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a web of many textures

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I glean this fable from jolly old Rabelais,
Who ne'er marred a story by telling it shabbily,
And I earnestly hope that my versification
Will give to its moral a plain application;
Which moral will show that by acting too speedily,
And grasping and striving for aught over greedily,
'T will end most likely in signal disaster
(Reward from the ancient particular master),
While we who are modest, and not any covetous,
Taking all quiet, as Fortune may shove it us,
Will make out better, be sure, at the last of it,
And in its enjoyment make ample repast of it:
One day, when the gods, in high debate,
Had waxed quite warm on concerns of state,
And Jupiter Tonans wiped his face,
As discussion found a resting place —
(For on the nods of the gods, you know,
Depended all matters then below,
And business of merely men or kings,
Or any other terrestrial things,
Must come before the conclave high,
Convened in chambers of the sky),—
That a fearful clamor from earth arose,
Like the accent of a thousand woes,
That broke the Thunderer's short repose.
“What are the sounds that our ears profane?
Mercury! start like a railway train;
Open the windows of heaven, and know
The cause of all this rumpus below.”
Then Mercury listened with eager ear,
And smiled to himself the sound to hear,
For in truth it struck him as rather queer:
“O, Jupiter Tonans,” a voice cried out,
With tone stentoriously stout,
That rung like a trumpet arraying a host-
“O, Jupiter Tonans! my axe is lost!


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O, cruel fortune, thus for to bother one!
O, great Jupiter, give me another one!”
Then Jupiter winked with an ominous leer,
As he the petitioner's prayer did hear —
“Confound the fellow! what clamor he makes!
The very concave of heaven he shakes,
As if he 'd all of creation tax,
By making this muss about his axe!
Yet offer him one of silver or gold,
He 'd no longer clamor for this so bold.
Run, Mercury, run! or, sure as a gun,
By this chap's noise we are all undone!
Offer him axe of silver and gold,
And iron — his own choice uncontrolled —
I 'll stake my sceptre that he 'll think higher on
Either the silver or gold than the iron;
But if he choose silver or gold instead,
I say, Mercury, off with his head!”
Jupiter frowned like easterly weather,
And the gods, affrighted, huddled together,
And shook in every wing and feather!
Mercury gave one jump, and flew,
Cutting his way through the ether blue,
And quick as the lightning made his tracks,
Where the man was bellowing for his axe.
“Here 't is, old chap!” then Mercury said,
And threw before him the gold one red.
“None of your tricks,” says he, right cross,
“'T is n't for this I mourn the loss.”
Then Mercury threw the silver down,
Which suited still less the weeping clown;
But when the iron one met his view,
He cried, delighted, “'T is good as new.”
He held its handle, and grasped it tight.
And said, “Old fellow, this ere 's all right!”
Then Mercury called him an honest soul,
Told him for this he should have the whole;
Then left all three with the happy elf,
And went right back to report himself.
Now the clod was rich, and with few words
He bought him houses, and barns, and herds.


Page 132
His neighbors wondered this to see,
And sought to unravel the mystery;
Nor long did he their wondering tax,
But told the story about his axe.
Then all who had axes vowed to go
And see what luck to them would flow;
And those who had none stopped at naught,
But sold their goods and axes bought,
Then went away, resolved to lose 'em,
And make appeal to Jove's own bosom,
Convinced that he would not refuse 'em.
Their clamoring wakened all the sky,
And angry grew the Thunderer's eye, —
Who summoned Mercury to go
Upon his errand again below —
“These chaps must n't be left to pother one,
Serve them just as you did the other one;
Put the test that then you tried,
Let them for themselves decide,
Give what they ax, and let 'em slide!”
Down went Mercury on his mission
Where they noisily made petition.
The golden axe on the ground he threw:
The first one greedily at it flew,
When, swinging the steel axe in his hand,
The head of the seeker sought the sand;
And so of the whole of the clamorous crowd
Each nose like a coulter the green sward ploughed;
And from this day's ensanguined workery
Arose man's guess of the uses of mercury —
And it undoubtedly a palpable fact is,
Ten medical colleges, all in full practice,
With surgeons awaiting a chance to dissect you all,
Could n't make mercury more effectual,
Or cut men down quicker than Mercury packed his
On this first day of “legitimate” practice.
My friends, ye who read this fable so winning,
Look for the moral at the beginning —
For which, and the story, think just as you may of them,
I have nothing more at present to say of them.