The Hare and Tortoise, 1757. A Fable by Robert Lloyd

Genius, blest term, of meaning wide,
For sure no term so misapply’d,
How many bear thy sacred name,
That never felt a real flame!
Proud of the specious appellation,
Thus fools have christen’d inclination.

But yet suppose a genius true,
Exempli gratiâ, me or you:
Whate’er he tries with due attention,
Rarely escapes his apprehension;
Surmounting ev’ry opposition,
You’d swear he learnt by intuition.
Shou’d he rely alone on parts,
And study therefore but by starts?
Sure of success whene’er he tries,
Should he forego the means to rise?

Suppose your watch a Graham make,
Gold, if you will, for value sake;
Its springs within in order due,
No watch, when going, goes so true;
If ne’er wound up with proper care,
What service is it in the wear?

Some genial spark of Phoebus’ rays,
Perhaps within your bosom plays:
O how the purer rays aspire,
If Application fans the fire!
Without it Genius vainly tries,
Howe’er sometimes it seems to rise:
Nay Application will prevail,
When braggart parts and Genius fail:
And now to lay my proof before ye,
I here present you with a story.

In days of yore, when time was young,
When birds convers’d as well as sung,
When use of speech was not confin’d,
Merely to brutes of human kind,
A forward Hare, of swiftness vain,
The Genius of the neighb’ring plain,
Wou’d oft deride the drudging croud:
For Geniuses are ever proud.
He’d boast, his flight ’twere vain to follow,
For dog and horse he’d beat them hollow,
Nay, if he put forth all his strength,
Outstrip his brethren half a length.

A Tortoise heard his vain oration,
And vented thus his indignation.
Oh Puss, it bodes thee dire disgrace,
When I defy thee to the race.
Come, ’tis a match, nay, no denial,
I lay my shell upon the trial.

‘Twas done and done, all fair, a bet,
Judges prepar’d, and distance set.

The scamp’ring Hare outstript the wind,
The creeping Tortoise lagg’d behind.
And scarce had pass’d a single pole,
When Puss had almost reach’d the goal.
Friend Tortoise, quoth the jeering Hare,
Your burthen’s more than you can bear,
To help your speed, it were as well
That I should ease you of your shell:
Jog on a little faster pr’ythee,
I’ll take a nap, and then be with thee.
So said, so done, and safely sure,
For say, what conquest more secure?
Whene’er he wak’d (that’s all that’s in it)
He could o’ertake him in a minute.

The Tortoise heard his taunting jeer,
But still resolv’d to persevere,
Still drawl’d along, as who should say,
I’ll win, like Fabius, by delay;
On to the goal securely crept,
While Puss unknowing soundly slept.

The bets were won, the Hare awake,
When thus the victor Tortoise spake.
Puss, tho’ I own thy quicker parts,
Things are not always done by starts.
You may deride my awkward pace,
But slow and steady wins the race.

From: Lloyd, Robert, Poems, 2009, University of Michigan Library: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 34-38.

Date: 1762

By: Robert Lloyd (1733-1764)

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