The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Crocodile and the Sturgeon

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Upon the banks of ancient Nile,
Two urchins stopp'd to play awhile:
Over the waters smooth, profound,
They made flat pebbles skip and bound.
But soon an end's put to their play—
A crocodile disturbs their fun;
He seizes, crushes, swallows one,

       While 'tother runs away.
A sturgeon saw the murd’rous deed,
And hasten'd off with all his speed—
From horror at the act he fled.
To hide deep in the river’s bed.
But there, amidst distressing fears,
Strange, unexpected news he hears—
The crocodile was shedding tears!
Could murd'rers then, with blood still wet,
For their foul deeds feel such regret?
Was he then suff'ring from the stings,
Which true contrition always brings?
And can the gods have the intent
T' avenge, not save, the innocent?
This villain surely now relents,
"I'll go to him and tell him true,
What it imports his soul to do."
The honest sturgeon then proceeds
To seek the monster 'midst the reeds.
"Yes, weep," said he, "as well you may,
For this foul deed you've done to-day.
Remorse a balm is, and it heals
The pains a wounded spirit feels.
Then use this balm with thanks and joy,
You monster! thus to eat a boy!
Now that repentance you have felt;—
Now that in tears your heart does melt,
There's yet relief from all your fears."
"Pooh!" said the knave, "that I've shed tears

       Perhaps is true;
But not for what I've done to-day,
In that I did but one boy slay;
'Twas that another got away,
Which I had hop'd to swallow too!"

Such tears as these we may believe
Are often shed when sinners grieve.