HomeJean de La FontaineTHE MAN WHO RUNS AFTER FORTUNE, AND THE MAN WHO WAITS FOR HER

THE MAN WHO RUNS AFTER FORTUNE, AND THE MAN WHO WAITS FOR HER. Jean de La Fontaine

Is there a man beneath the sun,
Who does not after Fortune run?
I would I were in some snug place,
And high enough to watch the race
Of the long, scuffling, struggling train
That hunt Dame Fortune all in vain.
The phantom flies from land to land,
They follow with an outstretched hand.
Now they have almost caught her. No;
She′s vanished like the April bow.
Poor creatures! Pity them, I do:
Fools deserve pity—the whole crew,
By no means rage—"You see, we hope;
That cabbage-planter made a Pope.
Are we not quite as good?" they cry.
"Twenty times better," my reply.
"But what avails your mighty mind,
When Fortune is so densely blind?
Besides, what use the Papacy?
It is not worth the price, may be."
Rest, rest; a treasure that′s so great
′Twas once for gods reserved by Fate;
How rarely fickle Fortune sends
Such gifts unto her trusting friends.
Seek not the goddess, stay at home;
Then like her sex she′s sure to come.
Two friends there lived in the same place,
Who were by no means in bad case.
One sighed for Fortune night and day:
"Let′s quit our sojourn here, I pray,"
He to the other said, "You know,
Prophets in their own country go
Unhonoured; let us seek elsewhere."
"Seek!" said the other; "I′ll stay here.
I wish no better land or sky:
Content yourself, and I will try
To sleep the time out patiently."
The friend—ambitious, greedy soul!—
Set out to reach the wished-for goal;
And on the morrow sought a place
Where Fortune ought to show her face,
And frequently—the Court, I mean;
So there he halts, to view the scene;
Still seeking early, seeking late,
The hours propitious to Fate;
But yet, though seeking everywhere,
He only found regret and care.
"It′s of no use," at last he cried;
"Queen Fortune elsewhere must abide;
And yet I see her, o′er and o′er,
Enter by this and that man′s door:
And how, then, is it I can never
Meet her, though I seek her ever?"
These sort of people, I′m afraid,
Ambition find a losing trade.
Adieu, my lords; my lords, adieu;
Follow the shadow ruling you.
Fortune at Surat temples boasts;
Let′s seek those distant Indian coasts,
Ye souls of bronze who e′er essayed
This voyage; nay, diamond arms arrayed
The man who first crossed the abyss.
Many a time our friend, I wis,
Thought of his village and his farm,
Fearing incessantly some harm
From pirates, tempests, rocks and sands,
All friends of death. In many lands
Man seeks his foeman, round and round,
Who soon enough at home is found.
In Tartary they tell the man
That Fortune′s busy at Japan:
Then off he hurries, ne′er downcast.
Seas weary of the man at last,
And all the profit that he gains
Is this one lesson for his pains:
Japan, no more than Tartary,
Brought good to him or wealthy fee.
At last he settles it was shame
To leave his home, and takes the blame.
Then he returns: the well-loved place
Makes tears of joy run down his face.
"Happy," he cries, "the man at ease,
Who lives at home himself to please;
Ruling his passions, by report
Knowing alone of sea or Court,
Or Fortune, of thy empire, Jade,
Which has by turns to all displayed
Titles and wealth, that lead us on
From rising to the setting sun;
And yet thy promises astray
Still lead us to our dying day.
Henceforth I will not budge again,
And shall do better, I see plain."
While he thus schemed, resolved, and planned,
And against Fortune clenched his hand,
He found her in the open air
At his friend′s door, and sleeping there.

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