Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A poem in which dinner, interrupted by an elephant, illustrates a moral lesson

Young Modestine and Pamela and Fortitude and John
Were dining at the table on a meal of roasted swan
When from without there came a crash that caused the walls to shake
And plaster from the ceiling fell and spoiled the simnel-cake.

"Great heavens!" bellowed Fortitude, and ripped off all his clothes,
"God's genitals! By Christopher!" and other suchlike oaths,
"It seems to me the very world is being torn to bits!
Be quick and make your peace with God or suffer Hell's foul pits!"

"Don't talk such rot," said Pamela, an atheistic lass,
"Like many earthquakes have before, this one will swiftly pass."
But then again from outside echoed such a frightful clang
That Fortitude with panicked loudness rang for Jones, his man.

"The tiger-trap," the butler said, "was baited with a plant,
And not with meat, and so, of course, ensnared an elephant.
The gentle herbivore passed by and stopped to take a bite -
The trap was sprung, down came the cage and now behold its plight!"

"That will be all," said Fortitude. "Wait! Go and fetch my gun!
For now we have the beast caged up, let's have a bit of fun!"
"By cracky, yes!" cried Pamela, "Go, fetch my gun as well!
And though the place does not exist, let's blow the brute to Hell!"

Said Modestine "I don't approve of harming living things
(Except those horrid, nasty swans that hit one with their wings).
I think that what we should do is just let the poor brute free,
For do not all the beasts of Earth deserve such rights as we?"

"By no means does an elephant deserve the rights of man!"
Screamed Fortitude, who took his gun, "For God's almighty plan
Was ever that the man should kill all creatures great and small,
In payment of the debt they've owed since Noah saved them all!"

"I must concur," said Pamela, "though talk of God is daft,
For all religions great or small do naught but make me laugh,
Yet we whom evolution made the lords of all the Earth
Have every right to kill or maim a beast of lesser worth."

But Modestine was adamant and, taking up an axe,
She vowed to free the elephant from both her friends' attacks.
She cleaved in twain the tiger-trap, and out the monster flew -
But tragically it flew straight at the rifle-toting two.

And neither fervent prayers nor screams availed them in the least
As Fortitude and Pamela were crushed beneath the beast.
And as it fled into the hills sans backward glance or halt,
Poor Modestine could only say "I fear this is my fault."

"Indeed," said John, who seldom spoke, "though now we'll have some peace,
With jumbo gone and those two dead, their squabbling will cease.
But had you kept your big mouth shut and let them have their will,
The Christian and godless both would now be living still."

And so the moral of this tale is clearly to be seen:
When choosing guests for dinner, never ask a Modestine.
A difference of religion comes to nothing in the end,
But one who won't shoot elephants should never be your friend.

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