Old Snake-Doctor

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


Once I found an ant-lion's hole
And an ant-lion in it: nippers
Like a pair of rusty clippers.
And I saw a red ant roll
In its pit, and, quick as Ned,
This old ant-lion fanged its head,
Held it till the ant was dead.


And I told my father: he
Smiled and said, "He beats the dickens,
With his pinchers; even chickens
Have n't his voracity.
Think now what he would have done
Had you been an ant, my son,
Fallen in that pit like one.


"Daniel in the lion's den!
Guess you'd come home good and gory.
But now here's another story:
You should see these ant-lions when
They have wings; and, blue and green,
Ponds and pools they fly between:
Prettiest things I've ever seen.


"Look just like the dragonflies;
And perhaps they are snake-feeders;
Name you'll never find in Readers
Read at school: but, I surmise,
Dragonflies are not the same
As these old snake-doctors; name
For which I am not to blame.


"Who's to blame then? If it's not
I or, say, the dictionary,
Since we two seem so contrĂ¡ry,
Must be that old ant-lion what
Can't content itself, that's plain,
With its bug-estate; remain
Just a bug in sun and rain.


"Has to get himself new clothes!
Gauzy wings that shine and glitter;
Something that he thinks is fitter
His profession, I suppose,
Doctoring things, like water-snakes;
Finery that often takes
Eyes of hungry ducks and drakes:


"And of fishes, too, the fool.
Who his coat so bright and brassy,
Mirrored in the waters glassy,
Leap for, drag into the pool.
Old snake-doctor, flaunt your fill!
Feed the snakes or cure or kill
In the end you pay the bill."

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