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THE HEAD AND THE TAIL OF THE SERPENT. Jean de La Fontaine

The Snake has two parts, it is said,
Hostile to man—his tail and head;
And both, as all of us must know,
Are well known to the Fates below.
Once on a time a feud arose
For the precedence—almost blows.
"I always walked before the Tail,"
So said the Head, without avail.
The Tail replied, "I travel o′er
Furlongs and leagues—ay, score on score—
Just as I please. Then, is it right
I should be always in this plight?
Jove! I am sister, and not slave:
Equality is all I crave.
Both of the selfsame blood, I claim
Our treatment, then, should be the same.
As well as her I poison bear,
Powerful and prompt, for men to fear.
And this is all I wish to ask;
Command it—′tis a simple task:
Let me but in my turn go first;
For her ′twill be no whit the worst.
I sure can guide, as well as she;
No subject for complaint shall be."
Heaven was cruel in consenting:
Such favours lead but to repenting.
Jove should be deaf to such wild prayers:
He was not then; so first she fares;
She, who in brightest day saw not,
No more than shut up in a pot,
Struck against rocks, and many a tree—
′Gainst passers-by, continually;
Until she led them both, you see,
Straight into Styx. Unhappy all
Those wretched states who, like her, fall.


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