I say! hey! cousin there! I mustn’t call you brother!
Yet you have a tail behind, and I have another!
You pull, and I pull, though we don’t pull together:
You have less hardship, and I have more weather!
Your legs are long, mine are short; I am lean, you are fatter;
Your step is bold and free, mine goes pitter-patter;
Your head is in the air, and mine hangs down like lead–
But then my two great ears are so heavy on my head!
You need not whisk your stump, nor turn away your nose;
Poor donkeys ain’t so stupid as rich horses may suppose!
I could feed in any manger just as well as you,
Though I don’t despise a thistle–with sauce of dust and dew!
T’other day a bishop’s cob stopped before me in a lane,
With a tail as broad as oil-cake, and a close-clipped hoggy mane;
I stood sideways to the hedge, but he did not want to pass,
And he was so full of corn he didn’t care about the grass.
Quoth the cob, “You are a donkey of a most peculiar breed!
You’ve just eaten up a thistle that was going fast to seed!
If you had but let it be, you might have raised a crop!
To many a coming dinner you have put a sad stop!”
I told him I was hungry, and to leave one of ten
Would have spoiled my best dinner, the one I wanted then.
Said the cob, “I ought to know the truth about dinners,
I don’t eat on roadsides like poor tramping sinners!”
“Why don’t you take it easy? You are working much too hard!
In the shafts you’ll die one day, if you’re not upon your guard!
Have pity on your friends: work seems to you delectable,
But believe me such a cart–excuse me–‘s not respectable!”
I told him I must trot in the shafts where I was put,
Nor look round at the cart, but set foremost my best foot;
It was rather rickety, and the axle wanted oil,
But I always slept at night with the deep sleep of toil!
“All very fine,” he said, “to wag your ears and parley,
And pretend you quite despise my bellyfuls of barley!
But with blows and with starving, and with labour over-hard,
By spurs! a week will see you in the knacker’s yard.”
I thanked him for his counsel, and said I thought I’d take it, really,
If he’d spare me half a feed out of four feeds daily.
He tossed his head at that: “Now don’t be cheeky!” said he;
“When I find I’m getting fat, I’ll think of you: keep steady.”
“Good-bye!” I said–and say, for you are such another!
Why, now I look at you, I see you are his brother!
Yes, thank you for your kick: ’twas all that you could spare,
For, sure, they clip and singe you very, very bare!
My cart it is upsets you! but in that cart behind
There’s no dirt or rubbish, no bags of gold or wind!
There’s potatoes there, and wine, and corn, and mustard-seed,
And a good can of milk, and some honey too, indeed!
Few blows I get, some hay, and of water many a draught:
I tell you he’s no coster that sits upon my shaft!
And for the knacker’s yard–that’s not my destined bed:
No donkey ever yet saw himself there lying dead.