A serpent, neighbour to a smith,
(A neighbour bad to meddle with,)
Went through his shop, in search of food,
But nothing found, it’s understood,
To eat, except a file of steel,
Of which he tried to make a meal.
The file, without a spark of passion,
Addressed him in the following fashion:
“Poor simpleton! you surely bite
With less of sense than appetite;
For before from me you gain
One quarter of a grain,
You’ll break your teeth from ear to ear.
Time’s are the only teeth I fear.”
This tale concerns those men of letters,
Who, good for nothing, bite their betters.
Their biting so is quite unwise.
Think you, you literary sharks,
Your teeth will leave their marks
On the deathless works you criticise?
Fie! fie! fie! men!
To you they’re brass—they’re steel—they’re diamond!
The Serpent and the File by Jean de La Fontaine Fables in Book 5