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The Pashaw and the Merchant

(Recueil 2, Livre 8, Fable 18)



A trading Greek, for want of law,

Protection bought of a pashaw;

And like a nobleman he paid,

Much rather than a man of trade

Protection being, Turkish wise,

A costly sort of merchandise.

So costly was it, in this case,

The Greek complained, with tongue and face.

Three other Turks, of lower rank,

Would guard his substance as their own,

And all draw less on his bank,

Than did the great pashaw alone.

The Greek their offer gladly heard,

And closed the bargain with a word.

The said pashaw was made aware,

And counseled, with a prudent care

These rivals to anticipate,

By sending them to heaven's gate,

As messengers to Mahomet

Which measure should he much delay,

Himself might go the self-same way,

By poison offered secretly,

Sent on, before his time, to be

Protector to such arts and trades

As flourish in the world of shades.

On this advice, the Turk—no gander

Behaved himself like Alexander.

Straight to the merchant's, firm and stable,

He went, and took a seat at table.

Such calm assurance there was seen,

Both in his words and in his mien,

That even that weasel sighted Grecian

Could not suspect him of suspicion.

"My friend," said he, "I know you've quit me,

And some think caution would befit me,

Lest to despatch me be your plan:

But, deeming you too good a man

To injure either friends or foes

With poisoned cups or secret blows,

I drown the thought, and say no more.

But, as regards the three or four

Who take my place,

I crave your grace

To listen to an apologue.

"A shepherd, with a single dog,

Was asked the reason why

He kept a dog, whose least supply

Amounted to a loaf of bread

For every day. The people said

He'd better give the animal

To guard the village seignior's hall;

For him, a shepherd, it would be

A thriftier economy

To keep small curs, say two or three,

That would not cost him half the food,

And yet for watching be as good.

The fools, perhaps, forgot to tell

If they would fight the wolf as well.

The silly shepherd, giving heed,

Cast off his dog of mastiff breed,

And took three dogs to watch his cattle,

Which ate far less, but fled in battle.

His flock such counsel lived to rue,

As doubtlessly, my friend, will you.

If wise, my aid again you'll seek"

And so, persuaded, did the Greek.

Not vain our tale, if it convinces

Small states that It's a wiser thing

To trust a single powerful king,

Than half a dozen petty princes.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 8, Fable 18



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