The Tame Stag

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Fable XIII

As a young stag the thicket pass'd,
The branches held his antlers fast;
A clown, who saw the captive hung,
Across the horns his halter flung.
   Now safely hampered in the cord,
He bore the present to his lord.
His lord was pleased; as was the clown,
When he was tipp'd with half-a-crown.
The stag was brought before his wife;
The tender lady begged his life.

'How sleek's the skin! how speck'd like ermine!
Sure never creature was so charming!'
   At first within the yard confined,
He flies and hides from all mankind;
Now bolder grown, with fixed amaze,
And distant awe, presumes to gaze;
Munches the linen on the lines,
And on a hood or apron dines:
He steals my little master's bread,
Follows the servants to be fed:

Nearer and nearer now he stands,
To feel the praise of patting hands;
Examines every fist for meat,
And though repulsed, disdains retreat:
Attacks again with levelled horns;
And man, that was his terror, scorns.
   Such is the country maiden's fright,
When first a red-coat is in sight;
Behind the door she hides her face;
Next time at distance eyes the lace;

She now can all his terrors stand,
Nor from his squeeze withdraws her hand.
She plays familiar in his arms,
And every soldier hath his charms.
From tent to tent she spreads her flame;
For custom conquers fear and shame.


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