The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/Death's Choice of Prime Minister


Once on a time there was a king
Who wish'd his state more flourishing.
In hell he rear'd his awful throne,
(As King of Terrors he is known)
And, as the case did much import,
He call'd together his whole court.
The question was what plague should be
The chief aid to his majesty.
First, from the lowest hell there came

Three spirits of most dreadful fame,
       Fever, Gout, and War.
Death gave them welcome; for, of all
The ills that plague our earthly ball,
       These most dreaded are.
Then Pest steps forward—all agree
That he too, has great potency.
Then comes a Doctor, at whose name
'Twas evident he had a claim,
Which caused e'en Death himself to doubt
How his selection must turn out.
But when the Vices all advance,
Death could no longer hesitate
Which most his service would enhance,
Or which was his true candidate:
Vice of all vice—Intemperance
He chose prime minister of state.