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The Gout and the Spider

(Recueil 1, Livre 3, Fable 8)



When Nature angrily turned out

Those plagues, the spider and the gout,

"Do you see," said she, "those huts so meanly built,

These palaces so grand and richly gilt?

By mutual agreement fix

Your choice of dwellings; or if not,

To end the affair by lot,

Draw out these little sticks."

"The huts are not for me," the spider cried;

"And not for me the palace," cried the gout;

For there a sort of men she spied

Called doctors, going in and out,

From whom, she could not hope for ease.

So hied her to the huts the fell disease,

And, fastening on a poor man's toe,

Hoped there to fatten on his woe,

And torture him, fit after fit,

Without a summons ever to quit,

From old Hippocrates.

The spider, on the lofty ceiling,

As if she had a life lease feeling.

Wove wide her cunning toils,

Soon rich with insect spoils.

A maid destroyed them as she swept the room:

Repaired, again they felt the fatal broom.

The wretched creature, every day,

From house and home must pack away.

At last, her courage giving out,

She went to seek her sister gout,

And in the field descried her,

Quite starved: more evils did betide her

Than ever befel the poorest spider

Her toiling host enslaved her so,

And made her chop, and dig, and hoe!

(Says one, "Kept brisk and busy,

The gout is made half easy.")

"O, when," exclaimed the sad disease,

"Will this my misery stop?

O, sister spider, if you please,

Our places let us swop."

The spider gladly heard,

And took her at her word,

And flourished in the cabin lodge,

Not forced the tidy broom to dodge

The gout, selecting her abode

With an ecclesiastic judge,

Turned judge herself, and, by her code,

He from his couch no more could budge.

The salves and cataplasms Heaven knows,

That mocked the misery of his toes;

While aye, without a blush, the curse,

Kept driving onward worse and worse.

Needless to say, the sisterhood

Thought their exchange both wise and good.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 3, Fable 8



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