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aesop revised by archy -- Don Marquis

Guest poem submitted by Sean Dwyer, who writes the
following prologue:

  I have a Don Maquis archy poem here that should be required reading.
It's a revision of an Aesop fable, which runs thus:

  _The Lamb and the Wolf_

  A Wolf pursued a Lamb, which fled for refuge to a certain Temple. The
Wolf called out to him and said, "The Priest will slay you in sacrifice,
if he should catch you."  On which the Lamb replied, "It would be better
for me to be sacrificed in the Temple than to be eaten by you."

and I'll attach the poem here:
(Poem #1458) aesop revised by archy
 a wolf met a spring
 lamb drinking
 at a stream
 and said to her
 you are the lamb
 that muddied this stream
 all last year
 so that i could not get
 a clean fresh drink
 i am resolved that
 this outrage
 shall not be enacted again
 this season i am going
 to kill you
 just a minute said the lamb
 i was not born last
 year so it could not
 have been i
 the wolf then pulled
 a number of other
 arguments as to why the lamb
 should die
 but in each case the lamb
 pretty innocent that she was
 easily proved
 herself guiltless
 well well said the wolf
 enough of that argument
 you are right and i am wrong
 but i am going to eat
 you anyhow
 because i am hungry
 stop exclamation point
 cried a human voice
 and a man came over
 the slope of the ravine
 vile lupine marauder
 you shall not kill that
 beautiful and innocent
 lamb for i shall save her
 exit the wolf
 left upper exit
 poor little lamb
 continued our human hero
 sweet tender little thing
 it is well that i appeared
 just when i did
 it makes my blood boil
 to think of the fright
 to which you have been
 subjected in another
 moment i would have been
 too late come home with me
 and the lamb frolicked
 about her new found friend
 gambolling as to the sound
 of a wordsworthian tabor [1]
 and leaping for joy
 as if propelled by a stanza
 from william blake
 these vile and bloody wolves
 went on our hero
 in honest indignation
 they must be cleared out
 of the country
 the meads must be made safe
 for sheepocracy
 and so jollying her along
 with the usual human hokum [2]
 he led her to his home
 and the son of a gun
 did not even blush when
 they passed the mint bed
 gently he cut her throat
 all the while inveigling
 against the inhuman wolf
 and tenderly he cooked her
 and lovingly he sauced her
 and meltingly he ate her
 and piously he said a grace
 thanking his gods
 for their bountiful gifts to him
 and after dinner
 he sat with his pipe
 before the fire meditating
 on the brutality of wolves
 and the injustice of
 the universe
 which allows them to harry
 poor innocent lambs
 and wondering if he
 had not better
 write to the paper
 for as he said
 for god s sake can t
 something be done about
-- Don Marquis
[1] tabor: a small hand-held drum common in Elizabethan times
[2] hokum: nonsense, meaningless drivel

For archy, this is a LONG poem, he must have been feeling either
extremely energetic, or found some great food. One of the pleasures of
the poem is the narration which pops up here and there as stage
directions or commentary. It is a hilarious upturning of myth and the
what-if the fable implies. It's also decent blank verse [I think you
mean 'free verse'; 'blank verse' is unrhymed iambic pentameter a la
Shakespeare and co. - Martin] , and archy's work often reminds me of e.
e. cummings, not for the obvious typographical reasons, but its terse

Sean Dwyer.

[thomas adds]

Here archy seems to be conflating several distinct fables, the one
featured in Sean's prologue above, and one or both of the following:

  A Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay
violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the
Wolf's right to eat him.  He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you
grossly insulted me."  "Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of
voice, "I was not then born."  Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my
pasture."  "No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted
grass."  Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well."  "No," exclaimed
the Lamb, "I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both
food and drink to me."  Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up,
saying, "Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute every
one of my imputations."  The tyrant will always find a pretext for his

  Once upon a time a Wolf was lapping at a spring on a hillside, when,
looking up, what should he see but a Lamb just beginning to drink a
little lower down.  "There's my supper," thought he, "if only I can find
some excuse to seize it."  Then he called out to the Lamb, "How dare you
muddle the water from which I am drinking?" "Nay, master, nay," said
Lambikin; "if the water be muddy up there, I  cannot be the cause of it,
for it runs down from you to me." "Well, then," said the Wolf, "why did
you call me bad names this time last year?" "That cannot be," said the
Lamb; "I am only six months old." "I don't care," snarled the Wolf; "if
it was not you it was your father;" and with that he rushed upon the
poor little Lamb and ate her all up.  But before she died she gasped out
"Any excuse will serve a tyrant."

        -- both from

The "wordsworthian tabor" is probably this one:

    Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
    And while the young lambs bound
        As to the tabor's sound,

        -- William Wordsworth
        "Intimations of Immortality"
        full text at

while the "stanza from william blake" is likely to be one of two from
the poem "The Lamb", which I should have mentioned in yesterday's
Minstrels links section: Poem #1405.

Talking of yesterday's poem, thanks to Michael, Faith and Carolyn, all
of whom wrote in with biographical information about John Dressel; said
info can be found on the Minstrels website under Poem #1457.


72 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Reed C Bowman said...

> gently he cut her throat
> all the while inveigling
> against the inhuman wolf

Surely that's "inveighing" not "inveigling"...

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