Fable L: The Hare and Many Friends

Original Text: 
Facsimile edn.: John Gay, Fables (Menston: Scolar, 1969). PR 3473 F3 1727A ROBA.
1      Friendship, like love, is but a name,
2Unless to one you stint the flame.
3The child, whom many fathers share,
4Hath seldom known a father's care;
5'Tis thus in friendships; who depend
6On many, rarely find a friend.
7      A hare, who, in a civil way,
8Complied with ev'ry thing, like Gay,
9Was known by all the bestial train,
10Who haunt the wood, or graze the plain:
11Her care was, never to offend,
12And ev'ry creature was her friend.
13      As forth she went at early dawn
14To taste the dew-besprinkled lawn,
15Behind she hears the hunter's cries,
16And from the deep-mouth'd thunder flies;
17She starts, she stops, she pants for breath,
18She hears the near advance of death,
19She doubles, to mis-lead the hound,
20And measures back her mazy round;
21'Till, fainting in the public way,
22Half dead with fear she gasping lay.
23      What transport in her bosom grew,
24When first the horse appear'd in view!
25      "Let me," says she, "your back ascend,
26And owe my safety to a friend,
27You know my feet betray my flight,
28To friendship ev'ry burthen's light."
29      The horse replied, "Poor honest puss,
30It grieves my heart to see thee thus;
31Be comforted, relief is near;
32For all your friends are in the rear."
33      She next the stately bull implor'd;
34And thus reply'd the mighty lord.
35"Since ev'ry beast alive can tell
36That I sincerely wish you well,
37I may, without offence, pretend
38To take the freedom of a friend;
39Love calls me hence; a fav'rite cow
40Expects me near yon barley mow:
41And when a lady's in the case,
42You know, all other things give place.
43To leave you thus might seem unkind;
44But see, the goat is just behind."
45      The goat remark'd her pulse was high,
46Her languid head, her heavy eye;
47"My back," says he, "may do you harm;
48The sheep's at hand, and wool is warm."
49      The sheep was feeble, and complain'd,
50His sides a load of wool sustain'd,
51Said he was slow, confess'd his fears;
52For hounds eat sheep as well as hares.
53She now the trotting calf addrest,
54To save from death a friend distrest.
55      "Shall I, says he, of tender age,
56In this important care engage?
57Older and abler pass'd you by;
58How strong are those! how weak am I!
59Should I presume to bear you hence,
60Those friends of mine may take offence.
61Excuse me then. You know my heart,
62But dearest friends, alas, must part!
63How shall we all lament! Adieu.
64For see the hounds are just in view."
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP 1.558.