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CHAPTER III.: THE SECOND SUMMONS. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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THE SECOND SUMMONS.
NOT far did Tybalt on his journey get,
Before a Magpie on the wing he met:
“Hail, noble bird!” quoth he; “vouchsafe to ’light,
As a propitious omen, on my right.”
The Magpie screeched; his onward way he cleft;
Then stooped his wing and perched on Tybalt’s left.
The Cat much serious ill from this forebode,
But on it put the best face that he could.
To Malepartus he proceeded straight,
And found Sir Reynard sitting at his gate.
“Good even, gentle cousin,” Tybalt said,
“May bounteous Heav’n show’r blessings on your head.
I bring sad news; the king has sent to say,
If you come not to court without delay,
Not only your own life will forfeit be,
His wrath will fall on your whole family.”
“Welcome, dear nephew,” quoth the Fox; “not less
I wish you ev’ry kind of happiness.”
Though thus he spoke, it went against his will;
For in his heart he wished him ev’ry ill;
And thought ’twould be the very best of sport
To send him also back disgraced to court.
“Nephew,” said he; for he still called him nephew;
“Step in and see what supper we can give you;
You must be tired; and all physicians tell ye,
You can’t sleep soundly on an empty belly.
I am your host for once; you stay to-night;
And we’ll to court start with to-morrow’s light.
For you of all my kindred love I best,
To you confide myself the readiest.
That brutal Bear was here the other day,
Bouncing and swaggering in such a way,
That not for all the world contains would I
Myself have trusted in his company.
But having you my comrade, travelling
Will be a very diff’rent sort of thing.
So you will share our potluck, then to bed,
And off we start by sunrise: that’s agreed.”
“Nay,” replied Tybalt, “why not go to-night?
The roads are dry; the moon is shining bright.”
May be, the omen on his mem’ry struck;
May be, he had no fancy for potluck.
“I am not fond of trav’lling after night-fall,”
Replies the Fox; “some people are so spiteful;
Who, though by day they civilly would greet you,
Would cut your throat, if they by night should meet you.”
“Well, but,” says Tybalt, in a careless way,
“What have you got for supper if I stay?”
Says Reynard, “Well, I candidly avow,
Our larder is but poorly stocked just now;
But we’ve some honey - comb, if you like that.”
“Like such infernal rubbish!” quoth the Cat,
And spat, and swore a loud and lusty oath,
As he was wont to do when he was wroth;
“If you indeed had got a Mouse or so,
I should much relish them; but honey—pooh!”
“What!” answers Reynard, “are you fond of Mice?
I think I can procure some in a trice,
If you’re in earnest; for the priest, my neighbor,
Vows that to keep them down is quite a labor;
In his tithe barn so num’rously they swarm;
They do him, he declares, no end of harm.”
Thoughtlessly said the Cat, “Do me the favor
To take me where these Mice are; for in flavor
All other game they beat out of the field;
Beside the sport which they in hunting yield.”
“Well.” says the Fox, “now that I know your taste,
I’ll promise you shall have a sumptuous feast.
We’ll start at once and not a moment waste.”
Tybalt had faith and followed; quickly they
Reached the priest’s tithe barn, built with walls of clay.
Only the day before, Reynard a hole
Had through it scratched, and a fat Pullet stole.
Martin, the priest’s young son—or nephew rather,
For he was ne’er allowed to call him father,—
Had found the theft out, and, if possible,
Determined to find out the thief as well;
So, craftily, a running noose he tied,
And fixed it firmly by the hole inside;
Thus hoped he to avenge the stolen Pullet,
Should the thief chance return, upon his gullet.
Reynard, suspecting something of the sort.
Said, “Nephew dear, I wish you lots of sport;
In at this op’ning you can safely glide;
And while you’re mousing, I’ll keep watch outside.
You’ll catch them by the dozen, now ’tis dark:
How merrily they chirrup; only hark!
I shall be waiting here till you come back;
So come as soon as you have had your whack.
To-night, whatever happens, we’ll not part,
As we so early in the morning start.”
Tybalt replies, as any prudent beast would,
“I’ve no great faith, I own it, in the priesthood:
Is’t quite safe, think ye?” Reynard answers, “Well;
Perhaps not: ’tis impossible to tell;
We’d best return at once, as you’re so nervous;
My wife, I’ll answer for it, will not starve us;
She’ll toss up for supper something nice,
If not quite so much to your taste as Mice.”
Stung to the quick by Reynard’s taunting tongue,
Into the op’ning Tybalt boldly sprung,
And plunged directly in the ready snare:
Such entertainment and such dainty fare
Did the sly Fox for all his guests prepare.
When the Cat felt the string about his neck,
He gave a sideward spring and got a check;
This made him throw a wondrous somersaut,
And, the noose tight’ning, he was fairly caught.
To Reynard then he loudly called for aid,
Who list’ning at the hole in mock’ry said:
“Nephew, how are the Mice? I hope they’re fat;
They are well fed enough, I’m sure of that:
If the priest knew his vermin were your venison.
I’m sure he’d bring some mustard, with his benison;
Or send his son with it,—that best of boys.
But nephew, prithee, why make such a noise?
Is it at court the fashion so to sing
At meals? It seems an inconvenient thing.
Oh! but I wish the gentle Isegrim
Were in your place; how I would badger him!
I stake my tail on’t I would make him pay
For all the ill he’s wrought me many a day.”
Then off he starts t’ indulge some other vice;
No matter what; he was not over nice:
There never lived a soul, at any time,
More foully tainted with all kinds of crime;
Murder and theft, adultery and perjury;
’Twas past the skill of spiritual surgery:
He’d broke the Ten Commandments o’er and o’er,
And would as readily have broke a score.
He fancied now some fresh sport might be found
In a short visit to Dame Gieremund;
This he proposed with a two-fold intent;
To learn the grounds of Isegrim’s complaint;
And likewise to renew an ancient sin,
Which he especially delighted in.
Is’grim, he knew, was absent at the court;
And it was common subject of report,
The she Wolf’s passion for the shameless Fox
Had made her husband’s hatred orthodox.
When Reynard to the Wolf’s retreat had come,
He found Dame Gieremund was not at home:
“God bless you, my stepchildren dear:” quoth he;
And to the young ones nods good-humor’dly:
The object of his call he never mentions;
But hastes away after his own inventions.
Dame Gieremund returns at break of day;
“Has no one called here, while I’ve been away?”
Asks she; her children answer, “Yes, mamma;
We’ve had a visit from our godpapa,
Reynard; he called us his stepchildren though;
What did he mean by that?” “I’ll let him know,”
Quoth she, and angrily she hurried off,
Determined to avenge this cutting scoff.
She knew where it was likely she should meet him;
And when she found him thus began to greet him:
“Wretch, monster, brute!” her rage was quite bewild’ring;
“How dare you use such language to my children?
You, of all men, t’ attack my character!
But you shall dearly pay for it, I swear.”
With that she flew at him, and—oh, disgrace!
She pulled him by the beard and scratched his face.
Then first he felt the power of her teeth,
As, grappled by the throat, he gasped for breath:
He ’scaped her clutches though, and fled amain;
She after him; and mark what happened then.
It chanced a ruined abbey stood in sight,
And thitherward in haste both bent their flight:
A fissure was there in the crumbling wall,
Narrow it was and low and all ways small;
Through this the subtle Fox contrived to pass,
Though hardly, thin and lanky as he was;
My lady, who was anything but slim,
Rammed in her head and tried to follow him;
But fast she stuck—it seemed fate helped the blackguard,—
And she could neither forward get nor backward.
Soon as the Fox saw how she was confin’d,
Quick he whipped round and fell on her behind:
And not without full many a bitter scoff,
For all she’d done he amply paid her off.
Wearied with vengeance, if not satiated,
The mischief-loving rogue at length retreated.
And when Dame Gieremund at length got free,
No where in all the neighborhood was he.
Homeward, with tottering steps, she then returned;
While with revenge and shame her panting bosom burned.
Return we now to Tybalt; when he found
How in that slipknot durance he was bound,
That strength and struggling nothing might avail,
After the mode of Cats, he ’gan to wail.
This Martin heard, and swift sprang out of bed:
“The Lord be praised!” the impish urchin said,
“The thief is caught that stole our Hen away;
And, please the pigs, he shall the piper pay;
And that right dearly too, if but the noose hold:”
Then struck a light and woke up all the household;
Shouting, “The Fox is caught!” Up rose they all,
And came down helter-skelter, great and small;
Women and men, in shirts, and in chemises,
But ill protected ’gainst the cool night-breezes.
Roused from his sleep, e’en the good father came;
But threw a mantle round his decent frame;
His cook with lighted flambeau ran before;
The little Martin a stout cudgel bore;
With this, soon as the wretched Cat he spies out,
He strikes a blow and knocks one of his eyes out.
All fell upon him; with a three-pronged fork,
The priest approached and deemed to end the work.
Then Tybalt thought it was his hour to die;
One plunge he made with desp’rate energy,
Darting between the rev’rend pastor’s thighs,
He scratched and bit with wild demoniac cries.
And fearfully avenged his injured eyes.
The parson shrieked and fell into a swoon;
The cook beside him knelt in anguish down;
Pitying the suff’rings of the good old priest,
She said, “The devil damn the vicious beast!”
And wildly did she prattle in her ravings;
She would have lost far sooner all her savings,
Than this mishap had chanced; she even swore,
That if she had possessed of gold a store,
In alms she would have freely giv’n it, rather
Than such hurt had been done the worthy father.
Thus did she wail, and many tears she shed:
At length they bore him bleeding to his bed.
In grief some passed the night, and some in chat,
Trying to put together this and that;
And quite forgetting all about the Cat.
But Tybalt, when he found himself alone,
Maimed tho’ he was, with half his senses gone,
Felt the strong love of life tenacious yet,
And from that stubborn noose resolved to get.
He seized it in his teeth and gnawed amain,
And with success, for the cord brake in twain;
And he was loose. How happy then was he,
If such a woeful wretch could happy be.
Out at the hole he crept, where he sprang in,
And fled the spot, where he’d so outraged been.
He hastened on his road, in shame and sorrow,
Towards the court, and reached it on the morrow.
And bitterly did he himself upbraid:
“Me! to be so completely gulled!” he said;
“How shall I ever show my face for shame,
All battered as I am, half blind, and lame?
The very Sparrows in the hedge will cry out,
‘There you go, Master Tybalt, with your eye out!’ ”
Who shall describe the wrath King Noble felt,
When at his feet the injured Tybalt knelt?
He swore the traitor vile should die the death:
His council in all haste he summoneth:
The lords spiritual and temporal
Assembled in obedience to his call:
And the king said—he wished it to be known
He would maintain the honor of his crown;
That is, so it were done consistently
With the true principles of liberty:
But something must at once be done to stem
Rebellion; and he left it all to them.—
Judgment, ’twas moved, against the Fox should pass, he
Being doomed at once to death for contumacy.
The Badger, seeing what a storm was brewing,
How all conspired to work his kinsman’s ruin,
Thus spake: “My liege, it boots not to deny
These charges press on Reynard grievously;
But justice follows one eternal plan:
Remember, sire, the Fox is a free man;
The law in such a case is most precise,
Requiring that he should be summoned thrice:
If then he fail, there is naught more to say;
But law and justice both must have their way.”
“Ha!” said the monarch sternly, “say you so?
Where shall be found the messenger to go?
Who hath an eye too many? who will stake
His life and limbs for this bad traitor’s sake?
’Gainst Reynard’s cunning who will wage his wit?
I doubt if any one will venture it.”
The Badger answered, “I will venture, sire;
And undertake the task, if you desire;
Happen what may. Whether ’tis better, I
A summons bear straight from your majesty;
Or of my own accord appear to go:
Whichever you think best, that will I do.”
“Go then! so let it be;” the monarch said;
“You know what crimes to Reynard’s charge are laid;
You know too all his malice; so beware,
Your predecessors’ fate lest you may share.”
Graybeard replied, “I trust I may prevail;
But shall have done my duty, if I fail.”
Away to Malepartus doth he hie;
Finds Reynard with his wife and family;
And greets him: “Save you, uncle; I can’t tell
How charmed I am to see you look so well.
E’en let your enemies say what they can,
You’re a most extraordinary man:
Prudent and wise and wary as you are,
Yet the king’s wrath so scornfully to dare.
You’d best be warned in time; on ev’ry side
Are ill reports against you multiplied.
Take my advice; with me to court away,
’Twill help you nothing longer to delay.
You’re charged with almost ev’ry sort of crime;
You’re summoned now to-day for the third time,
And surely sentenced if you fail t’ appear:
The king will straightway lead his barons here;
And what can you expect will then befall?
You will be ta’en and hanged: nor is that all:
Your fortress razed, your children and your wife
Cruelly butchered, or enslaved for life.
From the king’s wrath you cannot hope to flee;
Better then, surely, to return with me.
You need not dread to stand before your judges;
You’re never at a loss for cunning dodges:
With your consummate skill and artifice,
You’ve got thro’ many a scrape, and will thro’ this.”
Thus Graybeard spake, and Reynard thus replied:
“Your counsel, nephew, shall my conduct guide:
I were to blame, should I your warning slight;
I will to court; and Heav’n defend the right;
The king besides, I trust, some grace may show;
The use I’ve been to him he well doth know;
That for no other cause than this I’m hated,
And, save your presence, like a Badger baited.
The court would go to pieces but for me;
I don’t pretend that from all blame I’m free;
But were I ten times deeper in disgrace,
Could I but see my sov’reign face to face,
And come to speech with him, I would engage
To soothe the transports of his royal rage.
Many ’tis true may at his council sit;
But many heads have oft but scanty wit:
When they get fixed in one of their dead locks,
To whom send they for aid, but to the Fox?
No matter how involved the case may be,
They find it smooth and easy, thanks to me.
For this I meet with envy; even those
I most befriend turn out my bitt’rest foes;
But moralists agree ’tis not more hateful,
Than it is natural, to be ungrateful.
’Tis this I have to fear; for well I know
My death they have intended long ago.
Ten of the mightiest barons in the land
My utter downfall seek—a pow’rful band:
Can I alone such odds as these withstand?
’Twas only this kept me from court, I vow;
But I agree ’twere best to go there now.
By far more honorable that will be,
Than bring my dearest wife and family,
By tarrying here, into disgrace and trouble;
For that would only make the mischief double.
And of the king I stand in wholesome awe,
His arm is mighty and his will is law.
Mine enemies perchance by courtesy
I may subdue; at least I can but try.”
Then to his wife, who stood with weeping eyne,
He turned and said—“My gentle Ermelyne,
Be mindful of our children; yet I know
You need no hint from me to make you so.
Our youngest, Graykin, will most care require;
He’ll be the living image of his sire,
If these convulsions do not stop his breathing,
And by Heaven’s blessing he survive his teething.
And here’s this cunning little rascal, Russel,
He thro’ the world will manage well to bustle;
His pluck may get him into many a scrape,
His craft will ever teach him how to ’scape:
I love him well, and have no fear for him;
He’ll be a match, I ween, for Isegrim
And all his brood. And now, farewell, dear Chuck;
When I return, as, have I any luck,
I soon shall do, I’ll prove me sensible
Of all your kindness: so once more, farewell.”
Then from his home with Graybeard he departed;
And sad he felt in spirit and down-hearted;
And sad too, grieving for her mate and sick son,
Was the leal soul of Ermelyne, the Vixen.
Reynard nor Graybeard neither silence brake
For near an hour; then thus the former spake:
“Ah, nephew, heavy is my soul to-night;
For, truth to speak, I’m in a mortal fright;
My frame with strange forebodings shuddereth;
I feel assured I go to certain death;
My conscience sinks ’neath mine enormities;
You little think how ill I am at ease.
Will you, dear nephew, my confession hear?
There is, alas! no rev’rend pastor near:
Could I but of this load my bosom free,
I then should face the king more cheerfully.”
“Confession certes benefits the soul,”
Quoth Graybeard; “but you must confess the whole;
All treasons, felonies and misdemeanors,
However great—and great, no doubt, have been yours.”
“Yea,” answered Reynard, “I will naught conceal;
List then, oh, list, while I my crimes reveal.
Confiteor tibi, Pater—” “Nay, no Latin!”
Quoth Graybeard: “’tis a tongue I’m nowise pat in.
It would not much avail you to be shriven,
If I knew not the sins I had forgiven.”
“So be it then;” the Fox rejoined; “I ween
A very wicked sinner I have been;
And I must do what penance you enjoin
To save this miserable soul of mine.
The Otter, and the Dog, and many more,
With many a trick have I tormented sore:
Indeed of living beasts there scarce is one
To whom I’ve not some turn of mischief done.
Mine Uncle Bruin I beguiled of late;
With honey he prepared his maw to sate;
I sent him back with bloody paws and pate:
And Cousin Tibby, he came here to mouse;
I cozened him into a running noose,
And there, I’m told, an eye he chanced to lose.
But I must say the fault was somewhat theirs;
They should have minded more the king’s affairs.
With justice too complains Sir Chanticleer;
I ate his chicks—and very good they were.
Nay, with unfeigned repentance I must own
I have not spared the king upon the throne;
And, Heaven forgive me for it! even the queen
Has not been safe from my malicious spleen.
But most I’ve outraged Isegrim, the Wolf;
’Twixt him and me yawns an abysmal gulf.
Him I’ve disgraced in ev’ry way I could;
And if I might have done so more, I would.
I’ve even called him uncle, as a jibe;
For I’m no kin to any of his tribe.
“He came to me about six years ago;
I lived then in the cloister, down below;
He sought my help a monk to get him made;
His fancy was to toll the bells, he said;
He loved the sound so much: so with a loop,
I fastened his fore-feet into the rope:
He was delighted, and began to toll—
’Twas the great bell—with all his heart and soul;
But not much credit did his efforts win;
For he kicked up such an infernal din,
Out rushed the people when the noise they heard,
Thinking some dread mishap must have occurr’d.
They came and found my friend the Wolf; and ere
His purpose to turn monk he could declare,
They fell to work, and so belabored him,
’Twas all but up with Master Isegrim.
“The fool was still unsatisfied; still craved
To be a monk and have his noddle shaved;
With a hot iron then I singed his poll,
Till the swart skin all shrivelled on his skull.
Ah! many are the blows and thumps and kicks
That he has been regaled with through my tricks.
I taught him the best manner to catch fish;
And he caught just as many as I’d wish.
“Once, when in partnership we chanced t’ engage,
We groped our way into a parsonage;
Well stored the larder was of the good priest.
For he was rich and amply benefic’d.
Bacon there was and hams more than enough,
And lots of pork lay salting in a trough.
Is’grim contrived to scratch the stone wall through,
And crept in at the hole with much ado,
Urged on by me and his own appetite;
For with long fasting he was rav’nous quite.
I did not follow, as I had some doubt
How, if I once got in, I might get out.
Isegrim gorged till chuck-full to the eyes,
And swelled to nearly twice his former size;
So that, although he strove with might and main,
He could not for his life get out again.
‘Thou lett’st me in,’ he cried, ‘O faithless hole!
Empty, and will not let me out when full.’
Away I hastened; raised a loud alarm,
On the Wolf’s track in hopes the boors might swarm.
Into the parson’s dwelling then I run;
And find him to his dinner sitting down,—
A fine fat capon just brought on the tray,—
This I snapped up, and with it stole away.
Up rose the priest in haste and overthrew
The table with the food and liquors too;
On ev’ry side the glass and crock’ry flew.
‘Kill him!’ called out th’ enraged ecclesiastic;
‘Oh! that the bones in his damned gullet may stick!’
Then, his feet catching in the cloth, he stumbled.
And all among the mess and fragments tumbled.
But loudly he continued still to bawl:
The hubbub brought the household, one and all.
Away I sped, as fast as I could go;
They after me, with whoop and tally-ho:
The parson shouting loud as he was able,
‘The thief! he’s stole my dinner from my table!’
I ne’er, until I reached the pantry, stopped;
But there, ah, well-a-day! the fowl I dropped;
I could no longer toil beneath its weight,
But lightened of my load escaped by flight.
The parson, stooping to pick up the fowl,
Spied Master Is’grim stuck fast in the hole:
‘Halloo!’ he cried, ‘halloo! come here, my friends!
See what a scapegoat righteous Heaven sends!
Here’s a Wolf caught; if he should get away
We were disgraced forever and a day.’
The Wolf no doubt wished he’d ne’er seen the larder;
Meanwhile their blows rained on him, harder and harder;
And many a grievous thump and kick and thwack
He got upon his shoulders, sides and back;
And all the while, as if the devil stirr’d them,
They yelled and screamed and swore—I stood and heard them.
At length it seemed all up with Isegrim;
He swooned; and then they left off beating him.
I’d lay a bet he never had before
His hide so curried, and will never more.
’Twould make an altar-piece, to paint the way
They made him for the parson’s victuals pay.
At length out in the street for dead they threw him;
And over shards and pebbles rough they drew him:
Then flung him, as no signs of life he show’d,
Into a stagnant ditch beside the road,
And left him buried there in slime and mud.
How he recovered’s more than I can tell;
It almost seems a sort of miracle.
“Yet after this, about a year, he swore
To be my friend and firm ally once more:
I cannot say his word I quite believed;
I felt that one of us would be deceived.
I soon found out his object was to get
A meal of fowls on which his heart was set.
I told him of a rafter, where there us’d
A Cock with seven fine fat Hens to roost.
It was past twelve o’clock one cloudy night,
When moon and stars gave not one ray of light,
I took him to a house I’d known before,
Where was a window on the second floor;
The lattice shutter by good luck stood ope;
To this along the wall we slyly crope;
And, being never barren in expedients,
I prayed mine uncle he would take precedence:
‘Go boldly in,’ I whispered; ‘do not fear;
You never saw such fowls, as you’ll find here;
I’ll warrant, you ne’er finer met or plumper;
I’d lay my life you’ll carry off a thumper.’
Cautiously in he stole, while I stayed out;
And here and there he ’gan to grope about:
But before long in tones subdued he said,
‘Reynard, by all that’s holy, I’m betrayed;
You’ve led me, I suspect, a wildgoose chase;
Of fowls I find not the remotest trace.’
‘The foremost I’ve long had,’ said I; ‘you’ll find
The others just a little way behind:
You’d better make your way across the rafter;
Don’t be afraid; I’ll follow closely after.’
This rafter now was anything but broad,
And no ways suited to sustain a load;
And Isegrim was fain to use his talons
In order any how to keep his balance.
Out at the window I contrived to back,
And then slammed to the shutter in a crack;
It jarred the rafter, and the Wolf fell plump, ere
He could restore himself, a monstrous thumper.
Thus was again my prophecy fulfill’d;
In such prophetic warnings am I skill’d.
The housecarles, who around the chimney dozed,
Were, by his heavy fall, from slumber roused;
‘What’s that fall’n from the window?’ cried they all,
And lit the lamp and searched about the hall;
And in a corner found they Isegrim;
Good saints in heav’n! how they did punish him!
Yet somehow he contrived to get away
With a whole skin, but how I cannot say.
“I must confess too, even though it wound
A lady’s honor, with Dame Gieremund
I’ve oftentimes committed mortal sin:—
It is so hard to stop when you begin.
This fault with deep contrition I deplore,
And trust I never may be tempted more.
“Such are my sins, O father! if not all,
At least I have confessed the principal.
I pray for absolution, and submit
To whatsoever penance you think fit.”
Then Graybeard shook his head, looked wise and big;
And from a neighb’ring bush plucked off a twig.
“My son,” quoth he, “this rod receive; with it
Three times your back in penance must you smite;
Next, having laid it gently on the ground,
Three times across it must you gravely bound;
Lastly, in humble and obedient mood,
Three times with rev’rence must you kiss the rod.
This done, I pardon and absolve you quite,
And ev’ry other punishment remit.”
This penance cheerfully by Reynard done,
Graybeard resumed: “Let your good works, my son,
Prove the sincerity of your repentance.
Read psalms, and learn by heart each pious sentence;
Go oft to church; mind what the pastor says;
And duly fast on the appointed days;
Show those, who seek, the right path; from your store
Give willingly and largely to the poor;
And from your heart and soul renounce the devil
And all his works, and ev’ry thought of evil.
So shall you come to grace at last.” “To do
All this,” said Reynard, “solemnly I vow.”
The shrift now ended, tow’rds the court they bent
Their steps,—the confessor and penitent—
In seeming meditation wrapt: their way
Through pleasant woods and fertile pastures lay.
On their right hand an ancient cloister stood,
Where holy women of religious mood,
Passed a pure life in social solitude.
Stored was their yard with Cocks and Hens and Chickens,
Who often roamed abroad in search of pickings.
Reynard, when not with weightier matters busied,
Would pay them frequently a friendly visit.
And now to Graybeard did he turn and say,
“By yonder wall you’ll find our shortest way.”
He did not mean exactly what he said;
His confessor towards the wall he led;
While greedily his eyes rolled in his roguish head.
One Cock’rel notes he in particular,
Who plump and proud was strutting in the rear:
On him pounced Reynard sudden from behind,
And made his feathers scatter in the wind.
While the Fox licked his disappointed chaps,
Graybeard, incensed at such a sad relapse,
Exclaimed, “Alas, alas! what have you done?
Is this your penitence, unworthy son?
Fresh from confession, for a paltry fowl
Will you so peril your unhappy soul?”
Said Reynard, “You rebuke me as you ought;
For I have sinned in truth, tho’ but in thought.
Pray for me, dearest nephew, pray to heaven,
With other sins that this may be forgiven.
Never, oh! never more will I offend.”
The cloister passed, the highway they regain’d:
Their pathway lay across a narrow nook:
The Fox behind cast many a longing look
Towards those tempting fowls; it was in vain
He strove his carnal yearnings to restrain.
If any one had then struck off his head,
Back to the fowls it must perforce have fled.
Graybeard said sternly, “Whither doth your eye
Still wander? This is hateful gluttony.”
Quoth Reynard, “You quite misconceive th’ affair;
You should not interrupt me when in pray’r.
Let me conclude my orisons for those
Whose souls I’ve sent to premature repose;
Their bodies to my maw a prey were given:
For thus accomplished was the will of Heaven.”
Graybeard was silent; Reynard did not turn
His head, while yet the fowls he could discern.
They’ve left the cloister now behind them quite;
They near the court; the palace is in sight:
Reynard’s bold heart beats faintly in his breast;
So grave the charges that against him prest.