The Butterfly and the Snail

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Fable XXIV

All upstarts insolent in place,
Remind us of their vulgar race.
As, in the sunshine of the morn,
A butterfly (but newly born)
Sat proudly perking on a rose;
With pert conceit his bosom glows;
His wings (all-glorious to behold)
Bedropp'd with azure, jet, and gold,
Wide he displays; the spangled dew
Reflects his eyes, and various hue.

   His now-forgotten friend, a snail,
Beneath his house, with slimy trail
Crawls o'er the grass; whom when he spies,
In wrath he to the gard'ner cries:
   'What means yon peasant's daily toil,
From choking weeds to rid the soil?
Why wake you to the morning's care,
Why with new arts correct the year,
Why glows the peach with crimson hue,
And why the plum's inviting blue;

Were they to feast his taste design'd,
That vermin of voracious kind?
Crush then the slow, the pilfering race;
So purge thy garden from disgrace.'
   'What arrogance!' the snail replied;
'How insolent is upstart pride!
Hadst thou not thus with insult vain,
Provoked my patience to complain,
I had concealed thy meaner birth,
Nor traced thee to the scum of earth.

For scarce nine suns have waked the hours,
To swell the fruit, and paint the flowers,
Since I thy humbler life surveyed,
In base, in sordid guise arrayed;
A hideous insect, vile, unclean,
You dragged a slow and noisome train;
And from your spider-bowels drew
Foul film, and spun the dirty clew.
I own my humble life, good friend;
Snail was I born, and snail shall end.

And what's a butterfly? At best,
He's but a caterpillar, dress'd;
And all thy race (a numerous seed)
Shall prove of caterpillar breed.'

The Fables, Volume 1 (1727)
Introduction The Shepard and the Philosopher
Fable I The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller
Fable II The Spaniel and the Cameleon
Fable III The Mother, the Nurse, and the Fairy
Fable IV The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals
Fable V The wild Boar and the Ram
Fable VI The Miser and Plutus
Fable VII The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese
Fable VIII The Lady and the Wasp
Fable IX The Bull and the Mastiff
Fable X The Elephant and the Bookseller
Fable XI The Peacock, the Turkey, and the Goose
Fable XII Cupid, Hymen, and Plutus
Fable XIII The Tame Stag
Fable XIV The Monkey who had seen the World
Fable XV The Philosopher and the Pheasants
Fable XVI The Pin and the Needle
Fable XVII The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf
Fable XVIII The Painter who pleased Nobody and Everybody
Fable XIX The Lion and the Cub
Fable XX The Old Hen and the Cock
Fable XXI The Rat-catcher and Cats
Fable XXII The Goat without a Beard
Fable XXIII The Old Woman and her Cats
Fable XXIV The Butterfly and the Snail
Fable XXV The Scold and the Parrot
Fable XXVI The Cur and the Mastiff
Fable XXVII The Sick Man and the Angel
Fable XXVIII The Persian, the Sun, and the Cloud
Fable XXIX The Fox at the point of Death
Fable XXX The Setting-dog and the Partridge
Fable XXXI The Universal Apparition
Fable XXXII The Two Owls and the Sparrow
Fable XXXIII The Courtier and Proteus
Fable XXXIV The Mastiffs
Fable XXXV The Barley-mow and the Dunghill
Fable XXXVI Pythagoras and the Countryman
Fable XXXVII The Farmer's Wife and the Raven
Fable XXXVIII The Turkey and the Ant
Fable XXXIX The Father and Jupiter
Fable XL The Two Monkeys
Fable XLI The Owl and the Farmer
Fable XLII The Jugglers
Fable XLIII The Council of Horses
Fable XLIV The Hound and the Huntsman
Fable XLV The Poet and the Rose
Fable XLVI The Cur, the Horse, and the Shepherd's Dog
Fable XLVII The Court of Death
Fable XLVIII The Gardener and the Hog
Fable XLIX The Man and the Flea
Fable L The Hare and many Friends

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