That innocence is not a shield,
A story teaches, not the longest.
The strongest reasons always yield
To reasons of the strongest.
A lamb her thirst was slaking,
Once, at a mountain rill.
A hungry wolf was taking
His hunt for sheep to kill,
When, spying on the streamlet’s brink
This sheep of tender age,
He howled in tones of rage,
“How dare you roil my drink?
Your impudence I shall chastise!”
“Let not your majesty,” the lamb replies,
“Decide in haste or passion!
For sure It’s difficult to think
In what respect or fashion
My drinking here could roil your drink,
Since on the stream your majesty now faces
I’m lower down, full twenty paces.”
“You roil it,” said the wolf; “and, more, I know
You cursed and slandered me a year ago.”
“O no! how could I such a thing have done!
A lamb that has not seen a year,
A suckling of its mother dear?”
“Your brother then.” “But brother I have none.”
“Well, well, what’s all the same,
It was some one of your name.
Sheep, men, and dogs of every nation,
Are wont to stab my reputation,
As I have truly heard.”
Without another word,
He made his vengeance good—
Bore off the lambkin to the wood,
And there, without a jury,
Judged, slew, and ate her in his fury.
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