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The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven -- Guy Wetmore Carryl

       
(Poem #137) The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven
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 Gotterdammerung."

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.
-- Guy Wetmore Carryl
Another of Carryl's marvellous retellings of Aesop's fables. The poem needs
nothing in the way of explanation; I'll merely note again the similarities
to Gilbert - especially the bit of French with the parenthetical comment.
My favourite bit, though, is undoubtedly the penultimate verse - I had to
stop and laugh out loud at the sheer deadpan humour of it.

It's also well worth going back and taking a look at his 'Embarassing
Episode of Little Miss Muffet' (which has a better pun at the end :)).
poem #94

m.

14 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

IRVING HARRISON said...

Please let me knowe of the humerous "Fox & Raven" gets to you. The
technic of sending it, once i found it onm the Web, has been a bit
beyond my understanding. Wndersul speaking with those I did. HAve
fabulous vacations, and try to make time for an e-mail here and there.
Caitlyn, I'm excited about your project on artists and their art. I wish
you had time/interet to go into it with me. It's a field I/m deep into,
especially with, by, and about writers.

G B said...

I wasn't aware that this was a poem by Aesop as well but I did know
that the 17th century French poet Jean de la Fontaine did a marvellous
version of it which has been known to generations of schoolchildren in
France. I happen to know this as my wife (who is French) has often made
me laugh by reciting it. For the benefit of any of you who have a
little French, here it is below, although it should be said that the
moral of de la Fontaine's story is both different to the modern version
of it above, and, I must say, a rather subtle one for a poem so popular
with schoolchildren.

Best wishes

GB Ireland.

LE CORBEAU ET LE RENARD

Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,

Tenait en son bec un fromage.

Maître Renard, par l'odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
" Hé ! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le phénix des hôtes de ces bois."

A ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;

Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.

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technic of sending it, once i found it onm the Web, has been a bit
beyond my understanding. Wndersul speaking with those I did. HAve
fabulous vacations, and try to make time for an e-mail here and there.
Caitlyn, I'm excited about your project on artists and their art.

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