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The Fool Who Sold Wisdom

(Recueil 2, Livre 9, Fable 8)



Of fools come never in the reach:

No rule can I more wisely teach.

Nor can there be a better one

Than this, distempered heads to shun.

We often see them, high and low.

They tickle even the royal ear,

As, privileged and free from fear,

They hurl about them joke and jeer,

At pompous lord or silly beau.

A fool, in town, did wisdom cry;

The people, eager, flocked to buy.

Each for his money got,

Paid promptly on the spot,

Besides a box on the head,

Two fathoms' length of thread.

The most were vexed but quite in vain

The public only mocked their pain.

The wiser they who nothing said,

But pocketed the box and thread.

To search the meaning of the thing

Would only laughs and hisses bring.

Has reason ever guaranteed

The wit of fools in speech or deed?

It's said of brainless heads in France,

The cause of what they do is chance.

One dupe, however, needs must know

What meant the thread, and what the blow;

So asked a sage, to make it sure.

"They're both hieroglyphics pure,"

The sage replied without delay;

"All people well advised will stay

From fools this fibre's length away,

Or get I hold it sure as fate

The other symbol on the pate.

So far from cheating you of gold,

The fool this wisdom fairly sold."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 9, Fable 8



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