Among the beasts a feud arose.
The lion, as the story goes,
Once on a time laid down
His sceptre and his crown;
And in his stead the beasts elected,
As often as it suited them,
A sort of king pro tem,
Some animal they much respected.
At first they all concurred.
The horse, the stag, the unicorn,
Were chosen each in turn;
And then the noble bird
That looks undazzled at the sun.
But party strife began to run
Through burrow, den, and herd.
Some beasts proposed the patient ox,
And others named the cunning fox.
The quarrel came to bites and knocks;
Nor was it duly settled
Till many a beast high-mettled
Had bought an aching head,
Or, possibly, had bled.
The fox, as one might well suppose,
At last above his rival rose,
But, truth to say, his reign was bootless,
Of honour being rather fruitless.
All prudent beasts began to see
The throne a certain charm had lost,
And, won by strife, as it must be,
Was hardly worth the pains it cost.
So when his majesty retired,
Few worthy beasts his seat desired.
Especially now stood aloof
The wise of head, the swift of hoof,
The beasts whose breasts were battle-proof.
It consequently came to pass,
Not first, but, as we say, in fine,
For king the creatures chose the ass
He, for prime minister the swine.
It's thus that party spirit
Is prone to banish merit.