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Your vestments are of garter hue,
Mine boasts a far superior blue.
You style me reptile, in contempt;
You are that very reptile meant;
A two-legg'd thing which crawls on earth,
Void of utility and worth.
You call me fatal to your race-
Was ever charge so false and base?
You can't in all your annals find,
That unprovoked we hurt mankind.
Uninjured, men in mischief deal,
We only bite the hostile heel.
'Do not we yield our lives to feed,
And save your vile distemper'd breed?
When leprosy pollutes your veins,
Do not we purge the loathsome stains?
When riot and excess prevail,
And health and strength and spirits fail;
Doctors from us their aid derive,
Hence penitential rakes revive.
We bleed to make the caitiffs dine1,
Or drown to medicate their wine.
'You ask, my poison to what end?
Minute philosopher, attend.
Nature, munificent and wise,
To all our wants adapts supplies.
Our frames are fitted to our need,
Hence greyhounds are endued with speed:
Lions by force their prey subdue,
By force maintain their empire too:
But power, although the lion's fame,
Was never known the Viper's claim.
1 Upon some occasions vipers are dressed, and served to table as eels.
Observe, when I unroll my length-
Say, is my structure form'd for strength?
Doth not celerity imply
Or legs to run or wings to fly?
My jaws are constituted weak,
Hence poison lurks behind my cheek.
As lightning quick my fangs convey
This liquid to my wounded prey.
The venom thus insures my bite,
For wounds preclude the victim's flight.
But why this deadly juice, you cry,
To make the wretched captive die?
Why not possess'd of stronger jaws,
Or arm'd like savage brutes with claws?
Can such weak arguments persuade?
Ask rather, why were vipers made?
To me my poison's more than wealth,
And to ungrateful mortals health.
In this benevolent design
My various organs all combine.
Strike out the poison from my frame,
My system were no more the same.
I then should want my comforts due,
Nay, lose my very being too.
And you'd, as doctors all agree,
A sovereign medicine lose in me.
Now learn, 'tis arrogance in man
To censure what he cannot scan.
Nor dare to charge God's works with ill,
Since vipers kind designs fulfil:
But give injurious scruples o'er,
Be still, be humble, and adore !'
That happiness is much more equally distributed than the generality of mankind are apprized of.
THE SNAIL AND THE GARDENER.
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 revered 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 refused 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 raised her voice aloud, And thus address'd the weeping crowdMy 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 powers arraign, Shall we adopt the plaintive strain?
Nature, profuse to us and ours,
Hath kindly built these stately towers;
Where, when the skies in night are dress'd,
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 dogday's 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 bless'd retreats-
Oh! what a paradise of sweets!
With what variety 'tis stored!
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 bless'd 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!