Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FABLE: THE SNAIL AND THE GARDENER, by NATHANIEL COTTON



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FABLE: THE SNAIL AND THE GARDENER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When sons of fortune ride on high
Last Line: Is suited to the bearer's back.'
Subject(s): Fables; Happiness; Mankind; Allegories; Joy; Delight; Human Race


WHEN sons of fortune ride on high,
How do we point the' admiring eye!
With foolish face of wonder gaze,
And often covet what we praise.
How do we partial Nature chide,
As deaf to every son beside!
Or censure the mistaken dame,
As if her optics were to blame!
Thus we deem Nature most unkind,
Or what's as bad, we deem her blind.
But when inferior ranks we see,
Who move in humbler spheres than we;
Men by comparisons are taught,
Nature is not so much in fault.
Yet mark my tale—the poet's pen
Shall vindicate her ways to men.
Within a garden, far from town,
There dwelt a Snail of high renown;
Who, by tradition as appears,
Had been a tenant several years.
She spent her youth in wisdom's page—
Hence honour'd and rever'd in age.
Do Snails at any time contend,
Insult a neighbour, or a friend;
Dispute their property and share,
Or in a cherry, or a pear?
No lord-chief-justice, all agree,
So able, and so just as she!
Whichever way their causes went,
All parties came away content.
At length she found herself decay,
Death sent mementos every day.
Her drooping strength sustains no more
The shell, which on her back she bore.
The eye had lost its visual art,
The heavy ear refus'd its part;
The teeth perform'd their office ill,
And every member fail'd her will.
But no defects in mind appear,
Her intellects are strong and clear.
Thus when his glorious course is run,
How brightly shines the setting sun!
The news through all the garden spread,
The neighbours throng'd about her bed;
Cheerful she rais'd her voice aloud,
And thus address'd the weeping crowd.
'My friends, I'm hastening to the grave,
And know, nor plum, nor peach can save.
Yes, to those mansions go I must,
Where our good fathers sleep in dust.
Nor am I backward to explore
That gloomy vale they trod before.
'Gainst fate's decree what can I say?
Like other Snails I've had my day.
Full many summer suns I've seen,
And now die grateful and serene.
'If men the higher pow'rs arraign,
Shall we adopt the plaintive strain?
Nature, profuse to us and ours,
Hath kindly built these stately tow'rs;
Where, when the skies in night are drest,
Secure from every ill we rest.
Survey our curious structure well—
How firm, and yet how light our shell!
Our refuge when cold storms invade,
And in the dog-days' heat our shade.
'Thus when we see a fleeter race,
We'll not lament our languid pace.
Do dangers rise, or foes withstand?
Are not our castles close at hand?
For let a Snail at distance roam,
The happy Snail is still at home.
'Survey our garden's blest retreats—
Oh! what a paradise of sweets!
With what variety it's stor'd!
Unnumber'd dainties spread our board.
The plums assume their glossy blue,
And cheeks of nectarines glow for you;
Peaches their lovely blush betray,
And apricots their gold display;
While for your beverage, when you dine,
There streams the nectar of the vine.
'Be not my dying words forgot;
Depart, contented with your lot:
Repress complaints when they begin;
Ingratitude's a crying sin.
And hold it for a truth, that we
Are quite as blest as Snails should be.'
The Gardener hears with great surprise
This sage discourse, and thus he cries—
'Oh! what a thankless wretch am I,
Who pass ten thousand favours by!
I blame, whene'er the linnet sings,
My want of song, or want of wings.
The piercing hawk, with towering flight,
Reminds me of deficient sight.
And when the generous steed I view,
Is not his strength my envy too?
I thus at birds and beasts repine,
And wish their various talents mine.
Fool as I am, who cannot see
Reason is more than all to me.
'My landlord boasts a large estate,
Rides in his coach, and eats in plate.
What! shall these lures bewitch my eye?
Shall they extort the murmuring sigh?
Say, he enjoys superior wealth—
Is not my better portion, health?
Before the sun has gilt the skies,
Returning labour bids me rise;
Obedient to the hunter's horn,
He quits his couch at early morn.
By want compell'd, I dig the soil,
His is a voluntary toil.
For truth it is since Adam's fall,
His sons must labour, one and all.
No man's exempted by his purse,
Kings are included in the curse.
Would monarchs relish what they eat?
'Tis toil that makes the manchet sweet;
Nature enacts, before they're fed.
That prince and peasant earn their bread.
'Hence wisdom and experience show,
That bliss in equal currents flow;
That happiness is still the same,
Howe'er ingredients change their name
Nor doth this theme our search defy,
'Tis level to the human eye.
Distinctions, introduc'd by men,
Bewilder, and obscure our ken.
I'll store these lessons in my heart,
And cheerful act my proper part.
If sorrows rise, as sorrows will,
I'll stand resign'd to every ill;
Convinc'd, that wisely every pack
Is suited to the bearer's back.'





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