HomeJean de La FontaineTHE OYSTER AND ITS CLAIMANTS

THE OYSTER AND ITS CLAIMANTS. Jean de La Fontaine

Two travellers discovered on the beach
An Oyster, carried thither by the sea.
′Twas eyed with equal greediness by each;
Then came the question whose was it to be.
One, stooping down to pounce upon the prize,
Was thrust away before his hand could snatch it.
"Not quite so quickly," his companion cries;
"If you′ve a claim here, I′ve a claim to match it;
The first that saw it has the better right
To its possession; come, you can′t deny it."
"Well," said his friend, "my orbs are pretty bright,
And I, upon my life, was first to spy it."
"You? Not at all; or, if you did perceive it,
I smelt it long before it was in view;
But here′s a lawyer coming—let us leave it
To him to arbitrate between the two."
The lawyer listens with a stolid face,
Arrives at his decision in a minute;
And, as the shortest way to end the case,
Opens the shell and cats the fish within it.
The rivals look upon him with dismay:—
"This Court," says he, "awards you each a shell;
You′ve neither of you any costs to pay,
And so be happy. Go in peace. Farewell!"

How often, when causes to trial are brought,
Does the lawyer get pelf and the client get naught!
The former will pocket his fees with a sneer,
While the latter sneaks off with a flea in his ear.


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