The Mouse’s Petition

The Mouse’s Petition* by Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Found in the Trap where he had been confin’d all Night.

Parcere subjectis, & debellare superbos. Virgil.

OH! hear a pensive prisoner’s prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the wretch’s cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,
Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th’ approaching morn,
Which brings impending fate.

If e’er thy breast with freedom glow’d,
And spurn’d a tyrant’s chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain.

Oh! do not stain with guiltless blood
Thy hospitable hearth;
Nor triumph that thy wiles betray’d
A prize so little worth.

The scatter’d gleanings of a feast
My frugal meals supply;
But if thine unrelenting heart
That slender boon deny,

The cheerful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given;
Let nature’s commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.

The well taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.

If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts thro’ matter’s varying forms,
In every form the same,

Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother’s soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.

Or, if this transient gleam of day
Be all of life we share,
Let pity plead within thy breast,
That little all to spare.

So may thy hospitable board
With health and peace be crown’d;
And every charm of heartfelt ease
Beneath thy roof be found.

So when destruction lurks unseen,
Which men like mice may share,
May some kind angel clear thy path,
And break the hidden snare.

*To Doctor Priestley. The Author is concerned to find, that what was intended as the petition of mercy against justice, has been construed as the plea of humanity against cruelty. She is certain that cruelty could never be apprehended from the Gentleman to whom this is addressed; and the poor animal would have suffered more as the victim of domestic œconomy, than of philosophical curiosity.

From Poems by Anna Barbauld on Wikisource

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