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Tit for Tat: A TaleQuoted taken from, The Oxford Book of Children's Verse (Oxford Books of Verse)
by John Aikin
A Law there is of ancient fame,
By nature's self in every land implanted,
Lex Talionis is its Latin name;
But if an English term be wanted,
Give your next neighbour but a pat
He'll give back as good, and tell you 'tit for tat'.
This 'tit for tat', it seems, not men alone,
But elephants, for legal justice own;
In proof of this a story I shall tell ye,
Imported from the famous town of Delhi.
A mighty elephant that swelled the state
Of Aurengzebe the Great,
One day was taken by his driver
To drink and cool him in the river;
The driver on his neck was seated,
And as he rode along,
By some acquaintance in the throng,
With a ripe coconut was treated.
A coconut's a pretty fruit enough,
But guarded by a shell, both hard and tough.
The fellow tried, and tried, and tried,
Working and sweating,
Tutting and fretting,
To find out its inside,
And pick the kernel for his eating.
Strength, quite out of patience grown,
'Who'll reach me up (he cries) a stone
To break this plaguy shell?
But stay, I've here a solid bone
May do perhaps as well.'
So half in earnest, half in jest,
He banged it on the forehead of his beast.
An elephant, they say, has human feeling,
And, full as well as we, he knows
The difference between words and blows,
Between horse-play and civil dealing.
Use him but well, he'll do his best,
And serve you faithfully and truly;
But insults unprovoked he can't digest,
He studies o'er them, and repays them duly.
'To make my head an anvil (thought the creature)
Was never, certainly, the will of nature;
So, master mine, you may repent!'
Then, shaking his broad ears, away he went.
The driver took him to the water,
And thought no more about the matter;
But elephant within his memory hid it;
He felt the wrong - the other only did it.
A week or two elapsed, one market day
Again the beast and driver took their way;
Through rows of shops and booths they passed,
With eatables and trinkets stored,
Till to a gardener's stall they came at last,
Where coconuts lay piled upon the board.
'Ha!' thought the elephant, ''tis now my turn
To show this method of nut-breaking;
My friend above will like to learn,
Though at the cost of head-aching.'
Then in his curling trunk he took a heap,
And waved it o'er his neck with sudden sweep,
And on the hapless driver's sconce
He laid a blow so hard and full,
That cracked the nuts at once,
But with them cracked his skull.
Young folks, whene'er you feel inclined
To rompish sports and freedoms rough,
Bear 'tit for tat' in mind,
Nor give an elephant a cuff,
To be repaid in kind.
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