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The Woods and the Woodman

(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 16)



A certain wood chopper lost or broke

From his axe's eye a bit of oak.

The forest must needs be somewhat spared

While such a loss was being repaired.

Came the man at last, and humbly prayed

That the woods would kindly lend to him

A moderate loan a single limb,

Whereof might another helve be made,

And his axe should elsewhere drive its trade.

O, the oaks and firs that then might stand,

A pride and a joy throughout the land,

For their ancientness and glorious charms!

The innocent Forest lent him arms;

But bitter indeed was her regret;

For the wretch, his axe new helved and whet,

Did nothing but his benefactress spoil

Of the finest trees that graced her soil;

And ceaselessly was she made to groan,

Doing penance for that fatal loan.

Behold the world-stage and its actors,

Where benefits hurt benefactors!

A weary theme, and full of pain;

For where's the shade so cool and sweet,

Protecting strangers from the heat,

But might of such a wrong complain?

Alas! I vex myself in vain;

Ingratitude, do what I will,

Is sure to be the fashion still.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 12, Fable 16



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