It seems that while I was in England, I’d imported a number of squirrels so that I had some unique American gifts that I could give to my young British friends. One of them went to Lady Shipley’s daughter Georgiana. “Mungo,” as she named it, became quite a beloved pet and companion of Georgiana and her family.
Unfortunately, after about a year, Mungo escaped from their home and was killed by a canine predator, who obviously saw it as prey. Learning of this tragedy, I wrote a poetic note of condolence to the Shipleys, along with a short epitaph for the tombstone. As I recall, I said to Georgiana, "few squirrels were better accomplished; for he had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world."
Here’s the poem, in its original 18th century wording:
Alas: poor Mungo!
Happy wert thou, hadst thou known
Thy own felicity.
Remote from the fierce bald eagle,
Tyrant of thy native woods,
Thou hadst nought to fear from his piercing talons,
Nor from the murdering gun
of the thoughtless sportsman.
Safe in thy wired castle,
Grimalkin never could annoy thee.
Daily wert thou fed with the choicest viands,
By the fair hand of an indulgent mistress;
Thou wouldst have more freedom.
Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it;
Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel Ranger!
Ye who blindly seek more liberty,
Whether subject, son, squirrels or daughters,
That apparent restraint may be real protection,
Yielding peace and plenty
As you can see, I couldn’t resist the opportunity of also inserting some subtle commentary on British-American relations at the time, particularly the battle for liberty. I felt that those who blindly rush towards independence must also take into account the various dangers and costs associated with that quest, and so I counseled moderation.
Back to the future
So, that, dear friends, is my “squirrel” story. In these techno-crazy times of 2013, however, I doubt very much that any modern day diplomat or government leader would even think of responding in such a way to the grief of a young acquaintance. Imagine a president penning a poem to a dearly departed hamster!
Perhaps a fitting way to end this little recollection is to share the epitaph I wrote for Mungo so long ago:
As a bug
In a rug.
Your humble servant,