The Man and the Flea

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Fable XLIX

Whether on earth, in air, or main,
Sure everything alive is vain!
Does not the hawk all fowls survey,
As destined only for his prey?
And do not tyrants, prouder things,
Think men were born for slaves to kings?
   When the crab views the pearly strands,
Or Tagus, bright with golden sands;
Or crawls beside the coral grove,
And hears the ocean roll above;

'Nature is too profuse,' says he,
'Who gave all these to pleasure me!'
When bordering pinks and roses bloom,
And every garden breathes perfume;
When peaches glow with sunny dyes,
Like Laura's cheek, when blushes rise;
When with huge figs the branches bend,
When clusters from the vine depend;
The snail looks round on flower and tree,
And cries, 'All these were made for me!'

   'What dignity's in human nature!'
Says man, the most conceited creature,
As from a cliff he cast his eye,
And viewed the sea and arched sky;
The sun was sunk beneath the main,
The moon and all the starry train
Hung the vast vault of heaven. The man
His contemplation thus began:
   'When I behold this glorious show,
And the wide watery world below,

The scaly people of the main,
The beasts that range the wood or plain,
The winged inhabitants of air,
The day, the night, the various year,
And know all these by heaven design'd
As gifts to pleasure human kind;
I cannot raise my worth too high;
Of what vast consequence am I!'
   'Not of the importance you suppose,'
Replies a flea upon his nose.

'Be humble, learn thyself to scan;
Know, pride was never made for man.
'Tis vanity that swells thy mind.
What, heaven and earth for thee designed!
For thee, made only for our need,
That more important fleas might feed.'

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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