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 had slipped
A Duke and 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 to the neighbouring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who had slipped o’er that dangerous cliff,
And the dwellers in the highway and alley
Gave pounds or pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is all right if you are careful” they said;
“And if folks even slip or are drooping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they are stopping”
So day after day when these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old man remarked “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than stopping the cause
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief.” cried he.

“Come neighbours and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff 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
No,No! we’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks 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?”

Thus this story so old has beautifully told
How our people with the best of intentions,
Have wasted their years and lavished their tears
On treatment, with nought for prevention.

But a sensible few, who are practical, too
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is much better than cure,
And so their party will soon be stronger.
Encourage them, then with your purse, voice and pen,
And (while other philanthropists dally)
They will scorn all pretence and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Joseph Malines