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THE COUNCIL HELD BY THE RATS. Jean de La Fontaine

A Tyrant Cat, by surname Nibblelard,
Through a Rat kingdom spread such gloom
By waging war and eating hard,
Only a few escaped the tomb;
The rest, remaining in their hiding-places,
Like frightened misers crouching on their pelf,
Over their scanty rations made wry faces,
And swore the Cat was old King Nick himself.
One day, the terror of their life
Went on the roof to meet his wife:
During the squabbling interview
(I tell the simple truth to you),
The Rats a chapter called. The Dean,
A cautious, wise, old Rat,
Proposed a bell to fasten on the Cat.
"This should be tried, and very soon, I mean;
So that when war was once begun,
Safe underground their folk could run,—
This was the only thing that could be done."
With the wise Dean no one could disagree;
Nothing more prudent there could be:
The difficulty was to fix the bell!
One said, "I′m not a fool; you don′t catch me:"
"I hardly seem to see it!" so said others.
The meeting separated—need I tell,
The end was words—but words. Well, well, my brothers,
There have been many chapters much the same;
Talking, but never doing—there′s the blame.
Chapters of monks, not rats—just so!
Canons who fain would bell the cats, you know.

To talk, and argue, and refute,
The court has lawyers in long muster-roll;
But when you want a man who′ll execute,
You cannot find a single soul.

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