The Fox And The Hen: A Fable by Thomas Hood

Speaking within compass, as to fabulousness I prefer
Southcote to Northcote.

One day, or night, no matter where or when,
Sly Reynard, like a foot-pad, laid his pad
Right on the body of a speckled Hen,
Determined upon taking all she had;
And like a very bibber at his bottle,
Began to draw the claret from her throttle;
Of course it put her in a pretty pucker,
And with a scream as high
As she could cry,
She call’d for help–she had enough of sucker.

Dame Partlet’s scream
Waked, luckily, the house-dog from his dream,
And, with a savage growl
In answer to the fowl,
He bounded forth against the prowling sinner,
And, uninvited, came to the Fox Dinner.

Sly Reynard, heedful of the coming doom,
Thought, self-deceived,
He should not be perceived,
Hiding his brush within a neighboring broom!
But quite unconscious of a Poacher’s snare,
And caught in copper noose,
And looking like a goose,
Found that his fate had “hung upon a hare”;
His tricks and turns were rendered of no use to him,
And worst of all he saw old surly Tray
Coming to play
Tray-Deuce with him.

Tray, an old Mastiff bred at Dunstable,
Under his Master, a most special constable,
Instead of killing Reynard in a fury,
Seized him for legal trial by a Jury;
But Juries–AEsop was a sheriff then–
Consisted of twelve Brutes and not of Men.

But first the Elephant sat on the body–
I mean the Hen–and proved that she was dead,
To the veriest fool’s head
Of the Booby and the Noddy.

Accordingly, the Stork brought in a bill
Quite true enough to kill,
And then the Owl was call’d,–for, mark,
The Owl can witness in the dark.
To make the evidence more plain,
The Lynx connected all the chain.
In short there was no quirk or quibble
At which a legal Rat could nibble;
The Culprit was as far beyond hope’s bounds.
As if the Jury had been packed–of hounds.
Reynard, however, at the utmost nick,
Is seldom quite devoid of shift and trick;
Accordingly our cunning Fox,
Through certain influence, obscurely channel’d
A friendly Camel got into the box,
When ‘gainst his life the Jury was impanel’d.

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Now, in the Silly Isles such is the law,
If Jurors should withdraw,
They are to have no eating and no drinking,
Till all are starved into one way of thinking.
Thus Reynard’s Jurors, who could not agree,
Were lock’d up strictly, without bit or mummock,
Till every Beast that only had one stomach,
Bent to the Camel, who was blest with three.
To do them justice, they debated
From four till ten, while dinner waited,
When thirst and hunger got the upper,
And each inclin’d to mercy, and hot supper:
“Not Guilty” was the word, and Master Fox
Was freed to murder other hens and cocks.


What moral greets us by this tale’s assistance
But that the Solon is a sorry Solon,
Who makes the full stop of a Man’s existence
Depend upon a Colon?

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