The Owl and the Fox

THERE WAS an old Fox
That lived under the rocks
At the foot of a huge old tree;
And of all the foxes
That ever did live
There was none so bad as he.
His step was soft,
With his padded feet,
But his claws were sharp beneath;
And sharp were his eyes,
And sharp were his ears,
And sharp were his terrible teeth.

And the dreariest place
You ever did see,
Was this old Fox's den;
It was strewn with the down
Of the tender Chick,
And the quills of the mother hen,
Where he dragged them in
This dismal den
And piled their bones together,
And killed them dead,
And sucked their blood,
And ate their flesh,
And picked their bones,
And warmed his bed with the feathers.

But while the old Fox
Lived under the rocks,
As wicked as he could be,
An Owl built his nest
In a very large hole
That was up in the top of the tree.
This Owl was named Hooty,
And often at night,
When loudly the night wind blew,
He waked the old Fox
In his hole in the rocks,
With his Whit-too-whit-too-whoo-o-o.
Then the Owl would laugh
At the top of the tree
To hear him wake and growl,
For he hated the Fox
That lived down in the rocks;
And the Fox he hated the Owl.

Now the Owl had a little son,
Billy by name,
And a beautiful Owlet was he;
His eyes were as big
As the lamps of a gig,
And his Bill was a wonder to see.
He never cried
When his head was combed,
Nor screamed when they wiped his nose,
Or washed his face,
And got soap in his eyes,
And he never tore his clothes.

When Hooty was going
He said to his son,
“Now, Bill, I command and beseech you,
Don't leave the nest,
'Tis my earnest request,
For the old Fox may catch you and eat you;
He is watching below
To catch you, I know,
So don't try to fly till I teach you.”

And poor little Billy
Was so very silly,
He climbed out on the bough;
And the old Fox laughed
With a “Ha, ha, ha!”
And thought he had got him now.
At last he heard a flapping of wings,
And Hooty lit on a tree,
And his screams were wild
When he sought for his child,
And Billy, nowhere was he;
So he cast him down in his empty nest,
And covered his face with his wing,
And big sobs came from his speckled breast,
And he cried like anything;
And he screamed so loud
In his wrath and woe,
That he shook the huge old tree:
And the old Fox heard
As he lay below,
And not a sign of sorrow did show.
But laughed a “he-he-he!”

The old Owl stopped crying,
And wiped his eyes.
And shook his fist at the Fox:
And said, “You villain.
You stole my child,
And carried him under the rocks;
You've eaten my Billy,
My pretty first-born,
Without an equal for beauty;
But I'll tell Jack,
With his hounds and his horn,
As sure as my name is Hooty.
And the bow-wow dogs,
And the toot-toot horns,
And the galloping horse and Jack,
Shall race you, and chase you,
Wherever they trace you,
And thunder along your track.
And I will think of my Billy, that's dead,
As I flap along on the trail,
To see the dogs bite off your cruel head,
And Jack ride away with your tail.”

So in the morning
Out came Jack
With his spurs on his heels
And his whip to crack;
And he saddled his horse,
And called to his pack,
And started off on the Fox's track.
Away he went
With the clattering sound
Of the swift-footed horse
On the frosty ground,
And the horns that rang
With a merry sound,
And the deepmouthed bay
Of the rapid hound.
With a toot-e-ty too, and a toot-e-ty too,
They made such a noise as on they flew,
That the old Fox didn't know what to do.
For the Fox he listened
And heard them come,
And dropped the duck
He was carrying home,
And ran through the wood
As fast as he could,
And made for the den
That he started from.

The Fox went skimming
Along the ground,
But nearer he heard
The bay of the hound,
And on he went
Like the rustling wind—
But the dogs came closer and closer behind,
Till his legs were tired,
And his feet were sore,
And he found he couldn't
Run any more.
Then he crept in a hole
That he chanced to see,
Down at the foot of a hollow tree;
But just as he thought
He had ended the chase,
And was safe from the dogs
In his hiding place,
He heard old Hooty as down he flew
And lit on the tree with a whit-too-whoo-o-o.
And the dogs came barking,
Glad to see
That the Fox was hid
In the hollow tree.
For there the Fox was crouching beneath,
Arching his back,
And showing his teeth.

And his eyes were like sparks
Shining back in the dark,
His tongue hanging out
And gasping for breath,
And froth on his lips,
But game to the death.
And he fought and fought
The dogs till he died;
He bit Growler's foot
And cut Tray's side;
They tore him in pieces—
No mercy he begs,
But some of the dogs
Limped home on three legs;
And Jack came and cut
Off his long gray tail,
And carried it home to hang on a nail;
For that was the Fox, so Jack would tell,
That ran so far and fought so well;
And the Owl looked down
From the branch overhead,
Where the lifeless, tailless Fox lay dead,
And laughed aloud, as away he flew,
A Whit-too-who—A whit-too-who-o-o-o.
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Silas White's picture

I first heard this poem on record in 1972, my father Howard White made the recording it was called The Prince Of Poetry. We as children never thought much about it, I have searched for over 20 years to find one of those records. This poem The Fox and The Owl was my favorite on the record.

Silas White

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Dawnjim85's picture

My Grandmother use to tell us this story. She was born in1893, and was blind. Her parents gave her the book and she memorized this story. I would love to find the book it came from. I was born and raised n Quebec.  Anynody know where I canfind this wonderful story?

dawn centofonti

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