|Fable, Jean de La
fables 16, 17, 18, 19
THE TREASURE AND TWO MEN (IX,16)
One without credit, and, which is far worse,
Moneyless, lodged the devil in his purse,
That is, his purse was empty quite ;
He therefore thought he should do right
To hang himself, and thus his sorrows end,
Or hunger soon must be his fatal friend :
A kind of death not coveted by many ;
Few choose to taste it thus, if any.
He found a ruin with this resolution,
Choosing such private place for execution.
He brought his rope and sturdy nail with al,
Wishing to swing down from a lofty wall.
The wall.was rotten-as he struck, it grumbled,
Then shook, and with a hidden treasure tumbled.
Our desperate man seized all, with mind restored,
And bore it off, and left his useless cord ;
Little if odd or even the sum cared he :
With hasty steps he sought his home in glee.
The treasure-owner came, and found it gone
" Alas !" he cried, " my hopeful nest is flown !
What ! I survive such loss, and live undone !
No, truly, there was all my hope ;
I'll swing if I can find a rope ! "
He saw the cord, that seemed to court his sight ;
He straight made all things fast, and swung outright.
It might perhaps some small relief afford,
That he was not obliged to pay the cord.
Thus from the miser's sad disaster,
Both noose and money found a master.
Without his tears the miser seldom dies ;
Useless for him the hidden treasure lies,
Heaped up for thieves or for the earth,
Or some pretended claims from birth.
But what of Fortune's barter must be said ?
These are her tricks : thus mortals are her mirth.
The flekle goddess Look it in her head,
Well pleased with things that make us stare,
To see a mortel hung-;
And he at lest who swung
The least expected thus to kick the air.
THE MONKEY AND CAT (IX, 17)
Bertrand the wicked, Rodilard the bad
In the same house one common master had.
A pretty couple they of guardians made ;
Of nothing round them they afraid.
If aught were lest or aught defiled,
None blamed their neighbour's cat nor child.
Bertrand stole all, and Rodilard so nice
Preferred devouring cheese to catching mice.
These hardened rogues, before the fire one day,
Saw chestnuts roasting, and prepared for play ;
For they beheld them as a pleasant prey,
Which offered double profit to each thief,
First his own good, and next his neighbour's grief.
" Brother," said Bertrand, " I'm resolved to-day,
That you a masterpiece of work display
Rake out these nuts : had I been formed for that,
I warrant ye I'd show them fun."
The thing no sooner said than done ;
Most delicately with his pat
The cat the aches laid aside,
Drew back his claws, and them again applied ;
Got a few chestnuts out at last,
Which Bertrand cracked and ate as fast.
A servant came, the rogues soon fled,
And Rodilard not quite content, 'tis said.
Nor better are those princes paid,
Who, flattered with a similar thing,
Their fingers burn recruiting for some king.
THE KITE AND NIGHTINGALE (IX, 18)
After the Bite, that daring thief,
Had spread around alarm and grief,
And raised the village hne-and-cry,
A Nightingale met his devouring eye.
The lovely herald of the spring
Pleaded for life, and said : " 0 bird renowned !
What food am I ?-alas ! I'm merely sound !
Be pleased with listening to the notes I sing -
Of Tereus and his gust I'll sing so sweet."
" What's Tereus, pray ? a dish that kites may eat ? "
" No, 'twas a king whose soul with lust on fire,
Made me the victim of his foul desire :
I'll sing the story if my life you'll spare,
And you'll be charmed, as all that hear it are."
" Faith," said the other, " this is reasoning right,
To talk of music to a starving kite ! "
" I talk of it to kings !" " When caught by kings,
To them sing o'er these wondrous things ;
The hungry kite no music hears.
An empty belly has no ears."
THE SHEPHERD AND FLOCK (IX, 19)
WHAT then ! and will this murder never finish ? Must I still see my stupid race diminish ?
Daily the wolves devour my sheep ;
No use for me the account to keep ;
A thousand thus reduced to such a few-
And they have worried my poor Robin too !
Robin, who with a bit of bread
All over town so easily I led !
Who would have followed me the world around !
Alas, my pipe ! poor Robin knew thy sound,
Afar he traced me on the ground !
Alas ! poor Robin-Sheep is dead and gone !
When this sad funeral discourse was done,
And Robin's memory thus consigned to fame,
Roger harangued the trembling fold,
The chiefs, the multitude, the weakest lamb ;
Conjured them to be firm and bold,
And stand united at their post ;
The labour of the wolves would then be lost.
They all approving, by their honour swear
To stand unshaken as a block,
And strangle every wolf that might come near.
Each by his life sincerely swore,
From rank to rank throughout the flock,
Thus to avenge poor Robin, now no more. Roger replied, and fed them with delight :
And yet before that very night,
Alarmed again they all took flight.
A wolf they saw, or seemed to see ;
And yet no wolf, nor shade of wolf they saw.
Thus troops harangue, all ignorant and raw,
They'll swear invincibles to be ;
But when the danger comes, and cannons rattle,
In vain you cry, and show the way to battle.
The monkey and cat