The Council of Horses

Upon a time a neighing steed,
Who graz’d amoung a num’rous breed,
With mutiny had fir’d the train,
And spread dissension through the plain.
On matters that concern’d the State
The council met in grand debate.
A colt, whose strength and youthful fire,
In haste left forth before the rest,
And thus the list’ning throng addrest.

Good Gods! How abject is our race,
Condemn’d to slav’ry and disgrace!
Shall we our servitude retain,
Because our fires have born the chain?
Consider, friends, your strength and might;
T’is conquest to assert your right.
How cumb’rous is the gilded coach!
The pride of man is our reproach.
Were we design’d for daily toil,
To drag the plough-share through the soil.
To sweat in harness through the road,
To grone beneath the carrier’s load?

How feeble are the two-legg’d kind!
What force is in our nerves combin’d!
Shall then our nobler jaws submit
To fome and champ the galling bit?
Shall haughty man my back bestride?
Shall sharp spur provoke my side?
Forbid it Heav’ns! Reject the rein,
Your shame, your infamy distain,
Let him the lion first controul,
And still the tiger’s famish’d groul:
Let us, like them, our freedom claim,
And make him tremble at our name.
A general nod approv’d the cause,
And all the circle neigh’d applause.
When,lo, with grave and solemn pace
A steed advanc’d before the race,
With age and long experience wise,
Around he cast his thoughtful eyes,
And to the murmrs of the train,
Thus spoke the Nestor of the plain.

When I had health and strength, like you,
The toils of servitude I knew;
And grateful man rewards my pains,
And gives me all these wide domains;
At will I crop the year’s increase,
My latter life is rest and peace.
I grant to man we lend our pains
And aid him to correct the plains;
But doth not he divide the care,
Through all the labours of the year?
How many thousand structures rise,
To fence us from inclement skies!
For us he bears the sultry day,
And stores up all our winter’s hay;
He sows, he reaps the harvest’s gain,
We share the toil and share the grain,
Since every creature was decreed
To aid each other’s mutual need
Appease your discontented mind
And act the part by heav’n assign’d.
The tumult ceas’d. The colt submitted,
And, like his ancestors, was bitted.


Fable XLIII – Fables by the Late Mr Gay, The forth edition. London, 1733.

John Gay author of the, ‘The Beggars Opera’, was born near Barnstaple, 1688, of the family who owned Goldsworthy Manor in Devonshire. He died on the 4th December 1732 and is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Note: I have left the spelling as it is in the original text without the addition of the ¦ which (without the right seraph and standing on a line) has been replace with the traditional s.