Horses were once as free as air,
When man on acorns lived content.
Ass, horse, and mule unfettered went
Through field and forest, anywhere,
Without a thought of toil and care.
Nor saw one then, as in this age,
Saddles and pillions every stage,
Harness for march, and work, and battle,
Or chaises drawn by hungry cattle.
Nor were there then so many marriages,
Nor feasts that need a host of carriages.
′Twas at this time there was a keen dispute
Between a Stag who quarrelled with a Horse,
Unable to run down the nimble brute:
To kindly Man he came, for aid, of course;
Man bridled him and leaped upon his back,
Nor rested till the Stag was caught and slain.
The Horse thanked heartily the Man, good lack:
"Adieu, yours truly, I′ll trot off again,
Home to the wild wood and the breezy plain."
"Not quite so fast," the smiling Man replied,
"I know too well your use, you must remain;
I′ll treat you well, yes, very well," he cried:
"Up to your ears the provender shall be,
And you shall feed in ease and luxury."
Alas! what′s food without one′s liberty?
The Horse his folly soon perceived;
But far too late the creature grieved.
His stable was all ready near the spot,
And there, with halter round his neck, he died,
Wiser had he his injuries forgot.
Revenge is sweet to injured pride;
But it is bought too dear, if bought
With that without which all things else are nought.