The Universal Apparition

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Fable XXXI

A rake, by every passion ruled,
With every vice his youth had cooled;
Disease his tainted blood assails;
His spirits droop, his vigour fails;
With secret ills at home he pines,
And, like infirm old age, declines.
   As, twinged with pain, he pensive sits,
And raves, and prays, and swears by fits,
A ghastly phantom, lean and wan,
Before him rose, and thus began:

  'My name, perhaps, hath reached your ear;
Attend, and be advised by Care.
Nor love, nor honour, wealth, nor power,
Can give the heart a cheerful hour,
When health is lost. Be timely wise:
With health all taste of pleasure flies.'
   Thus said, the phantom disappears.
The wary counsel waked his fears:
He now from all excess abstains,
With physic purifies his veins;

And, to procure a sober life,
Resolves to venture on a wife.
   But now again the sprite ascends,
Where'er he walks his ear attends;
Insinuates that beauty's frail,
That perseverance must prevail;
With jealousies his brain inflames,
And whispers all her lovers' names.
In other hours she represents
His household charge, his annual rents,

Increasing debts, perplexing duns,
And nothing for his younger sons.
   Straight all his thought to gain he turns,
And with the thirst of lucre burns.
But when possessed of fortune's store,
The spectre haunts him more and more;
Sets want and misery in view,
Bold thieves, and all the murd'ring crew,
Alarms him with eternal frights,
Infests his dream, or wakes his nights.

How shall he chase this hideous guest?
Power may perhaps protect his rest.
To power he rose. Again the sprite
Besets him, morning, noon, and night!
Talks of ambition's tottering seat,
How envy persecutes the great,
Of rival hate, of treacherous friends,
And what disgrace his fall attends.
   The Court he quits to fly from Care,
And seeks the peace of rural air:

His groves, his fields, amused his hours;
He pruned his trees, he raised his flowers.
But Care again his steps pursues;
Warns him of blasts, of blighting dews,
Of plund'ring insects, snails, and rains,
And droughts that starved the laboured plains.
Abroad, at home, the spectre's there:
In vain we seek to fly from Care.
At length he thus the ghost address'd:
'Since thou must be my constant guest,

Be kind, and follow me no more;
For Care by right should go before.'

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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