The Mouse and the Oyster

Communicated by Mr Vignoles

A Tragi-Comic Poem

Divina opici rodebant Carmina mures

Let loftier bards the hero’s acts relate,
I sing the memorable mouse’s fate:
Not let a critic ear the theme refuse
Immortal made by the Maeonian Muse.

’Twas when the veil of night o’erspread the plain,
When bats and fairies, mice and Morpheus reign;
When lab’ring hands forget the toils of day,
And Philomel begins her love-sick lay;
While the hushed winds in peaceful slumbers dwell,
And boding crickets sound their midnight knell.
’Twas then a daring mouse that long defied
The various stratagems that Kate had tried,
His destined doom receiv’d — for, soon or late
Both mice and monarchs must submit to fate.

Oft was the moon with silv’ry lustre crown’d,
Since the nocturnal pirate march’d his round:
Soon as his foe the sun had took his flight,
Trips forth the little champion of the night;
With cautious tread, secure from fell mishap
Of puss, or poison, or tremendous trap;
Still at the head of his rapacious clan,
He skipped from shelf to shelf, from pan to pan;
With nose sagacious smok’ed the baited gin,
Wary and cautious of the snare within:
Now feasts on rich variety of meats,
And oft in cheese his own apartment eats:
Regales on floods of cream, ragouts & cakes,
Of all the dainties of the day partakes:
Now storms rich conserves with voluptuous taste,
And saps the tender tenements of paste.
Puddings in vain, that come but once a week,
In cupboard high a sanctuary seek;
Where locks and bolts a passage have forbid,
He gnaws admission in a time of need.

When pantry fails through spite of watchful cooks,
The smuggler feeds on new repast of books,
Bunyan and Burton, both enrich’d with grease
Will often serve his hunger to appease
Now conjuring books, love-jests and Robin Hood,
With songs of Chevy Chase are turn’d to food.
Culpepper, Partridge, Hollinshed & Stowe
The art of pastry Robinson Crusoe
All mangled lie with tales of monks and witches,
Receipts for agues and last dying speeches,
Thus Tartar-like, the vagrant feeds on prey,
Plunders all night, and dozes all the day.

When ruddy wakes the more ruddy maid,
What scenes of ruin are around displayed!
In fragments her disjointed basons lie,
And here the martyr’d relicts of a pie;
Now with uplifted hands in loaves she sees
Arch’d caverns yawn, and sepulchres of cheese.
Not more tremendous look’d the Cyclop’s cave,
Or Cuma’s Grot, near fell Averno’s wave;
Here mourns in furrows deep domestic bacon,
Here, fruits preserv’d for winter tarts are taken.
But ah! the fav’rite saucer gives most pain,
Whose brim blue letters in a circle stain:
That saucer, which Kate’s swain last country wake,
Gave her adorn’d with motto and with cake.
’Twas then with weeping eyes revenge she swore,
And threw the last sad remnants on the floor:
’Twas then she sought some spell in deep despair,
And musing, mutter’d backward half a prayer.
Not with less grief the Trojan heroes found,
Their luscious banquets scatter’d on the ground;
When from on high devouring Harpies flew,
With horrid claws, and all their feast o’erthrew.

Yet long, unharm’d, the epicure patroll’d,
And fearless, o’er his silent suburbs stroll’d:
Luxurious nights in pleasing plunder passed
Nor dreamt that this was doom’d to be his last!

For now the time, the destin’d time was sent:
So fate ordain’d — and who can fate prevent?
Thick shades once more had veil’d the haunted house;
Once more from coverts bolts th’ adventurous mouse,
Sighting in evil hour, in quest of prey
Where in a group th’ avenging oysters lay.
The fish commission’d from the wat’ry throng
With tegument of scaly armour, strong,
Lay with expanded jaws and gaping shell;
(But who the sad catastrophe can tell?)
Thus lies the dreadful monster of Nile’s flood,
With open mouth extended on the mud.
The dainty mouse, still craving some new dish,
Enters the glooming mansion of the fish;
With beard exploring, and with luscious lip
He longs the pickle of the seas to sip.
Rous’d by his tusks th’ elastic oyster fell
And caught the caitiff’s head in wat’ry cell:
In vain the victim labours to get free
From ‘durance vile’ and dread captivity:
Lock’d in the close embrace, ensnar’d he lies,
In pill’ry safe, pants, struggles, squeaks and dies!
Thus the just fate of his own crimes he meets,
Like rakes expiring in destructive sweets.
Hence let ambitious minds the tale who hear,
This moral learn — To move within their sphere!
Thus ends the dire disastrous night’s campaign,
And thus, the memorable mouse was slain.

But in Kate’s bosom, say, what raptures glow?
When in the scaly trap she finds her foe?
Her mortal foe! — detain’d in bondage strong,
Her wishes granted, and reveng’d her wrong — 
While loud rejoicings fill the rescued house,
And neighbours crowd to view the fallen mouse.

Now hangs the grateful spoil on beam sublime,
Safe where no boy can reach, no cat can climb,
Where ostrich eggs, and birds presaging weather
Dried herrings, hams & halcyons swing together.
How oft the master views the wond’rous prize,
And hails the conquest with exulting eyes!

And when beneath sedate he sits and smokes,
And cracks his nuts, his bottles & his jokes,
This tale he tells to grace his Christmas pie,
And to the trophy’d relicts points on high.