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Poem by Menella Bute Smedley
Two children are lost in a wood, What can they do? what can they do? They have not a morsel of food, And nothing to drink but dew! Looking to earth and to skies, All that they saw, all that they saw, Only increased their surprise, And only heighten'd their awe. A squirrel peep'd out of his bed, Up in a tree, up in a tree. “Poor little beggars,” he said, “How you must wish you were me! Look at my warm little tail, Fur tippet too, fur tippet too; Squirrels can never turn pale, Poor little shavers, like you!” Birds, tuck'd up snug in their nests, Nodded their heads, nodded their heads; Muffled their wings and their breasts, Order'd them off to their beds. Rabbits ran out of their holes, Crying “For shame,” crying “For shame, To wake up respectable souls! What is your business or claim?” A fox looking sly (as it sat,— Who says it can't? who says it can't?) Wink'd like a wide-awake man Trying to do a rich aunt; Wink'd like a wide-awake “cove” Hiding his jokes, hiding his jokes; Whispering, “Trust to my love, I'll help you, sweet little folks.” The children went up to him straight: “Dear Mr. Fox, dear Mr. Fox, Please take us home to the gate That opens if any one knocks. Nurse will run out in a trice; Towser won't bite, Towser won't bite; Cook will prepare something nice; Mammy will laugh with delight.” “Done,” cried the Fox; “and why not? Each take an arm, each take an arm; Let us proceed at a trot, Mental emotions to charm. I know the way, if you please,— No one so well, no one so well; Here by the sycamore-trees, There, through the buttercup dell.” Children, his flatteries shun! He is no friend, he is no friend. They who with foxes do run Always look small in the end! Honey'd his phrases and looks; Sweetly he mocks, sweetly he mocks; Have you not read in your books Words saying “Sly as a fox”? Who ever heeded advice? No one I know, no one I know. The children declare he is nice, And doubting a fellow is low. Easy it is to abuse; Ill-nature shocks, ill-nature shocks; We can confide where we choose; They'll put their faith in the fox! Blind, inconsiderate, rash! Rush on your fate, rush on your fate. He who trusts foxes goes smash, As you'll discover too late! Gaily the trio proceed, Still arm-in-arm, still arm-in-arm. Foxes not trusty, indeed! Innocent foxes do harm! “Here is your own pretty park; Come through the grass, come through the grass. Hark to the supper-bell, hark! Now through this thicket we'll pass,— Pass through this beautiful glade; Dancing with joy, dancing with joy. Put your foot here, little maid; Put yours down there, darling boy.” Oh, what two horrible screams! (Poor little toes, poor little toes). Nightmares that neigh in their dreams Utter such sounds, I suppose. Two traps are set on two slides, Foxes to snare, foxes to snare; Reynard is holding his sides At the two children caught there. Taking his hat off, he bows Very polite, very polite:— “'Tis your papa that allows These little gimcracks to bite; By your most worshipful pa' Set for the brute, set for the brute; You've put your foot in it—ha! I've got the length of your foot!” Fairies were dancing about, Close to the gin, close to the gin; Saw that sly Reynard was out, Saw that the children were in. “Stop him, we won't let him run.” Eager they spoke, eager they spoke: “Foxes don't understand fun,— Ill-nature spoils the best joke!” Ten fairies seize on each leg,— Call him their own, call him their own; Reynard doth abjectly beg That they will let him alone! Children jump out at their touch, Happy and free, happy and free; Reynard remarks 'tis too much, For they're no better than he. But the immovable fays Tumble him in, tumble him in; Bid him repent of his ways, In the delectable gin. Slyboots, your boots pinch you now? Rather too tight? rather too tight? Very good lodgings, I vow; Purchased by very poor spite! MORAL: To Children Shame, disappointment, and care, Bruises and knocks, bruises and knocks, Such is their portion who dare Walk arm-in-arm with a fox. To Foxes Foxes, who deal in sly blows, Pause, if you please, pause, if you please; Trying to pinch other toes, May not your own get a squeeze?
Menella Bute Smedley
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