The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Leopard and the Monkeys


Once on a time some monkey folk
       Hot-cockles play'd.
The game was but a simple joke:
A fair one sits, her lap array'd
So as to hide a monkey's eyes:

He holds his paw to catch a blow;
Who gives the blow he does not know,
But all his wit at guessing tries.
Does he guess wrong? Oh, then how great
The laughter, frolic, and the fun,
       The cry, the frisk, the escapade,
       The hop, the skip, the gambolade
That through the crowd of players run!

Drawn by the noise a leopard came
And enter’d on the sportive scene.
They trembled at his very name,
Though of a gentle air and mien.
"Be not disturb’d," his lordship said:
"I would in no wise incommode;
With no ill aim do I envade
The premises of your abode:
Let me with you enjoy your fun:
      Please let the sport go on."
"Ah, sir, how good it is of you,
To honor poor folks as you do!
What! you a man of high degree,
Thus set aside your dignity,
And join with folks so plain as we!"
      "Yes, such is my philosophy.
It is my fancy to declare,
That animals all equal are;
So let the play go on, I say;
      Yes, let us have the play."

Delighted by his words so fair,

As by fair words folks always are,
The crowd believes as others do,
And once again their sports renew.
One hides his eyes, his hand extends,
As formerly among his friends,
And straight the leopard deals a blow
That makes the crimson blood to flow.

This time the monkey well could guess
Whose blow had given him such distress;
But waiting not the name to say,
He in great silence stole away.
His comrades vainly strove to smile;
The leopard howe’er laugh’d outright;
They all excus’d themselves the while,
      As best they might.
And leaving, thus growl’d out their spite:—
"The people of such lofty tone
’Twere well for us to let alone;
For hid beneath the softest paws,
The gentlest of them have sharp claws."