The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Guilty Dog

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FABLE XL.
THE GUILTY DOG.

At length the awful news was spread—
Towser had kill'd the pet lamb dead!
Who could believe the tidings true,
That Towser such a deed would do?
The dread of wolves, the shepherd's friend—
How could he come to such an end?

And not alone a lamb he'd kill'd,
But her own mother's blood had spill'd!
       Nor was this the worst of it,
       For e'en the shepherd he had bit!
              If this be true,
Then what's the world a-coming to?

'Twas thus beside a brooklet's course,
Two sheep engaged in sad discourse.
It was an undisputed fact,
He had been captured in the act.
Towser himself confess'd his crime,
And would be punish'd in short time.
The shepherds had resolv'd that he
A warning to all dogs should be.

With triple murder being charg'd,
The case went through the court with speed,
Upon the crime the judge enlarged—
The witnesses were all agreed,
And he was sentenced to be shot
Upon the very self-same spot
       Where he had done the deed.
The whole farm then turn'd out to see
       The execution done.
The lambs beseeched for clemency;
       The farmer granted none.
He made them take their place assign'd;
The dogs took their's near by, resign'd,
Humbled and lorn, with drooping ears;
The cheeks of some were bath'd in tears.

All mourn'd for their friend Towser's fate,
And all in fun'ral silence sate,
       Or sobbing cried aloud.
At length between two shepherds bound,
Towser was led upon the ground,
       And thus address'd the crowd:

"Oh, you whom I no longer dare
To call my friends as formerly,
Of my example all beware,
And take this warning word from me.
A virtuous course of fifteen years
Is now to close in blood and tears.

"My crimes are these:—at early day
As I near by a forest lay,
Guarding the flock, a wolf sprang out,
And bore a bleeding lamb away.
We fought—I put him to the rout.
So far so good. But when I saw
The mangled lambkin near me lie,
And felt the tempting morsel draw,
I could not help one taste to try.
       The sight and smell of blood
Had made me ravenous for food.
'Tis true I hesitated long,
But yet my appetite was strong;
And so I yielded, and at last,
Of the slain lamb made a repast;
       Such was the source of all my woe.
The mother sheep I fear'd might go

And tell the shepherd what I'd done,
And say that I had kill'd her son.
So therefore without more ado
To silence her, I kill'd her too.
       My head was turn'd;
       With rage I burn'd;
And what I did I hardly knew;
I even at my master flew.
Until at last I am brought here,
To terminate my sad career.
From this career you may take heed,
Lest your small faults to great ones lead.
The slightest wrong, however small,
May lead the wisest to his fall.
Of all false steps beware of this—
The first one towards a precipice."