Fable 23. The Old Woman and Her Cats -


Who friendship with a knave hath made
Is judg'd a partner in the trade.
The matron, who conducts abroad
A willing nymph, is thought a bawd;
And if a modest girl is seen
With one who cures a lover's spleen,
We guess her, not extreamly nice,
And only wish to know her price.
'Tis thus, that on the choice of friends
Our good or evil name depends.

A wrinkled hag, of wicked fame,
Beside a little smoaky flame
Sate hov'ring, pinch'd with age and frost;
Her shrivell'd hands, with veins embost,
Upon her knees her weight sustains,
While palsie shook her crazy brains;
She mumbles forth her backward prayers,
An untam'd scold of fourscore years.
About her swarm'd a num'rous brood
Of Cats, who lank with hunger mew'd.
Teaz'd with their crys her choler grew,
And thus she sputter'd. Hence ye crew.
Fool that I was, to entertain
Such imps, such fiends, a hellish train!
Had ye been never hous'd and nurst,
I, for a witch, had ne'er been curst.
To you I owe, that crouds of boys
Worry me with eternal noise;
Straws laid across my pace retard,
The horse-shoe's nail'd (each threshold's guard;)
The stunted broom the wenches hide,
For fear that I should up and ride;
They stick with pins my bleeding seat,
And bid me show my secret teat.
To hear you prate would vex a saint,
Who hath most reason of complaint?
Replys a Cat. Let 's come to proof.
Had we ne'er starv'd beneath your roof,
We had, like others of our race,
In credit liv'd, as beasts of chace.
'Tis infamy to serve a hag;
Cats are thought imps, her broom a nag;
And boys against our lives combine,
Because, 'tis said, your cats have nine.
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