The Court of Death

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Death, on a solemn night of state,
In all his pomp of terror sate:
The attendants of his gloomy reign,
Diseases dire, a ghastly train!
Crowd the vast court. With hollow tone,
A voice thus thundered from the throne:
   'This night our minister we name,
Let every servant speak his claim;
Merit shall bear this ebon wand;'
All, at the word, stretch'd forth their hand.

   Fever, with burning heat possess'd,
Advanced, and for the wand address'd:
'I to the weekly bills appeal,
Let those express my fervent zeal;
On every slight occasion near,
With violence I persevere.'
   Next Gout appears with limping pace,
Pleads how he shifts from place to place,
From head to foot how swift he flies, 19
And every joint and sinew plies;

Still working when he seems suppress'd,
A most tenacious stubborn guest.
   A haggard spectre from the crew
Crawls forth, and thus asserts his due:
'Tis I who taint the sweetest joy,
And in the shape of love destroy:
My shanks, sunk eyes, and noseless face,
Prove my pretension to the place.'
   Stone urged his ever-growing force.
And, next, Consumption's meagre corse,

With feeble voice, that scarce was heard,
Broke with short coughs, his suit preferred:
'Let none object my ling'ring way,
I gain, like Fabius, by delay;
Fatigue and weaken every foe
By long attack, secure, though slow.'
   Plague represents his rapid power,
Who thinned a nation in an hour.
   All spoke their claim, and hoped the wand.
Now expectation hushed the band,

When thus the monarch from the throne:
   'Merit was ever modest known,
What, no physician speak his right!
None here! but fees their toils requite.
Let then Intemperance take the wand,
Who fills with gold their zealous hand.
You, Fever, Gout, and all the rest,
(Whom wary men, as foes, detest,)
Forego your claim; no more pretend:
Intemperance is esteemed a friend;

He shares their mirth, their social joys,
And, as a courted guest, destroys.
The charge on him must justly fall,
Who finds employment for you all.'

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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