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The Miser Who Had Lost His Treasure

(Recueil 1, Livre 4, Fable 20)



It's use that constitutes possession.

I ask that sort of men, whose passion

It is to get and never spend,

Of all their toil what is the end?

What they enjoy of all their labours

Which do not equally their neighbours?

Throughout this upper mortal strife,

The miser leads a beggar's life.

Old Aesop's man of hidden treasure

May serve the case to demonstrate.

He had a great estate,

But chose a second life to wait

Before he began to taste his pleasure.

This man, whom gold so little blessed,

Was not possessor, but possessed.

His cash he buried under ground,

Where only might his heart be found;

It being, then, his sole delight

To ponder of it day and night,

And consecrate his rusty pelf,

A sacred offering, to himself.

In all his eating, drinking, travel,

Most wondrous short of funds he seemed;

One would have thought he little dreamed

Where lay such sums beneath the gravel.

A ditcher marked his coming to the spot,

So frequent was it,

And thus at last some little inkling got

Of the deposit.

He took it all, and babbled not.

One morning, before the dawn,

Forth had our miser gone

To worship what he loved the best,

When, lo! he found an empty nest!

Alas! what groaning, wailing, crying!

What deep and bitter sighing!

His torment makes him tear

Out by the roots his hair.

A passenger demands why

Such marvellous outcry.

"They've got my gold! it's gone it's gone!"

"Your gold! pray where?" Beneath this stone."

"Why, man, is this a time of war,

That you should bring your gold so far?

You'd better keep it in your drawer;

And I'll be bound, if once but in it,

You could have got it any minute."

"At any minute! Ah, Heaven knows

That cash comes harder than it goes!

I touched it not." - Then have the grace

To explain to me that rueful face,"

Replied the man; "for, if It's true

You touched it not, how plain the case,

That, put the stone back in its place,

And all will be as well for you!"

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 4, Fable 20



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