The Fox and Cat, two saints indeed,
To make a pilgrimage agreed:
Two artful hypocrites they were,—
Soft-footed, sly, and smooth, and fair.
Full many a fowl, and many a cheese,
Made up for loss of time and ease.
The road was long, and weary too:
To shorten it, to talk they flew.
For argument drives sleep away,
And helps a journey on, they say.
The Fox to the Cat says, "My friend,
To be so clever you pretend;
Say what am I? I′ve in this sack
A hundred tricks." "Well, on my back,"
The other, very timid, said,
"I′ve only one, I′m quite afraid;
But that, I hold, is worth a dozen,
My enemies to cheat and cozen."
Then the dispute began anew,
With "So say I!" and "I tell you!"
Till, suddenly, some hounds in sight
Silenced them soon, as it well might.
The Cat cries, "Search your bag, my friend,
Or you are lost, you may depend:
Choose out your choicest stratagem!"
Puss climbed a tree, and baffled them.
The Fox a hundred burrows sought:
Turned, dodged, and doubled, as he thought,
To put the terriers at fault,
And shun their rough and rude assault.
In every place he tried for shelter,
But begged it vainly; helter skelter,
The hounds were on the treacherous scent,
That still betrayed, where′er he went.
At last, as from a hole he started,
Two swift dogs on poor Reynard darted;
Then came up all the yelping crew,
And at his throat at once they flew.
Too many schemes spoil everything,
We lose our time in settling.
Have only one, as wise man should:
But let that one be sound and good.