The Critic by Epes Sargent

Once on a time, the nightingale, whose singing,

Had with her praises set the forest ringing,

Consented at a concert to appear :

Of course her friends all flock’d to hear,

And with them many a critic, wide awake

To pick a flaw, or carp a mistake.

 

She sang as only nightingales can sing ;

And when she’d ended,

There was a general cry of ‘ Bravo ! Splendid !’

While she, poor thing,

Abash’d and fluttering, to her nest retreated

Quite terrified to be so warmly greeted.

 

The turkeys gobbled their delight ; the geese,

Who had been known to hiss at many a trial

That this was perfect, ventured no denial :

It Seem’d as if th’ applause would never cease

 

But ‘mong the critics on the ground,

An ass was present, pompous and profound,

Who said, ‘My friends, I’ll not dispute the honour

That you would do our little prima donna :

Although her upper notes are very shrill,

And she defies all method in her trill

She has some talent, and, upon the whole,

With study, may some cleverness attain.

Then, her friends tell me, she’s a virtuous soul ;

But, but —–‘

‘But ‘ —-growl’d the lion, ‘by my mane,

I never knew an ass, who did not strain

To qualify a good thing with a but !’

‘Nay,’ said the goose, approaching with a strut,

‘Don’t interrupt him, sir ; pray let it pass ;

The ass is honest if he is an ass !

 

‘ I was about, ‘ said Long Ear, ‘ to remark,

That there is something lacking in her whistle,

Something magnetic,

To waken chords and feelings sympathetic,

And kindle in the breast a spark

Like — like, for instance, a good juicy thistle.’

 

The assembly titter’d, but the fox, with gravity,

Said, at the lion winking.

‘ Our learn’d friend, with his accustom’d suavity,

Has given his opinion without shrinking.

But, to do justice to the nightingale,

He should inform us, as no doubt he will,

What sort of music ‘tis, that does not fail

His sensibilities to rouse and thrill.’

 

‘Why, ‘ said the critic, with a look potential,

And pricking up his ears, delighted much

At Reynard’s tone and manner deferential, —

‘ Why, sir, there’s nothing can so deeply touch

My feelings, and so carry me away

As a fine, mellow, ear-inspiring bray.’

 

‘I thought so, ‘ said the fox, without a pause ;

‘As far as you’re concern’d, your judgment’s true ;

You do not like the nightingale, because

The nightingale is not an ass like you.’

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