The monkeys, ’tis said, once asked of the bears,
How it was that their nation so much surpassed theirs,
And begged that the means they would graciously tell
By which the young bears were kept hearty and well.
“Perhaps it may be,” said one of the mothers,
Who seemed more considerate and wise than the others,
“Perhaps,” said she, trembling at even the thought,
“We give our dear young ones less food than we ought;
We may be impatient; I have really some fears
That we rock them too little, the poor little dears;
Our milk may cause fever, and their stomachs not suit,
Or perhaps they are weakened and injured by fruit.
Perhaps the whole mischief is caused by the air,
And who ‘gainst this evil can ever prepare?
In their earliest years, it may poison instil,
And through their whole lifetime produce every ill.
Perhaps it may be, before we are aware,
They breathe in a pestilence, borne on the air.
Perhaps, for the nerves of us monkeys are weak,
In jumping, or leaping, some bone they may break
In their breasts.” Here, for weeping, she scarcely could speak,
And she snatched up her little one long to her breast;
With such vehement love the poor victim she pressed,
That all its complainings and troubles were stilled;
Alas the poor mother! her pet she had killed.
Said the bear,— “No longer I think you need seek
For the cause why your young ones are sickly and weak;
It is not the milk, nor the fruit, nor the air,
Nor fault of the stomach, and ’tis no lack of care.
Your blind fondness it is that cuts short their days.
How is it that we such multitudes raise?
As soon as our young ones are able to run,
We take them out with us to play in the sun.
We take them through floods, through heat, and through cold,
And so they are healthy, and live to be old.”