HomeJean de La FontaineKING GASTER AND THE MEMBERS

KING GASTER AND THE MEMBERS. Jean de La Fontaine

Had I but shown a proper loyalty,
I had begun my book with royalty.
The Belly is a king, it′s true,
And in a certain point of view
His wants the other members share.
Well, once to work for him they weary were;
Each one discussed a better plan,—
To live an idle gentleman,
Like Monsieur Gaster,
Their lord and master.
"Without us he must feed on air;
We sweat and toil, and groan with care,
For whom? for him alone; we get no good,
And all our thought′s to find him food:
We′ll strike, and try his idle trade."
′Twas done as soon as said.
The hands refused to grasp, the legs to walk,
The eyes to open, and the tongue to talk;
Gaster might do whate′er he could.—
′Twas a mistake they soon repent
With one consent.
The heart made no more blood, and so
The other members ceased to glow;
All wanted strength,
And thus the working men at length
Saw that their idle monarch, in his way,
Toiled for the common weal as well as they.
And this applies to royalty,
It takes and gives with fair equality;
All draw from it their nourishment:
It feeds the artisan, and pays the magistrate,
Gives labourers food, and soldiers subsidies,
Distributes in a thousand places
Its sovereign graces;
In fact, supports the State.

Menenius told the story well,
When discord in the senate fell,
And discontented Commons taunted it
For having power and treasure, honour, dignity,
While all the care and pain was theirs,
Taxes and imposts, all the toils of war,
The blood, the sorrow, brand and scar.
Without the walls already do they band,
Resolved to seek another land.
Menenius was able,
By this most precious fable,
To bring them safely back
To the old, honest track.

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