The Rats and The Cheese

The Rats wanted to set up a government like the Bees. They did but the politicians all set about finding ways to get to the cheese first.

Politicians tend to look out for themselves first.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Rats and Cheese

Ernest Griset (1874)

If Bees a government maintain,
Why may not Rats, of stronger brain
And greater power, as well be thought
By Machiavelian axioms taught?
And so they are, for thus of late
It happened in the Rats’ free state.
Their prince (his subjects more to please)
Had got a mighty Cheshire Cheese,
In which his ministers of state
Might live in plenty and grow great.
A powerful party straight combined,
And their united forces joined
To bring their measures into play,
For none so loyal were as they;
And none such patriots to support
As well the country as the court.
No sooner were those Dons admitted,
But (all those wond’rous virtues quitted)
They all the speediest means devise
To raise themselves and families.
Another party well observing
These pampered were, while they were starving,
Their ministry brought in disgrace,
Expelled them and supplied their place;
These on just principles were known
The true supportcrs of the throne.
And for the subject’s liberty,
They’d (marry would thry) freely die;
But being well fixed in their station,
Regardless of their prince and nation,
Just like the others, all their skill
Was how they might their paunches fill.
On this, a Rat not quite so blind
In state intrigues as human kind,
But of more honour, thus replied:
“Confound ye all on either side;
All your contentions are but these,
whose arts shall best secure the cheese.”


[Note: The Northcote fable is the same poem as in the JBR Collection above. Only the illustration associated with the fable in the Northcote book is displayed here.]

JN Fable 058

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: H. White Jun. (1828)