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In Thessaly, off in the ages dim,
Apuleius the author, queer in his whim,
Went to board with a female grim,
A sort of a witch,
Considered as sich,
Who in Tophet's necromancy was rich.
Now, she had the power
To change in an hour
A man to a bird, or a beast, or a flower;
And Apuleius he
Took the wild idee
That he a beautiful birdling would be! —
He would sail through ether
As light as a feather,
And sing 'mid the trees in summer weather,
And the finest fruits and flowers would gather! —
O! how he 'd revel in exquisite things,
And the dew of the morning should shine on his wings —
He 'd be richer than Jews, and prouder than kings!
This mighty change,
That was deemed so strange,
Was wrought by ointments' subtle force,
And, rightly applied
To his outer side,
A man became bird, flower, or horse,
Or anything else that his fancy chose,
To sport in feathers, or hair, or clothes:
But this one care
They in mind must bear,
Who used these wondrous ointments rare, —
To mind from which pot
The salve they got,
And well it was that they should beware;
For each was applied to a different use,
And a change might play the particular deuce,
Transforming one,
As sure as a gun,
From a would-be dove, perhaps, to a goose!
Apuleius the author would be a bird,
But how to procure the witch's charm?


Page 180
A lucky thought his cranium stirred —
He 'd tickle her servant's itching palm;
A proof that wielders of the pen
Were somewhat flush with “the ready” then.
So the servant was sought,
And her services bought,
And the magical charm was straightway brought,
For the servant in such exploits was adept,
And prigged the salve while her mistress slept;
Concerning which, we, in our brighter light,
Should say it was n't salving her right!
Apuleius happy now was made,
And scarcely a single moment delayed,
And his heart beat high
As the hour drew nigh
To open to him the doors of the sky,
When he 'd spread his wings and thitherward fly.
So elated his thought,
He the caution forgot,
And did n't even look at the pot;
Till too soon, alas! the unfortunate elf
Discovered he 'd made an ass of himself!
Not much of a wonder, some might say,
When such things happen now every day.
The witch discovered the theft, and, alack!
She “played the deuce and turned up Jack,” —
She straightway decreed
That he ne'er should be freed
Till he found some rose-leaves on which to feed
And a sad decree
It was for he,
For there were n't any roses in Thessaly,
And therefore the ridiculous ass
Was brought to a very unfortunate pass.
From land to land, and from clime to clime
He wandered on for a weary time,
Braying — but whether in prose or rhyme,
Is not by the history stated;—
And instead of flying in upper air,
He cropped the thistles here and there,
Seeking for roses everywhere,
But was long uncompensated.


Page 181
At last Apuleius, the long-eared, found
A rose-tree on his sorrowing round,
And, blessed release! all right and sound,
He stood erect once more on the ground,
A happy fellow, we may be bound, —
And from it we draw this moral:
We should always be content with our lot,
Nor wish to be birds and things we are not,
And never with Fortune quarrel,
Lest we prove ourselves to be asses, at best,
By action more than by ears confest,
Braying along, nor knowing rest,
And seeking rose-leaves east and west,
To find but thistles and sorrel.