A mouse was once in mortal fear
Of a cat that watched her portal near.
What could be done in such a case?
With prudent care she left the catship,
And courted, with a humble grace,
A neighbour of a higher race,
Whose lordship—I should say his ratship—
Lay in a great hotel;
And who had boasted often, it’s said,
Of living wholly without dread.
“Well,” said this braggart, “well,
Dame Mouse, what should I do?
Alone I cannot rout
The foe that threatens you.
I’ll rally all the rats about,
And then I’ll play him such a trick!”
The mouse her court’sy dropped,
And off the hero scampered quick,
Nor till he reached the buttery stopped,
Where scores of rats were clustered,
In riotous extravagance,
All feasting at the host’s expense.
To him, arriving there much flustered,
Indeed, quite out of breath,
A rat among the feasters says,
“What news? what news? I pray you, speak.”
The rat, recovering breath to squeak,
Replied, “To tell the matter in a trice,
It is, that we must promptly aid the mice;
For old Raminagrab is making
Among their ranks a dreadful quaking.
This cat, of cats the very devil,
When mice are gone, will do us evil.”
“True, true,” said each and all;
“To arms! to arms!” they cry and call.
Some ratties by their fears
Were melted even to tears.
It mattered not a whisk,
Nor checked the valour brisk.
Each took on his back
Some cheese in haversack,
And roundly swore to risk
His carcass in the cause.
They marched as to a feast,
Not flinching in the least.—
But quite too late, for in his jaws
The cat already held the mouse.
They rapidly approached the house—
To save their friend, beyond a doubt.
Just then the cat came growling out,
The mouse beneath his whiskered nose.
And marched along before his foes.
At such a voice, our rats discreet,
Foreboding a defeat,
Effected, in a style most fleet,
A fortunate retreat.
Back hurried to his hole each rat,
And afterwards took care to shun the cat.
The League of the Rats – Jean de La Fontaine Fables