A Fence or an Ambulance
by Joseph Malins (1895)
-a poem about prevention -
'Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
but over its terrible edge there had slipped
a duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
but their projects did not at all tally;
some said, 'Put a fence 'round the edge of the cliff, '
some, 'An ambulance down in the valley.'
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
for it spread through the neighboring city;
a fence may be useful or not, it is true,
but each heart became full of pity
for those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
but an ambulance down in the valley.
'For the cliff is all right, if your careful, ' they said,
'and if folks even slip and are dropping,
it isn't the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below when they're stopping.'
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
quick forth would those rescuers sally
to pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
with their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: 'It's a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they'd much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief, ' cried he,
'come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
if the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.'
Part II by Herbert Nehrlich
So the townspeople met at the top of the cliff
where the workmen put up a strong fence,
woven wire and posts that were hardy and stiff
and they lauded each other's good sense.
For a week the fence stood and no ambulance came
then one morning they woke up to see
that the fence had been cut from the cliff to the tree
in the valley they stood with their shame.
Said a voice from the sky, and they knew it was God
'if you keep people healthy at all
there are forces objecting as they find it quite odd
when no earls and no peasants do fall.'
And instead of a fence on the edge of the cliff
they had placed at the bottom a pool,
where they'd land in the water, not ending up stiff
but each victim was seen as a fool.
And to face their disease that had caused the neglect
they would get a big bucket of pills,
though the cost of it all would not nearly reflect
that they'd taken the fence from the hills.
But the pharmacist said 'it's the minds of all men
they are missing the atoms of dope',
and that medicine taken again and again
was the modern way's spirit of hope.
The old sage who had said that the fence should be built
then spoke up, from the cliff near the edge
but the white coated doc said it must be the guilt
and he gave to the people this pledge.
'You will no longer be in the danger to fall
from the cliff, neither earl nor a peasant,
as the ordinance says that the citizens, all
won't be wandering near any crescent.'
And the sage on the edge while addressing the town
said they're neither your neighbour nor friend.
Both the doc and his buddy then pushed the man down,
off the cliff. Thus the story does end.
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.