(Recueil 2, Livre 10, Fable 4)
A close fist had his money hoarded
Beyond the room his till afforded.
His avarice aye growing ranker,
(Whereby his mind of course grew blanker,)
He was perplexed to choose a banker;
For banker he must have, he thought,
Or all his heap would come to nothing.
"I fear," said he, "if kept at home,
And other robbers should not come,
It might be equal cause of grief
That I had proved myself the thief."
The thief! Is to enjoy one's pelf
To rob or steal it from one's self?
My friend, could but my pity reach you,
This lesson I would gladly teach you,
That wealth is weal no longer than
Diffuse and part with it you can:
Without that power, it is a woe.
Would you for age keep back its flow?
Age buried "neath its joyless snow?
With pains of getting, care of got
Consumes the value, every jot,
Of gold that one can never spare.
To take the load of such a care,
Assistants were not very rare.
The earth was that which pleased him best.
Dismissing thought of all the rest,
He with his friend, his trustiest,
A sort of shovel secretary,
Went forth his hoard to bury.
Safe done, a few days afterward,
The man must look beneath the sward
When, what a mystery! behold
The mine exhausted of its gold!
Suspecting, with the best of cause,
His friend was privy to his loss,
He bade him, in a cautious mood,
To come as soon as well he could,
For still some other coins he had,
Which to the rest he wished to add.
Expecting thus to get the whole,
The friend put back the sum he stole,
Then came with all despatch.
The other proved an overmatch:
Resolved at length to save by spending,
His practice thus most wisely mending,
The total treasure home he carried
No longer hoarded it or buried.
Chapfallen was the thief, when gone
He saw his prospects and his pawn.
From this it may be stated,
That knaves with ease are cheated.
Jean de La Fontaine