How danger would the gods enrich,
If we the vows remembered which
It drives us to! But, danger past,
Kind Providence is paid the last.
No earthly debt is treated so.
“Now, Jove,” the wretch exclaims, “will wait;
He sends no sheriff to one’s gate,
Like creditors below;”
But, let me ask the dolt,
What means the thunderbolt?
A passenger, endangered by the sea,
Had vowed a hundred oxen good
To him who quelled old Terra’s brood.
He had not one: as well might he
Have vowed a hundred elephants.
Arrived on shore, his good intents
Were dwindled to the smoke which rose
An offering merely for the nose,
From half a dozen beefless bones.
“Great Jove,” said he, “behold my vow!
The fumes of beef you breathest now
Are all your godship ever owns:
From debt I therefore stand acquitted.”
With seeming smile, the god submitted,
But not long after caught him well,
By sending him a dream, to tell
Of treasure hid. Off ran the liar,
As if to quench a house on fire,
And on a band of robbers fell.
As but a crown he had that day,
He promised them of sterling gold
A hundred talents truly told;
Directing where concealed they lay,
In such a village on their way.
The rogues so much the tale suspected,
Said one, “If we should suffer you to,
You’d cheaply get us all detected;
Go, then, and bear your gold to Pluto.”
Jupiter and the Passenger by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 9