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THE BASHAW AND THE MERCHANT. Jean de La Fontaine

THE BASHAW AND THE MERCHANT. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE BASHAW AND THE MERCHANT. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

An old Greek Merchant, one day, sought
Protection from a Bashaw, bought
At pasha′s, not at merchant′s, price
(Such guardians are not very nice).
It cost so much, that he complained
His purse and coffer were both drained.
Three other Turks, of lower station,
Offered, from sheer commiseration,
Their joint help, by word and deed,
For less than half the first to cede:

The Greek he listens, then agrees.
The Bashaw, cheated of his fees,
Is told that if of time the nick
He′d seize, these rascals he must trick—
Send them to Mahomet, to bear
A message for his private ear;
And quickly, too, or they united,
Knowing his friends, would see him righted;
Would send him some vile poison-broth,
To show the keenness of their wrath;
And that would send him to protect
The Stygian merchants, they expect.
The Turk—an Alexander—strode
Unto the Merchant′s snug abode:
Down at the table sat—his air
Generous, bold, and free from care,
For he feared nothing,—how could he?
"My friend," he said, "you′re quitting me;
And people tell me to watch keenly.—
You are too worthy: so serenely
No poisoner ever looks, I know;
So no more on that tack we′ll go.
But for these patrons you have found,
Hear me,—to tell a tale I′m bound.
To wrong you I have no intent,
With reasoning, or with argument.

"Once a poor shepherd used to keep
A dog, to guard his silly sheep;
Till some one asked him, plain and pat,
How he could keep a beast like that,
With such a ravenous appetite:
It really wasn′t fair or right.
′Twas their and every one′s desire
He′d give the dog up to the squire.
Three terriers were best for him,
To guard his flocks, in life and limb:
The cur ate three times more than they.—
But the fool meddlers did not say
He also fought with treble teeth,
When wolves came howling out for death.
The shepherd listened—three dogs bought:
They cost him less, but never fought.
The flock discovered their ill lot
Almost as soon as you, I wot.
Your wretched choice will quickly do:
Now mark what I have said to you;
If you′ll do well, return to me."
The Greek obeyed him speedily.

′Tis good the provinces should heed:
′Tis better, in good faith I plead,
Unto one powerful king to bend,
Than on poor princelings to depend.


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