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THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING CLEVER. Jean de La Fontaine

THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING CLEVER. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE ADVANTAGE OF BEING CLEVER. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

Between two citizens there once
Arose a quarrel furious;
The one was poor, but full of knowledge
Ripe, and rare, and curious;
The other had not been to college,
And was, though rich, a perfect dunce.
He, far too fondly oft proclaiming
The items of his hoarded pelf,
Declared that learned men but came in
A rank far underneath himself.
The man was quite a fool, and I
Can never understand the why
Or wherefore wealth alone should place
A man above the learned race.
The rich one to the wise one said,
Full often, "Is your table spread
As well as mine? And if not, tell
What boots it that you read so well?
Night after night you sadly clamber
To the dull third-floor′s backmost chamber;
And in December′s cold you wear
What in hot June would be too bare;
Whilst as for servants, you have none,
Unless you call your shadow one.
Alack! explain to me the fate
Of this or any other State,
If all were there like you, and I
Spent nothing on my luxury?
We rich ones use our wealth, God knows!
And forth from us to artisan,
To tradesman and to courtesan,
In glorious golden floods it flows.
And even you, who write your works
Chiefly to use the knives and forks
Of rich financiers, get your meed
Of what you call our hoarded greed."
These foolish words, need scarce be said,
Simply contemptuous answer had.
The wise man had too much to say
In answer, and so went away.
But, worse than sarcasm, the sword
Of rough invader met the hoard
Of him who had the wealth: the town
In which he dwelt was toppled down.
They left the city, and the one
Who ignorant was [was] soon undone,
And met all men′s contempt; whilst he
Who knew the sciences was free
Of all men call society.

The quarrel so at last was ended;
But this is what I always say:
In spite of the fool′s yea or nay,
The wise must be commended.


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