HomeJean de La FontaineTHE COUNTRYMAN AND THE SERPENT

THE COUNTRYMAN AND THE SERPENT. Jean de La Fontaine

Æsop describes, as he′s well able,
A Peasant, wise and charitable,
Who, walking on a winter day
Around his farm, found by the way
A snake extended on the snow,
Frozen and numb—half dead, you know.
He lifts the beast, with friendly care,
And takes him home to warmer air—
Not thinking what reward would be
Of such an unwise charity.
Beside the hearth he stretches him,
Warms and revives each frozen limb.
The creature scarcely feels the glow,
Before its rage begins to flow:
First gently raised its head, and rolled
Its swelling body, fold on fold;
Then tried to leap, and spring, and bite
Its benefactor;—was that right?
"Ungrateful!" cried the man; "then I
Will give you now your due—you die!"
With righteous anger came the blow
From the good axe. It struck, and, lo!
Two strokes—three snakes—its body, tail,
And head; and each, without avail,
Trying to re-unite in vain,
They only wriggle in long pain.

It′s good to lavish charity;
But then on whom? Well, that′s just it.
As for ungrateful men, they die
In misery, and as ′tis fit.


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