The Author And The Rat
: Literary Fables Of Yriarte
In study of a scholar, sage and mellow,
There dwelt a Rat,--a devil of a fellow,--
Who on naught else his hunger would assuage
But prose and verse of many a learned page.
In vain the Cat watched for him night and day;
Her paws she ne'er could put upon a whisker.
Of cunning traps no shrewd device,
No arsenic hid in sweet confection,
Nor any other bait or mixture,
Ever prepared for rats or mice,
For learned scrolls could cure his predilection;
But with whole pages nightly he made way.
The rascal gnawed, moreover, nothing less,
What our poor Author furnished to the presses,--
His works of eloquence and poesy.
And, as the manuscripts the accursed beast
Had eaten once before, made he
Of printed page still more luxurious feast.
"Ah, what hard luck is mine!" the Author cried.
"I've had enough of writing for these gnawers.
Since all experiments in vain I've tried,
Blank paper now I'll keep within my drawers,--
And nothing else. This mischief must be stayed."
But, lo! too faithful to his wasteful trade,
In pure white paper, without stop or stint,
As heretofore with manuscript and print,
The villanous vermin like destruction made.
At his wit's end, as last resort,
Into his ink he pours, in copious dose,
Corrosive sublimate, and writes
Something; I know not whether verse or prose.
'Tis eaten by the animal perverse,
And quickly ends his sport.
"Happy receipt which mischief sure requites!"
Sarcastic said the Poet, thus relieved.
"Let him, who gnaws too freely, have a care
Lest his malicious insult prove a snare;
And the impatient wight he seeks to bait,
Should write him in corrosive sublimate."
* * * * *
Be moderate, critic,--for unjust abuse
Severe retaliation will excuse;
Silence to keep, beneath invective froward,
Argues an author either dunce or coward.