 lay “The way, position, or direction in which something is laid or lies (esp. said of country); disposition or arrangement with respect to something” (OED).

4 specious “Apparent, as opposed to real” (OED); vice “Depravity or corruption of morals; evil, immoral, or wicked habits or conduct; indulgence in degrading pleasures or practices“ (OED); detest “To feel abhorrence of; to hate or dislike intensely; to abhor, abominate” (OED).

7 contemn “To treat as of small value, treat or view with contempt; to despise, disdain, scorn, slight” (OED).

9 reproof “A second or further proof (in various senses)” (OED).

13 exalted “Raised or set up on high; elevated” (OED).

17 muse One of the many goddesses of poetry, art, and philosophy that are depended on by humans for the creation of their work (Oxford Classical Dictionary).

18 fulsome “Offensive or objectionable owing to excess or lack of moderation; esp. excessively effusive or complimentary; too lavish, overdone” (OED).

29 presage “An indication or foreshadowing of a future event” (OED).

32 sire “One who exercises dominion or rule; a lord, master, or sovereign“ (OED).

37 prostrate “Of a person: lying with the face to the ground, in token of submission or humility, as in adoration, worship, or supplication” (OED).

50 attest “Evidence, testimony, witness” (OED).

71 clemency “Mercy, leniency” (OED).

74 succour “Aid, help, assistance” (OED).

77 servile “Of a person: that behaves like a slave” (OED).

81 rogue “Chiefly depreciative. A servant“ (OED).

Source: Fables, volume 1 (London, 1727), pp. 20-25. [Google Books]

Edited by Helen Moy


William Kenrick, “The Beau and Butterfly. A Fable”



 When summer deckt each sylvan scene,
And sunshine smil’d along the green,
When groves allur’d with noon tide shade,
And purling brooks refesh’d the glade;
An empty form of empty show,                                                  5
A flutt’ring insect, call’d a beau,
In gaudy colours rich and gay,
A mere papilio of the day,
Was seen around the fields to rove,
And haunt by turns, the stream and grove:                            10
A silver zone entwin’d his head,
His belly shone with lively red,
His wings were green, but studded o’er
With gold embroider’d spots before.
Around him various insects came,                                           15
Of diff’rent colour, diff’rent name;
And ting’d with ev’ry gorgeous die,
Among the rest a butterfly;
His wings are spread with wanton pride,
And beauty fades from all beside.                                            20
The beau beholds with envious eyes,
The living radiance as it flies,
“And shall, said he, this worthless thing,
That lives but on a summer’s wing,
This flying worm more gaudy shine?                                        25
And wear a dress more gay than mine?
Is this wise nature’s equal care
To deck a butterfly so fair?
While man her worthiest, greatest part,
Must wear the homely rags of art!”                                          30
Thus reason’d he, as reason beaux,
The subject of their logick cloaths,
And thus the butterfly reply’d,
With deeper tints by anger dy’d,
“Vain, trifling mortal! could’st thou boast,                               35
To prize what nature prizes most
On man bestow’d, thou would’st not see
With envy ought she gives to me.
This painted vestment, all my store,
She gives, and I can claim no more—                                       40
But man, for greater ends design’d,
Shou’d boast the beauties of the mind.
More bright than gold thy wisdom shine,
And virtue’s sacred charms be thine.
To rule the world by reason taught,                                          45
On dress disdain to waste a thought,
For he whom folly bends so low,
Ambitious to be thought a beau,
Is studious only to be gay,
In toilet-arts consumes the day;                                                50
And the long trifling labours o’er,
Takes wing, and bids the world adore,
Looks down with scorn on rival flies,
Himself less splendid and less wise,
With scorn, his scorn return’d again                                         55
Proud insect! impotently vain!
The fool, who thus by self is priz’d,
By others justly is despis’d;”
She said, and flutter’d round on high,
Nor staid to hear the beau’s reply.                                           60


1 sylvan “One who (or something that) inhabits a wood or forest; a being of the woods” (OED).

6 beau “A man who gives particular, or excessive, attention to dress, mein, and social etiquette; an exquisite, a fop, a dandy” (OED).

8 papilio “A butterfly or large moth” (OED).

50 toilet-arts Historical usage of the word toilet, meaning “the action or process of washing, dressing, or arranging the hair” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 18 (May 1748), p. 231.

Edited by Sierra Moreno