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The Carter In The Mire

(Recueil 1, Livre 6, Fable 18)



The Phaeton who drove a load of hay

Once found his cart bemired.

Poor man! the spot was far away

From human help—retired,

In some rude country place,

In Brittany, as near as I can trace,

Near Quimper Corentan,

A town that poet never sang,

Which Fate, they say, puts in the traveller's path,

When she would rouse the man to special wrath.

May Heaven preserve us from that route!

But to our carter, hale and stout:

Fast stuck his cart; he swore his worst,

And, filled with rage extreme,

The mud-holes now he cursed,

And now he cursed his team,

And now his cart and load,

Anon, the like on himself bestowed.

On the god he called at length,

Most famous through the world for strength.

"O, help me, Hercules!" cried he;

"For if your back of yore

This burly planet bore,

Your arm can set me free."

This prayer gone up, from out a cloud there broke

A voice which thus in godlike accents spoke:

"The suppliant must himself bestir,

Before Hercules will aid confer.

Look wisely in the proper quarter,

To see what hindrance can be found;

Remove the execrable mud and mortar,

Which, axle-deep, beset your wheels around.

Your sledge and crowbar take,

And pry me up that stone, or break;

Now fill that rut on the other side.

Have done it?" "Yes," the man replied.

"Well," said the voice, "I'll aid you now;

Take up your whip." "I have... but, how?

My cart glides on with ease!

I thank you, Hercules."

"Your team," rejoined the voice, "has light ado;

So help yourself, and Heaven will help you too."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 6, Fable 18



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