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The Astrologer Who Stumbled Into A Well

(Recueil 1, Livre 2, Fable 13)



To an astrologer who fell

Plump to the bottom of a well,

"Poor blockhead!" cried a passer-by,

"Not see your feet, and read the sky?"

This upshot of a story will suffice

To give a useful hint to most;

For few there are in this our world so wise

As not to trust in star or ghost,

Or cherish secretly the creed

That men the book of destiny may read.

This book, by Homer and his pupils sung,

What is it, in plain common sense,

But what was chance those ancient folks among,

And with ourselves, God's providence?

Now chance does bid defiance

To every thing like science;

it were wrong, if not,

To call it hazard, fortune, lot

Things palpably uncertain.

But from the purposes divine,

The deep of infinite design,

Who boasts to lift the curtain?

Whom but himself does God allow

To read his bosom thoughts? and how

Would he imprint on the stars sublime

The shrouded secrets of the night of time?

And all for what? To exercise the wit

Of those who on astrology have writ?

To help us shun inevitable ills?

To poison for us even pleasure's rills?

The choicest blessings to destroy,

Exhausting, before they come, their joy?

Such faith is worse than error. It's a crime.

The sky-host moves and marks the course of time;

The sun sheds on our nicely measured days

The glory of his night dispelling rays;

And all from this we can divine

Is, that they need to rise and shine,

To roll the seasons, ripen fruits,

And cheer the hearts of men and brutes.

How tallies this revolving universe

With human things, eternally diverse?

You horoscopers, waning quacks,

Please turn on Europe's courts your backs,

And, taking on your travelling lists

The bellows blowing alchemists,

Budge off together to the land of mists.

But I have digressed. Return we now, bethinking

Of our poor star man, whom we left a drinking.

Besides the folly of his lying trade,

This man the type may well be made

Of those who at chimeras stare

When they should mind the things that are.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 2, Fable 13



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