The Fence or the Ambulance


‘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 was brim full of pity

For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;

And the dwellers in highway and valley

Gave pound or gave pence, not to put up a fence,

But an ambulance down in the valley.

For the cliff is all right if you’re careful,’ they said,

‘And if folks even slip or are dropping,

It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much

As the shock down below when they’re stopping.’

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.’

Oh, he’s a fanatic,’ the others rejoined.

‘Dispense with the ambulance? Never!

He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;

But no! We’ll protect them forever;

Aren’t we picking folks up just as fast as they fall?

And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?

Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence

While their ambulance works in the valley?’

But a sensible few who were practical, too,

Will not bear with such nonsense much longer,

They believe that prevention is better than cure

And their party will soon be the stronger.

Encourage them, then, with your purse, voice and pen,

And (while other philanthropists dally)

They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence

On the cliff that hangs over the valley.

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