LION.—Yes, but then the very rascality of their faces would at once have declared their purpose. The vulture is a filthy, unclean wretch—the bird of Mars—preying upon the eyes, the hearts, the entrails of the victims of that scoundrel-mountebank, Glory; whilst the magpie is a petty-larceny vagabond, existing upon social theft. To use a vulgar phrase—and considering the magistrates we are compelled to keep company with, ’tis wonderful that we talk so purely as we do—’twould have let the cat too much out of the bag to have put the birds where we stand. Whereas, there is a fine hypocrisy about us. Consider—am not I the type of heroism, of magnanimity? Well, compelling me, the heroic, the magnanimous, now to stand here upon my hind-legs, and now to crouch quietly down, like a pet kitten over-fed with new milk,—any state roguery is passed off as the greatest piece of single-minded honesty upon the mere strength of my character—if I may so say it, upon my legendary reputation. Now, as for you, though you are a lie, you are nevertheless not a bad-looking lie. You have a nice head, clean legs, and—though I think it a little impertinent that you should wear that tuft at the end of your tail—are altogether a very decent mixture of the quadrupeds. Besides, lie or not, you have helped to support the national arms so long, that depend upon it there are tens of thousands who believe you to be a true thing.
UNICORN.—I have often flattered myself with that consolation.
LION.—A poor comfort: for if you are a true beast, and really have the attributes you are painted with, the greater the insult that you should be placed here. If, on the contrary, you are a lie, still greater the insult to leonine majesty, in forcing me for so many, many years to keep such bad company.
UNICORN.—But I have a great belief in my reality: besides, if the head, body, legs, tail, I bear, never really met in one animal, they all exist in several: hence, if I am not true altogether, I am true in parts; and what would you have of a thick-and-thin supporter of the crown?
LION.—Blush, brother, blush; such sophistry is only worthy of the Common Pleas, where I know you picked it up. To be sure, if both of us were the most abandoned of beasts, we surely should have some excuse for our wickedness in the profligate company we are obliged to keep.
UNICORN.—Well, well, don’t weep. Take the pot.
LION.—Have we not been, ay, for hundreds
of years, in both Houses of
UNICORN.—It can’t be denied.
LION—And there, what have we not seen—what have we not heard! What brazen, unblushing faces! What cringing, and bowing, and fawning! What scoundrel smiles, what ruffian frowns! what polished lying! What hypocrisy of patriotism! What philippics, levelled in the very name of liberty, against her sacred self! What orations on the benefit of starvation—on the comeliness of rags! Have we not heard selfishness speaking with a syren voice? Have we not seen the haggard face of state-craft rouged up into a look of pleasantness and innocence? Have we not, night after night, seen the national Jonathan Wilds meet to plan a robbery, and—the purse taken—have they not rolled in their carriages home, with their fingers smelling of the people’s pockets?