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Nothing Too Much

(Recueil 2, Livre 9, Fable 11)

 

 

Look where we will throughout creation,

We look in vain for moderation.

There is a certain golden mean,

Which Nature's sovereign Lord, I believe,

Designed the path of all forever.

Does one pursue it? Never.

Even things which by their nature bless,

Are turned to curses by excess.

The grain, best gift of Ceres fair,

Green waving in the genial air,

By overgrowth exhausts the soil;

By superfluity of leaves

Defrauds the treasure of its sheaves,

And mocks the busy farmer's toil.

Not less redundant is the tree,

So sweet a thing is luxury.

The grain within due bounds to keep,

Their Maker licenses the sheep

The leaves excessive to retrench.

In troops they spread across the plain,

And, nibbling down the hapless grain,

Contrive to spoil it, root and branch.

So, then, with, licence from on high,

The wolves are sent on sheep to prey;

The whole the greedy gluttons slay;

Or, if they don't, they try.

Next, men are sent on wolves to take

The vengeance now condign:

In turn the same abuse they make

Of this behest divine.

Of animals, the human kind

Are to excess the most inclined.

On low and high we make the charge,

Indeed, on the race at large.

There lives not the soul select

That sins not in this respect.

Of "Nothing too much," the fact is,

All preach the truth, none practise.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 9, Fable 11

 

 

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