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The Miser and the Monkey

(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 3)



A man amassed. The thing, we know,

Does often to a frenzy grow.

No thought had he but of his minted gold

Stuff void of worth when unemployed, I hold.

Now, that this treasure might the safer be,

Our miser's dwelling had the sea

As guard on every side from every thief.

With pleasure, very small in my belief,

But very great in his, he there

On his hoard bestowed his care.

No respite came of everlasting

Recounting, calculating, casting;

For some mistake would always come

To mar and spoil the total sum.

A monkey there, of goodly size,

And than his lord, I think, more wise,

Some doubloons from the window threw,

And rendered thus the count untrue.

The padlocked room permitted

Its owner, when he quitted,

To leave his money on the table.

One day, bethought this monkey wise

To make the whole a sacrifice

To Neptune on his throne unstable.

I could not well award the prize

Between the monkey's and the miser's pleasure

Derived from that devoted treasure.

With some, Don Bertrand, would the honour gain,

For reasons it were tedious to explain.

One day, then, left alone,

That animal, to mischief prone,

Coin after coin detached,

A gold jacobus snatched,

Or Portuguese doubloon,

Or silver ducatoon,

Or noble, of the English rose,

And flung with all his might

Those discs, which often excite

The strongest wishes mortal ever knows.

Had he not heard, at last,

The turning of his master's key,

The money all had passed

The same short road to sea;

And not a single coin but had been pitched

Into the gulf by many a wreck enriched.

Now, God preserve full many a financier

Whose use of wealth may find its likeness here!

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 12, Fable 3



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