An Old Fable Newly Applied
Comparative Philology, Animal Behaviour, Hunting, Politics, Religious Authority
Dedicated 'to the Bench of Bishops, and the Right Hon. B. Disraeli, M.P.', this poem opens by recalling Aesop's story about a time when 'All beasts could talk, that now go dumbly stalking', and adding that this did not just apply to 'the monkeys, owls, and asses merely, / Who still enjoy the privilege of talking'. Goes on to explain man's dissatisfaction with walking on his feet, and his quest for a suitable quadruped on which he could ride. After dismissing the stag as too delicate and uncomfortable to ride on, and too swift to catch, he identifies a colt as a more suitable animal for this purpose. The colt proceeds to vilify the habits of the stag (including its tendency to poison pasture grounds and poach meads) and agrees with the man, that they should 'combine in his pursuit'. Later, having frightened off the stag, the man disagrees with the horse's desire to 'catch the Deer', and after reminding the horse that he could only disagree with him when he had 'a will', he digs his spurs into the horse, and the horse is 'taken in'. In this story the horse rider is likened to Disraeli, who sought to 'deal' a foe a 'stroke stupendous', and the horse to 'old Mother Church' which found itself being ridden rather than hunting a stag.
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