A Tortoise once, with an empty head,
Grown sick of her safe but monotonous home,
Resolved on some distant shore to tread;—
It is ever the cripple that loves to roam.
Two Ducks, to whom our friend repaired
To gossip o′er her bold intent,
Their full approval straight declared;
And, pointing to the firmament,
Said, "By that road—′tis broad and ample—
We′ll seek Columbia′s mighty range,
See peoples, laws, and manners strange;
Ulysses shall be our example."
(Ulysses would have been astounded
At being with this scheme confounded.)
The Tortoise liking much this plan,
Straightway the friendly Ducks began
To see how one for flight unfitted
Might through the realms of air be flitted.
At length within her jaws they fitted
A trusty stick, and seizing each an end,
With many a warning cry—"Hold fast! hold fast!"
Bore up to heaven their adventurous friend.
The people wondered as the cortège passed,
And truly it was droll to see
A Tortoise and her house in the Ducks′ company.
"A miracle!" the wondering mob surprises:
"Behold, on clouds the great Queen Tortoise rises!"
"A queen!" the Tortoise answered; "yes, forsooth;
Make no mistake—I am—in honest truth."
Alas! why did she speak? She was a chattering dunce:
For as her jaws unclose, the stick slips out at once,
And down amidst the gaping crowds she sank,
A wretched victim to her claims to rank.
Self-pride, a love of idle speaking,
And wish to be for ever seeking
A power that Nature ne′er intended,
Are follies close allied, and from one stock descended.