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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790)

To Miss Georgiana Shipley

On the Loss of Her American Squirrel, who, Escaping from His Cage, was Killed by a Shepherd’s Dog

LONDON, September 26, 1772.
DEAR MISS: I lament with you most sincerely the unfortunate end of poor Mungo. Few squirrels were better accomplished; for he had a good education, had traveled far, and seen much of the world. As he had the honor of being, for his virtues, your favorite, he should not go, like common skuggs, without an elegy or an epitaph. Let us give him one in the monumental style and measure, which, being neither prose nor verse, is perhaps the properest for grief; since to use common language would look as if we were not affected, and to make rhymes would seem trifling in sorrow.

  • Epitaph
  • 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;
  • But, discontented,
  • Thou wouldst have more freedom.
  • Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it;
  • And wandering,
  • Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton, cruel Ranger!
  • Learn hence,
  • Ye who blindly seek more liberty,
  • Whether subjects, sons, squirrels, or daughters,
  • That apparent restraint may be real protection,
  • Yielding peace and plenty
  • With security.
  • You see, my dear Miss, how much more decent and proper this broken style is, than if we were to say, by way of epitaph,—

  • Here Skugg
  • Lies snug,
  • As a bug
  • In a rug.
  • And yet, perhaps, there are people in the world of so little feeling as to think that this would be a good enough epitaph for poor Mungo.

    If you wish it, I shall procure another to succeed him; but perhaps you will now choose some other amusement.

    Remember me affectionately to all the good family, and believe me ever your affectionate friend,