The Serpent And The File.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine


A serpent, neighbour to a smith,
(A neighbour bad to meddle with,)
Went through his shop, in search of food,
But nothing found, 'tis understood,
To eat, except a file of steel,
Of which he tried to make a meal.
The file, without a spark of passion,
Address'd him in the following fashion: -
'Poor simpleton! you surely bite
With less of sense than appetite;
For ere from me you gain
One quarter of a grain,
You'll break your teeth from ear to ear.
Time's are the only teeth I fear.'

This tale concerns those men of letters,
Who, good for nothing, bite their betters.
Their biting so is quite unwise.
Think you, ye literary sharks,
Your teeth will leave their marks
Upon the deathless works you criticise?
Fie! fie! fie! men!
To you they're brass - they're steel - they're diamond!

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