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Death and the Woodman

(Recueil 1, Livre 1, Fable 16)



A poor wood-chopper, with his fagot load,

Whom weight of years, as well as load, oppressed,

Sore groaning in his smoky hut to rest,

Trudged wearily along his homeward road.

At last his wood on the ground he throws,

And sits him down to think over all his woes.

To joy a stranger, since his hapless birth,

What poorer wretch on this rolling earth?

No bread sometimes, and never a moment's rest;

Wife, children, soldiers, landlords, public tax,

All wait the swinging of his old, worn axe,

And paint the veriest picture of a man unblest.

On Death he calls. Forthwith that monarch grim

Appears, and asks what he should do for him.

"Not much, indeed; a little help I lack

To put these fagots on my back."

Death ready stands all ills to cure;

But let us not his cure invite.

Than die, it's better to endure,

Is both a manly maxim and a right.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 1, Fable 16



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