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The Countryman and the Serpent

(Recueil 1, Livre 6, Fable 13)



A countryman, as Aesop certifies,

A charitable man, but not so wise,

One day in winter found,

Stretched on the snowy ground,

A chilled or frozen snake,

As torpid as a stake,

And, if alive, devoid of sense.

He took him up, and bore him home,

And, thinking not what recompense

For such a charity would come,

Before the fire stretched him,

And back to being fetched him.

The snake scarce felt the genial heat

Before his heart with native malice beat.

He raised his head, thrust out his forked tongue,

Coiled up, and at his benefactor sprung.

"Ungrateful wretch!" said he, "is this the way

My care and kindness you repay?

Now you shall die." With that his axe he takes,

And with two blows three serpents makes.

Trunk, head, and tail were separate snakes;

And, leaping up with all their might,

They vainly sought to reunite.

It's good and lovely to be kind;

But charity should not be blind;

For as to wretchedness ingrate,

You cannot raise it from its wretched state.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 6, Fable 13



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