The Jugglers

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Fable XLII

A juggler long through all the town
Had raised his fortune and renown;
You'd think (so far his art transcends)
The devil at his fingers' ends.
   Vice heard his fame, she read his bill;
Convinced of his inferior skill,
She sought his booth, and from the crowd
Defied the man of art aloud:
   'Is this, then, he so famed for sleight?
Can this slow bungler cheat your sight!

Dares he with me dispute the prize?
I leave it to impartial eyes.'
   Provoked, the juggler cried, “tis done.
In science I submit to none.'
   Thus said, the cups and balls he played;
By turns, this here, that there, conveyed.
The cards, obedient to his words,
Are by a fillip turned to birds.
His little boxes change the grain:
Trick after trick deludes the train.

He shakes his bag, he shows all fair;
His fingers spreads, and nothing there;
Then bids it rain with showers of gold,
And now his ivory eggs are told.
But when from thence the hen he draws,
Amazed spectators hum applause.
   Vice now stept forth, and took the place
With all the forms of his grimace.
   'This magic looking-glass,' she cries,
(There, hand it round) 'will charm your eyes.'

Each eager eye the sight desired,
And every man himself admired.
   Next to a senator addressing:
'See this bank-note; observe the blessing,
Breathe on the bill.' Heigh, pass! 'Tis gone.
Upon his lips a padlock shone.
A second puff the magic broke,
The padlock vanished, and he spoke.
   Twelve bottles ranged upon the board,
All full, with heady liquor stored,

By clean conveyance disappear,
And now two bloody swords are there.
   A purse she to a thief exposed,
At once his ready fingers closed;
He opes his fist, the treasure's fled;
He sees a halter in its stead.
   She bids ambition hold a wand;
He grasps a hatchet in his hand.
   A box of charity she shows,
'Blow here;' and a churchwarden blows,

'Tis vanished with conveyance neat,
And on the table smokes a treat.
   She shakes the dice, the boards she knocks,
And from all pockets fills her box.
   She next a meagre rake address'd:
'This picture see; her shape, her breast!
What youth, and what inviting eyes!
Hold her, and have her.' With surprise,
His hand exposed a box of pills,
And a loud laugh proclaimed his ills.

   A counter, in a miser's hand,
Grew twenty guineas at command.
She bids his heir the sum retain,
And 'tis a counter now again.
A guinea with her touch you see
Take every shape, but charity;
And not one thing you saw, or drew,
But changed from what was first in view.
   The juggler now in grief of heart,
With this submission owned her art:

'Can I such matchless sleight withstand?
How practice hath improved your hand!
But now and then I cheat the throng;
You every day, and all day long.'



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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