The Fox at the point of Death

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Fable XXIX

A fox, in life's extreme decay,
Weak, sick, and faint, expiring lay;
All appetite had left his maw,
And age disarmed his mumbling jaw.
His numerous race around him stand
To learn their dying sire's command:
He raised his head with whining moan,
And thus was heard the feeble tone:
   'Ah, sons! from evil ways depart:
My crimes lie heavy on my heart.

   See, see, the murdered geese appear!
Why are those bleeding turkeys here?
Why all around this cackling train,
Who haunt my ears for chicken slain?
   The hungry foxes round them stared,
And for the promised feast prepared.
   'Where, sir, is all this dainty cheer?
Nor turkey, goose, nor hen is here.
These are the phantoms of your brain,
And your sons lick their lips in vain.'

   'O gluttons!' says the drooping sire,
'Restrain inordinate desire.
Your liqu'rish taste you shall deplore,
When peace of conscience is no more.
Does not the hound betray our pace,
And gins and guns destroy our race?
Thieves dread the searching eye of power,
And never feel the quiet hour.
Old age (which few of us shall know)
Now puts a period to my woe.

Would you true happiness attain,
Let honesty your passions rein;
So live in credit and esteem,
And the good name you lost, redeem.'
   'The counsel's good,' a fox replies,
'Could we perform what you advise.
Think what our ancestors have done;
A line of thieves from son to son:
To us descends the long disgrace,
And infamy hath marked our race.

Though we, like harmless sheep, should feed,
Honest in thought, in word, and deed;
Whatever henroost is decreased,
We shall be thought to share the feast.
The change shall never be believed,
A lost good name is ne'er retrieved.'
   'Nay, then,' replies the feeble fox,
'(But hark! I hear a hen that clocks)
Go, but be moderate in your food;
A chicken too might do me good.'



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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