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The BEE, the ANT, and the SPARROW:

A FABLE.

Address'd to PHEBE and KITTY C. at Boarding School.

1 MY dears, 'tis said in days of old,
2 That beasts cou'd talk, and birds could scold.
3 But now it seems the human race
4 Alone engross the speaker's place.
5 Yet lately, if report be true,
6 (And much the tale relates to you)
7 There met a Sparrow, Ant, and Bee,
8 Which reason'd and convers'd as we.
9 Who reads my page will doubtless grant
10 That Phe's the wise industrious Ant.
11 And all with half an eye may see
12 That Kitty is the busy Bee.
13 Here then are two but where's the third?
14 Go search your school, you'll find the Bird.
15 Your school! I ask your pardon fair,
16 I'm sure you'll find no Sparrow there.
17 Now to my tale One summer's morn
18 A Bee rang'd o'er the verdant lawn;
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19 Studious to husband every hour,
20 And make the most of every flow'r.
21 Nimble from stalk to stalk she flies,
22 And loads with yellow wax her thighs;
23 With which the artist builds her comb,
24 And keeps all tight and warm at home:
25 Or from the cowslip's golden bells
26 Sucks honey to enrich her cells:
27 Or every tempting rose pursues,
28 Or sips the lilly's fragrant dews;
29 Yet never robs the shining bloom,
30 Or of its beauty or perfume.
31 Thus she discharg'd in every way
32 The various duties of the day.
33 It chanc'd a frugal Ant was near,
34 Whose brow was wrinkled o'er by care:
35 A great oeconomist was she,
36 Nor less laborious than the Bee;
37 By pensive parents often taught
38 What ills arise from want of thought;
39 That poverty on sloth depends,
40 On poverty the loss of friends.
41 Hence every day the Ant is found
42 With anxious steps to tread the ground;
43 With curious search to trace the grain,
44 And drag the heavy load with pain.
45 The active Bee with pleasure saw
46 The Ant fulfil her parents' law.
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47 Ah! sister-labourer, says she,
48 How very fortunate are we!
49 Who taught in infancy to know
50 The comforts, which from labour flow,
51 Are independent of the great,
52 Nor know the wants of pride and state.
53 Why is our food so very sweet?
54 Because we earn, before we eat.
55 Why are our wants so very few?
56 Because we nature's calls pursue.
57 Whence our complacency of mind?
58 Because we act our parts assign'd.
59 Have we incessant tasks to do?
60 Is not all nature busy too!
61 Doth not the sun with constant pace
62 Persist to run his annual race?
63 Do not the stars, which shine so bright,
64 Renew their courses every night?
65 Doth not the ox obedient bow
66 His patient neck, and draw the plough?
67 Or when did e'er the generous steed
68 Withhold his labour or his speed?
69 If you all nature's system scan,
70 The only idle thing is man!
71 A wanton Sparrow long'd to hear
72 Their sage discourse, and strait drew near.
73 The bird was talkative and loud,
74 And very pert and very proud;
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75 As worthless and as vain a thing,
76 Perhaps as ever wore a wing.
77 She found, as on a spray she sat,
78 The little friends were deep in chat;
79 That virtue was their favourite theme,
80 And toil and probity their scheme:
81 Such talk was hateful to her breast,
82 She thought them arrant prudes at best.
83 When to display her naughty mind,
84 Hunger with cruelty combin'd;
85 She view'd the Ant with savage eyes,
86 And hopt and hopt to snatch her prize.
87 The Bee, who watch'd her opening bill,
88 And guess'd her fell design to kill;
89 Ask'd her from what her anger rose,
90 And why me treated Ants as foes?
91 The Sparrow her reply began,
92 And thus the conversation ran.
93 Whenever I'm dispos'd to dine,
94 I think the whole creation mine;
95 That I'm a bird of high degree,
96 And every insect made for me.
97 Hence oft I search the emmet brood,
98 For emmets are delicious food:
99 And oft in wantonness and play,
100 I slay ten thousand in a day.
101 For truth it is, without disguise,
102 That I love mischief as my eyes.
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103 Oh! fie, the honest Bee reply'd,
104 I fear you make base man your guide;
105 Of every creature sure the worst,
106 Tho' in creation's scale the first!
107 Ungrateful man! 'tis strange he thrives,
108 Who burns the Bees, to rob their hives!
109 I hate his vile administration,
110 And so do all the emmet nation.
111 What fatal foes to birds are men
112 Quite to the Eagle from the Wren!
113 Oh! do not men's example take,
114 Who mischief do for mischief's sake;
115 But spare the Ant her worth demands
116 Esteem and friendship at your hands.
117 A mind with every virtue blest,
118 Must raise compassion in your breast.
119 Virtue! rejoin'd the sneering bird,
120 Where did you learn that gothic word?
121 Since I was hatch'd, I never heard,
122 That virtue was at all rever'd.
123 But say it was the ancients' claim,
124 Yet moderns disavow the name;
125 Unless, my dear, you read romances,
126 I cannot reconcile your fancies.
127 Virtue in fairy tales is seen
128 To play the goddess or the queen;
129 But what's a queen without the pow'r,
130 Or beauty, child, without a dow'r?
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131 Yet this is all that virtue brags,
132 At best 'tis only worth in rags.
133 Such whims my very heart derides,
134 Indeed you make me burst my sides.
135 Trust me Miss Bee to speak the truth,
136 I've copyed men from earliest youth;
137 The same our taste, the same our school,
138 Passion and appetite our rule.
139 And call me bird, or call me sinner,
140 I'll ne'er forego my sport or dinner.
141 A prowling cat the miscreant spies,
142 And wide expands her amber eyes:
143 Near and more near Grimalkin draws,
144 She wags her tail, protends her paws;
145 Then springing on her thoughtless prey,
146 She bore the vicious bird away.
147 Thus in her cruelty and pride,
148 The wicked wanton Sparrow dy'd.

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    About this text

    Title (in Source Edition): The BEE, the ANT, and the SPARROW: A FABLE.
    Themes: animals; virtue; vice
    Genres: fable
    References: DMI 27712

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    A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. V. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. 169-174. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.005) (Page images digitized by the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive from a copy in the archive's library.)

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    The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.