THE fable which I now present
Occurr’d to me by accident;
And whether bad or excellent,
Is merely so by accident.
A stupid ass one morning went
Into a field by accident
And cropp’d his food and was content,
Until he spied by accident
A flute, which some oblivious gent
Had left behind by accident;
When, sniffing it with eager scent,
He breathed on it by accident,
And made the hollow instrument
Emit a sound by accident.
“Hurrah! hurrah!” exclaimed the brute,
“How cleverly I play the flute!”
A fool, in spite of nature’s bent,
May shine for once — by accident.
BEYOND the sunny Philippines
An island lies, whose name I do not know;
But that’s of little consequence, if so
You understand that there they had no hens,
220 Till, by happy chance, a traveler,
After a while, carried some poultry there.
Fast they increased as any one could wish,
Until fresh eggs became the common dish.
But all the natives ate them boiled, they say,
Because the stranger taught no other way.
At last the experiment by one was tried —
Sagacious man! — of having his eggs fried.
And, oh, what boundless honors, for his pains,
His fruitful and inventive fancy gains!
Another, now, to have them baked devised —
Most happy thought! — and still another, spiced,
Who ever thought eggs were so delicate!
Next, some one gave his friends an omelette.
“Ah!” all exclaimed, “what an ingenious feast!”
But scarce a year went by, an artist shouts:
“I have it now! Ye’re all a pack of louts!
With nice tomatoes all my eggs are stewed!”
And the whole island thought the mode so good,
That they would so have cooked them to this day,
But that a stranger, wandering out that way,
Another dish the gaping natives taught,
And showed them eggs cooked à la Huguenot.
Successive cooks thus proved their skill diverse,
But how shall I be able to rehearse
All of the new, delicious condiments
That luxury from time to time invents?
Soft, hard, and dropped; and now with sugar sweet,
And now boiled up with milk, the eggs they eat;
In sherbet, in preserves; at last they tickle
Their palates fanciful with eggs in pickle.
221 All had their day — the last was still the best.
But a grave senior thus, one day, addressed
The epicures: “Boast, ninnies, if you will,
These countless prodigies of gastric skill —
But blessings on the man who brought the hens!”
Beyond the sunny Philippines
Our crowd of modern authors need not go
New-fangled modes of cooking eggs to show.
A BEAR, whose dancing help’d to gain
His own and owner’s livelihood,
And whose success had made him vain
As any dandy, stood
Upon his hinder legs to try
The figure of a new quadrille,
When, seeing that an ape was nigh,
He stump’d about with all his skill,
And, “Tell me how you like,” he cried,
”My dancing, for I’m always glad
To hear the truth!” The ape replied,
“I really think it very bad.”
“’Tis plain enough,” rejoin’d the bear,
“That envy makes you censure so;
For have I not a graceful air,
A slender shape and limber toe?”
222 But here a tasteless pig began
To grunt applause, and said, “I vow
I’ve never met, in brute or man,
With one who danced so well as thou.”
The bear, on hearing this, became
Sedate and pensive for a while;
And then, as if abash’d with shame,
Replied, in a more humble style:
“The agile ape’s rebuke might be
Inspired by jealousy or spleen;
But, since the pig commends, I see
How bad my dancing must have been.
Let every author think on this,
And hold this maxim for a rule:
The worst that can befall him is
The approbation of a fool.