A Wolf, who was but skin and bone,
So watchful had the sheep-dogs grown,
Once met a Mastiff fat and sleek,
Stern only to the poor and weak.
Sir Wolf would fain, no doubt, have munched
This pampered cur, and on him lunched;
But then the meal involved a fight,
And he was craven, save at night;
For such a dog could guard his throat
As well as any dog of note.
So the Wolf, humbly flattering him,
Praised the soft plumpness of each limb.
"You′re wrong, you′re wrong, my noble sir,
To roam in woods indeed you err,"
The dog replies, "you do indeed;
If you but wish, with me you′ll feed.
Your comrades are a shabby pack,
Gaunt, bony, lean in side and back,
Pining for hunger, scurvy, hollow,
Fighting for every scrap they swallow.
Come, share my lot, and take your ease."
"What must I do to earn it, please?"
"Do?—why, do nothing! Beggar-men
Bark at and chase; fawn now and then
At friends; your master always flatter.
Do this, and by this little matter
Earn every sort of dainty dish—
Fowl-bones or pigeons′—what you wish—
Aye, better things; and with these messes,
Fondlings, and ceaseless kind caresses."
The Wolf, delighted, as he hears
Is deeply moved—almost to tears;
When all at once he sees a speck,
A gall upon the Mastiff′s neck.
"What′s that?"—"Oh, nothing!" "Nothing?"—"No!"
"A slight rub from the chain, you know."
"The chain!" replies the Wolf, aghast;
"You are not free?—they tie you fast?"
"Sometimes. But, law! what matters it?"—
"Matters so much, the rarest bit
Seems worthless, bought at such a price."
The Wolf, so saying, in a trice,
Ran off, and with the best goodwill,
And very likely′s running still.