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The Owl And The Nightingale

from Moores Fables For Girls





To know the MISTRESS'S humour right,
See if her maids are clean and tight,
If BETTY waits without her stays,
She copies but her LADY'S ways;
When MISS comes in with boist'rous shout,
And drops no court'sey going out,
Depend upon't, MAMMA is one
Who reads, or drinks, too much alone.

If bottled beer her thirst assuage,
She feels enthusiastic rage,
And burns with ardour to inherit
The gifts and workings of the spirit.
If learning crack her giddy brains,
No remedy but death remains.
Sum up the various ills of life,
And all are sweet to such a wife.
At home, superior wit she vaunts,
And twits her husband with his wants;
Her ragged offspring all around,
Like pigs, are wallowing on the ground.
Impatient ever of controul,
And knows no order but of soul;
With books her litter'd floor is spread,
With nameless authors never read;
Foul linen, petticoats, and lace,
Fill up the intermediate space.
Abroad, at visitings, her tongue
Is never still, and always wrong;
All meanings she defines away,
And stands with truth and sense at bay.

If e'er she meets a gentle heart,
Skill'd in the housewife's useful art;
Who makes her family her care,
And builds contentment's temple there;
She starts at such mistakes in nature,
And cries, LORD help us! what a creature!

Melissa, if the moral strike,
You'll find the fable not unlike.

An OWL, puff'd up with self-conceit,
Lov'd learning better than his meat;
Old manuscripts he treasur'd up,
And rummag'd ev'ry grocer's shop;
At pastry-cooks was known to ply,
And strip, for science, ev'ry pie.
For modern poetry and wit,
He had read all that BLACKMORE writ.
So intimate with CURL was grown,
His learned treasures were his own;
To all his authors had access,
And sometimes would correct the press.
In logic he acquir'd such knowledge,
You'd swear him fellow of a college.
Alike to ev'ry art and science,
His daring genius bid defiance,
And swallow'd wisdom with that haste
That cits do custards at a feast.

Within the shelter of a wood,
One evening, as he musing stood,
Hard by, upon a leafy spray,
A NIGHTINGALE began his lay;
Sudden he starts, with anger stung,
And, screeching, interrupts the song.

Pert, busy thing! thy airs give o'er,
And let my contemplation soar--
What is the music of thy voice,
But jarring dissonance and noise?
Be wise--True harmony thou'lt find
Not in the throat, but in the mind;
By empty chirping not attain'd,
But by laborious study gain'd.
Go, read the authors POPE explodes,
Fathom the depth of CIBBER'S odes;
With modern plays improve thy wit,
Read all the learning HENLEY writ,
And if thou needs must sing, sing then,
And emulate the ways of men:
So shalt thou grow, like me, refin'd,
And bring improvement to thy kind.

Thou wretch! the little warbler cry'd,
Made up of ignorance and pride;
Ask all the birds, and they'll declare
A greater blockhead wings not air.
Read o'er thyself, thy talents scan,
Science was only meant for man.
No senseless authors me molest,
I mind the duties of my nest;
With careful wing protect my young,
And cheer their ev'nings with a song;
Make short the weary trav'ller's way,
And warble in the poet's lay.

Thus, following nature, and her laws,
From men and birds I claim applause,
While, nurs'd in pedantry and sloth,
An OWL is scorn'd alike by both.





Next: The Sparrow And The Dove

Previous: The Colt And The Farmer



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