|"The Fox Retreated out of Range"|
Drawing by Peter Newell
A farmer built around his crop
A wall, and crowned his labors
By placing glass upon the top
To lacerate his neighbors,
Provided they at any time
Should feel disposed the
wall to climb.
He also drove some iron pegs
Securely in the coping,
To tear the bare, defenceless legs
Of brats who, upward groping,
Might steal, despite the
risk of fall,
The grapes that grew upon the wall.
One day a fox, on thieving bent,
A crafty and an old one,
Most shrewdly tracked the pungent scent
That eloquently told one
That grapes were ripe and grapes were good
And likewise in the neighborhood.
He threw some stones of divers shapes
The luscious fruit to jar off:
It made him ill to see the grapes
So near and yet so far off.
His throws were strong, his aim was fine,
But “Never touched me!” said the vine.
The farmer shouted, “Drat the boys!”
And, mounting on a ladder,
He sought the cause of all the noise;
No farmer could be madder,
Which was not hard to understand
Because the glass had cut his hand.
His passion he could not restrain,
But shouted out, “You’re thievish!”
The fox replied, with fine disdain,
“Come, country, don’t be peevish.”
(Now “country” is an epithet
One can’t forgive, nor yet forget.)
The farmer rudely answered back
With compliments unvarnished,
And downward hurled the bric-à-brac
With which the wall was garnished,
In view of which demeanor strange,
The fox retreated out of range.
“I will not try the grapes to-day,”
He said. “My appetite is
Fastidious, and, anyway,
I fear appendicitis.”
(The fox was one of the élite
Who call it site instead of seet.)
The moral is that if your host
Throws glass around his entry
You know it isn’t done by most
Who claim to be the gentry,
While if he hits you in the head
You may be sure he’s underbred.
– Guy Wetmore Carryl, Fables for the Frivolous, Harper & Bros., NY, 1898