The Oak And The River

A River complained about its course but an Oak pointed out that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The River thought better after.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


JN Fable 012

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: G.W. Bonner (1828)

A River, which from side to side,
Rush’d forward an impetuous tide,
Which scarce its verdant banks contain’d,
Amidst hoarse murmurs thus complain’d:
‘Me, wretched I whose hard fates decree
‘Such an unhappy destiny;
‘Forever, as I flow, to find
‘Nature through all her works unkind;
‘My banks no varied tints adorn,
‘But ‘midst discolour’d grass and corn
‘Misshapen trees their aspects rear,
‘And falling battlements appear;
‘While yonder brook, those flowers among,
‘Through smiling valleys winds along,
‘With lofty elms the border’s crown’d,
‘And verdure flourishes around.’
An Oak, which many a year had stood,
With branches pendant o’er ‘the flood,
Concern’d, its leafy honours shook,
And thus th’ impatient stream bespoke:
‘While you regard, with envious eyes,
‘Those beauties, and your own despise;
‘And thus ungratefully disgrace
‘Us stately trees, of ancient race;
‘The blame which you have falsely thrown,
‘With justice rests on you alone,
‘Whose turbid motion makes appear,
‘Things the reverse of what they are!
‘Behold these domes majestic rise,
‘Whose turrets seem to reach the skies,
‘Where not the exactest eye can see
‘Any misshapen imagery.
‘For verdant grass, and flow’rets fair,
‘Few banks can with your own compare;
‘That envy’d brook, which, as it flows,
‘Each object’s just proportion shows:
‘Those ftow’ry vales, and smiling skies7
‘All from internal calmness rise;
‘In you such charms can ne’er be seen,
‘Till you become like that, serene.
‘If happiness you wish to find,
‘Let gentleness possess your mind.’

JN Fable 012a

Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)