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The Ingratitude And Injustice Of Men Towards Fortune

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 15)



A trader on the sea to riches grew;

Freight after freight the winds in favour blew;

Fate steered him clear; gulf, rock, nor shoal

Of all his bales exacted toll.

Of other men the powers of chance and storm

Their dues collected in substantial form;

While smiling Fortune, in her kindest sport,

Took care to waft his vessels to their port.

His partners, factors, agents, faithful proved;

His goods tobacco, sugar, spice

Were sure to fetch the highest price.

By fashion and by folly loved,

His rich brocades and laces,

And splendid porcelain vases,

Enkindling strong desires,

Most readily found buyers.

In short, gold rained wherever he went

Abundance, more than could be spent

Dogs, horses, coaches, downy bedding

His very fasts were like a wedding.

A bosom friend, a look his table giving,

Inquired whence came such sumptuous living.

"Whence should it come," said he, superb of brow,

"But from the fountain of my knowing how?

I owe it simply to my skill and care

In risking only where the marts will bear."

And now, so sweet his swelling profits were,

He risked anew his former gains:

Success rewarded not his pains

His own imprudence was the cause.

One ship, ill-freighted, went awreck;

Another felt of arms the lack,

When pirates, trampling on the laws,

Overcame, and bore it off a prize.

A third, arriving at its port,

Had failed to sell its merchandize,

The style and folly of the court

Not now requiring such a sort.

His agents, factors, failed; in short,

The man himself, from pomp and princely cheer,

And palaces, and parks, and dogs, and deer,

Fell down to poverty most sad and drear.

His friend, now meeting him in shabby plight,

Exclaimed, "And whence comes this to pass?"

"From Fortune," said the man, "alas!"

"Console yourself," replied the friendly wight:

"For, if to make you rich the dame denies,

She can't forbid you to be wise."

What faith he gained, I do not wis;

I know, in every case like this,

Each claims the credit of his bliss,

And with a heart ingrate

Imputes his misery to Fate.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 15



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