This stupid coward throng?
And never shall the wolf have done?
They were at least a thousand strong,
But still they've let poor Robin fall a prey!
Ah, woe's the day!
Poor Robin Wether lying dead!
He follow'd for a bit of bread
His master through the crowded city,
And would have follow'd, had he led,
Around the world. O! what a pity!
My pipe, and even step, he knew;
To meet me when I came, he flew;
In hedge-row shade we napp'd together;
Alas, alas, my Robin Wether!'
When Willy thus had duly said
His eulogy upon the dead
And unto everlasting fame
Consign'd poor Robin Wether's name,
He then harangued the flock at large,
From proud old chieftain rams
Down to the smallest lambs,
Addressing them this weighty charge,--
Against the wolf, as one, to stand
In firm, united, fearless band,
By which they might expel him from their land.
Upon their faith, they would not flinch,
They promised him, a single inch.
'We'll choke,' said they, 'the murderous glutton
Who robbed of us of our Robin Mutton.'
Their lives they pledged against the beast,
And Willy gave them all a feast.
But evil Fate, than Phoebus faster,
Ere night had brought a new disaster:
A wolf there came. By nature's law,
The total flock were prompt to run;
And yet 'twas not the wolf they saw,
But shadow of him from the setting sun.
Harangue a craven soldiery,
What heroes they will seem to be!
But let them snuff the smoke of battle,
Or even hear the ramrods rattle,
Adieu to all their spunk and mettle:
Your own example will be vain,
And exhortations, to retain
The timid cattle.
Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 9.19.
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