Edmund Vance Cooke  (1866-1932)

Monkeys, who know nothing about private property in land.

An ancient ape, once on a time,  
Disliked exceedingly to climb,   
And so he picked him out a tree  
And said, “Now this belongs to me.  
I have a hunch that monks are mutts  
And I can make them gather nuts  
And bring the bulk of them to me,  
By claiming title to this tree.” 

He took a green leaf and a reed  
And wrote himself a title deed,  
Proclaiming pompously and slow:  
“All monkeys by these presents know”.  
Next morning when the monkeys came  
To gather nuts, he made his claim:  
“All monkeys climbing on this tree  
Must bring their gathered nuts to me,  
Cracking the same on equal shares;  
The meats are mine, the shells are theirs.” 

“But by what right?”  they cried, amazed,  
Thinking the ape was surely crazed  
By this”, he answered;  “if you’ll read  
You’ll find it is a title deed,  
made in precise and formal shape  
And sworn before a fellow ape,  
Exactly on the legal plan  
Used by that wondrous creature, man,  
In London, Tokyo, New York,   
Glengarry, Kalamazoo and Cork. 

Unless my deed is recognized,  
It proves you quite uncivilized.”  
“But”, said one monkey, “You will agree  
It was not you who made this tree.”  
“Nor”, said the ape, serene and bland,  
“Does any owner make his land,   
Yet all of its hereditaments  
Are his and figure in the rents.” 

The puzzled monkeys sat about  
They could not make the question out.  
Plainly, by precedent and law,  
The ape’s procedure showed no flaw;  
And yet, no matter what he said;  
The stomach still denied the head. 

Up spoke one sprightly monkey then:  
“Monkeys are monkeys, men are men;  
The ape should try his legal capers  
On men who say respect his papers.  
We don’t know deeds; we do know nuts,  
And spite of ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ and ‘buts’  
We know who gathers and unmeats ’em,  
By monkey practice also eats ’em.  
So tell the ape and all his flunkies  
No man tricks can be played on monkeys”  
Thus, apes still climb to get their food,  
Since monkeys’ minds are crass and crude  
And monkeys, all so ill-advised,  
Still eat their nuts, uncivilized.