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.'


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