The Mastiffs

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Fable XXXIV

Those who in quarrels interpose,
Must often wipe a bloody nose.
   A mastiff, of true English blood,
Loved fighting better than his food.
When dogs were snarling for a bone,
He longed to make the war his own,
And often found (when two contend)
To interpose obtained his end;
He gloried in his limping pace;
The scars of honour seamed his face;

In every limb a gash appears,
And frequent fights retrenched his ears.
   As, on a time, he heard from far
Two dogs engaged in noisy war,
Away he scours and lays about him,
Resolved no fray should be without him.
   Forth from his yard a tanner flies,
And to the bold intruder cries:
   'A cudgel shall correct your manners,
Whence sprung this cursed hate to tanners?

While on my dog you vent your spite,
Sirrah! 'tis me you dare not bite.'
To see the battle thus perplexed,
With equal rage a butcher vexed,
Hoarse-screaming from the circled crowd,
To the cursed mastiff cries aloud:
   'Both Hockley-hole and Mary-bone
The combats of my dog have known.
He ne'er, like bullies coward-hearted,
Attacks in public, to be parted.

Think not, rash fool, to share his fame:
Be his the honour, or the shame.'
   Thus said, they swore, and raved like thunder;
Then dragged their fastened dogs asunder;
While clubs and kicks from every side
Rebounded from the mastiff's hide.
   All reeking now with sweat and blood,
Awhile the parted warriors stood,
Then poured upon the meddling foe;
Who, worried, howled and sprawled below.

He rose; and limping from the fray,
By both sides mangled, sneaked away.


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