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THE WOLF AND THE HUNTER. Jean de La Fontaine

O Avarice! thou monster, mad for gain;
Whose mind takes in but one idea of good!
How often shall I use my words in vain?
When shall my tales by thee be understood?
Oh, when will man, with heart so cold,
Still ever heaping gold on gold,
Deaf to the bard as to the wise,
At length from his dull drudgery rise,
And learn how sagely to employ it,—
Or know, in plain truth, to enjoy it?
Towards this course make haste, my friend,
For human life has soon an end.
And yet, again, a volume in one word compressing,
I tell you, wealth is only, when enjoyed, a blessing.
"Well," you reply, "to-morrow ′twill be done!"
My friend, you may not see to-morrow′s sun;
Ah! like the Hunter and the Wolf, you′ll find
′Tis hard to die, and leave your wealth behind.

A Hunter, having deftly slain
A Stag of ten, beheld a Doe;
So, having taken aim again,
Upon the green sward laid it low.
This booty was sufficient quite
For modest Hunter′s appetite;
But, lo! a Boar, of form superb,
Starting from the tangled herb,
Tempted the Archer′s greed anew,—
The bow was twanged, the arrow flew,—
With futile shears the sister dread
Had frayed his boarship′s vital thread.
Full grimly did she now resume
The work at her Tartarean loom,
Nor yet achieved the monsters doom.

Not yet content?—nor ever will be he
Who once has quaffed the cup of victory.
The Boar has just begun to rise,
When, swift, a red-legged partridge flies
Right in the greedy Hunter′s view,—
A wretched prize, ′tis very true,
Compared with those already got:
And yet the sportsman takes a shot;
But ere the trigger′s pulled, the Boar,
Grown strong for just one effort more,
The Hunter slays, and on him dies:
With thanks, away the partridge flies.

The covetous shall have the best;
The miserly may take the rest.—
A Wolf that, passing by, took note
Of this sad scene, said, "I devote
To Mistress Luck a sumptuous fane.
What! corpses four together slain?
It seems scarce true! But I must be
Prudent midst this satiety,
For such good seldom comes to me."
(This is, of many vain excuses,
The one the miser mostly uses.)
"Enough," the Wolf continued, "here,
To give me for a month good cheer.
Four bodies with four weeks will fit,
But, nathless, I will wait a bit,
And first this Hunter′s bowstring chew,
For scent proclaims it catgut true."
Thus saying, on the bow he flings
His hungry form; when, taking wings,
The undischarged bolt quickly flies
Through the Wolf′s carcase, and he dies.

And now my text I will repeat—
Wealth, only when enjoyed, is sweet.
Oh, reader, from these gluttons twain
Take warning, ere it be too late.
Through greed was the keen Hunter slain;
Through hoarding up Wolf met his fate.


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