HomeJean de La FontaineTHE MILK-MAID AND THE MILK-PAIL

THE MILK-MAID AND THE MILK-PAIL. Jean de La Fontaine

Perette, her Milk-pail balanced on her head,
Tripped gaily and without hindrance down the road,
So slim and trim, and gay she nimbly sped.
For more agility, with such a load,
She′d donned her shortest kirtle and light shoes.
And as she went she counted up her gains—
Her future gains—with her twice one, twice twos.
How long division racked her little brains!
"First buy a hundred eggs, then triple broods;
With care like mine the money soon will grow;

No fox so clever in our neighbour′s woods
But must leave me enough, as well I know,
To buy a pig, ′twill fatten very soon;
I buy him large, and for a good round sum
I sell him, mark you that some afternoon;
A cow and calf into our stable come;
Who′ll prevent that? that′s what I mean to say.
I see the calf skipping among the herd."
Then Perette skipped for joy. Alack-a-day!
Down came the milk, I give you my sworn word:
Adieu cow, calf, pig, chicken, all the rest.
She left with tearful eye her fortune lost,
And ran to tell her husband, dreading lest
He′d beat her, when in anger tempest tossed.
The neighbours, doubling up with laughter,
Called her the Milk-pail ever after.

Who has not raised his tower in Spain,
And in a cloud-land longed to reign?
Picrocolles, Pyrrhus have so done,
Sages or fools, just like this one.
All dream by turns; the dream is sweet;
The world lies prostrate at our feet:
Our souls yield blindly to the vision,
Ours beauty, honour, fields Elysian.
′Tis I alone the bravest smite,
The dethroned Sophy owns my might;
They choose me king, in crowds I′m led;
Gold crowns come raining on my head.
A fly soon wakes me up once more,
And I am Big John, as before.

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