Page:Fables by La Fontaine translated by Elizur Wright.djvu/20

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XIV PREFACE TO THE PRESENT EDiriON. Some beasts proposed the patient ox, And others named the cunning fox. The quarrel came to bites and knocks; Nor was it duly settled Till many a beast high-mettled Had bought an aching head, Or, possibly, had bled. The fox, as one might well suppose, At last above his rival rose ; But, truth to say, his reign was bootless, Of honour being rather fruitless. All prudent beasts began to see The throne a certain charm had lost, And, won by strife, as it must be, Was hardly worth the pains it cost. So when his majesty retired, Few worthy beasts his seat desired. Especially now stood aloof The wise of head, the swift of hoof, The beasts whose breasts were battle-proof. It consequently came to pass. Not first, but, as we say, in fine, For king the creatures chose the ass, — He, for prime minister the swine. 'T is thus that party spirit Is prone to banish merit.