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THE GARDENER AND HIS MASTER. Jean de La Fontaine

An amateur of flowers—bourgeois and yet clown—
Had made a garden far from any town;
Neat, trim, and snug, it was the village pride;
Green quickset hedges girt its every side;
There the rank sorrel and the lettuce grew,
And Spanish jasmine for his Margot, too,
Jonquils for holidays, and crisp dry thyme;
But all this happiness, one fatal time,
Was marred by a hare; his grief and woe
Compel the peasant to his lord to go.
"This cursed animal," he says, "by night
And day comes almost hourly for his bite;
He spurns my cunning, and defies my snares,
For stones and sticks he just as little cares;
He is a wizard, that is very sure,
And for a wizard is there, sir, a cure?"
"Wizard, be hanged!" the lord said; "you shall see,
His tricks and his wiles will not avail with me;
I′ll scare the rascal, on my faith, good man."
"And when?" "To-morrow; I have got a plan."
The thing agreed, he comes with all his troop.
"Good! let us lunch—fowls tender in the coop?
That girl your daughter? come to me, my dear!
When you betroth her, there′s a brave lad here.
I know, good man, the matrimonial curse
Digs plaguey deep into a father′s purse."
The lord, so saying, nearer draws his chair,
Plays with the clusters of the daughter′s hair,
Touches her hand, her arm, with gay respect,
Follies that make a father half suspect
Her coyness is assumed; meantime they dine,
Squander the meat, play havoc with the wine.
"I like these hams, their flavour and their look."
"Sir, they are yours." "Thanks: take them to my cook."
He dined, and amply; his retainers, too;
Dogs, horses, valets, all well toothed, nor few;
My lord commands, such liberties he takes,
And fond professions to the daughter makes.
The dinner over, and the wine passed round,
The hunters rise, and horns and bugles sound;
They rouse the game with such a wild halloo,
The good man is astonished at the crew;
The worst was that, amid this noise and clack,
The little kitchen garden went to wrack.
Adieu the beds! adieu the borders neat!
Peas, chicory, all trodden under feet.
Adieu the future soup! The frightened hare
Beneath a monster cabbage made his lair.
They seek him—find him; "After him, my boys!"
He seeks the well-known hole with little noise;
Yet not a hole, rather a wound they made
In the poor hedge with hoof and hunting-blade.
"By the lord′s orders it would never do
To leave the garden but on horseback, no."
The good man says; "Royal your sports may be,
Call them whate′er you like, but pity me;
Those dogs and people did more harm to-day
Than all the hares for fifty years, I say."


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