The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Two Cats

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FABLE XI.
THE TWO CATS.

Two cats of ancient pedigree,
The finest of their race e'er seen,
Were diff'rent in a great degree,
For one was fat and 'tother lean.
The elder daily had a feast,
Like senator, or judge, or priest;
Was round and portly, fresh, and sleek,

Serene of brow, and plump of cheek,
While 'tother, eating mice alone,
Was little else than skin and bone;
Though ever busy on the watch,
As cats should be, his prey to catch,
Peering around with famish'd look,
In ev'ry cranny, hole, and nook,
He toil'd from morn till eve, and yet
Could scarce a full meal ever get.
At length, by hunger sore distress'd,
His elder brother he address'd:—
"How is't that you can have good cheer,
While I at death's door am so near?
Though you are idle all the day.
And I'm at work, and never play,
How is it, brother, please explain,
Why you are fat and I am lean?"
"The reason, brother, 's very plain,"
Said fatty in complacent strain,
You've quite too conscientious been.
You hunt for mice." "Is that not right?"
The younger answered with some spite.
"Ah, yes," the elder makes reply,
"'Tis right enough, perhaps, but I
Can always near my master sit,
And seek to please him by my wit.
I share his favors, his repast;
Ask little first, take much at last;
Strive to amuse him with my tricks,
Learn'd in the school of politics,

While you, my brother, are a flat,
And serve him merely as a cat.
The real secret of success,
In cunning lies, not usefulness.
If you would prosper here below,
Play tricks and let your duties go!"