Sages are often, like the crabs, inclined
To backward step, and leave their goal behind.
This is the sailor′s art, and, now and then,
The artifice of deep, designing men,
Who feign the opposite of their intent,
To put their adversaries off the scent.
My subject is a trifle; but how wide
The field on which its morals may be tried!
Some general may conquer, should he heed it,
An army with a hundred chiefs to lead it.
His plans of march and counter-march may be
At first a secret, then a victory.
No use in prying, when he would conceal;
From Fate′s decrees one cannot make appeal.
The tide grows insurmountable, at length;
Against a Jove the gods may waste their strength.
Louis and Fate seem partners now, in glory,
And draw the world along. But to my story.
Said Mother Crab to Daughter Crab, one day,
"How can you step in such an ugly way?
Do try to go a little straighter, dear!"
The little Crab made answer, with a sneer,
"Look at yourself! It′s very well to talk,
But it was you who taught me how to walk:
From you, and from your friends, I took my gait;
If they go crooked, how can I go straight?"
She told the truth—for lessons that we learn
From family examples last the longest.
They teach us good and evil, in its turn;
And oft the latter lessons are the strongest.
As to the way of walking, let me add,
That turning backs has often merit in it
In war, for instance, it is far from bad,
If people do it at the proper minute.