The Astrologer Who Stumbled Into A Well By Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables

To an astrologer who fell
Plump to the bottom of a well,
“Poor blockhead!” cried a passer-by,
“Not see your feet, and read the sky?”
This upshot of a story will suffice
To give a useful hint to most;
For few there are in this our world so wise
As not to trust in star or ghost,
Or cherish secretly the creed
That men the book of destiny may read.
This book, by Homer and his pupils sung,
What is it, in plain common sense,
But what was chance those ancient folks among,
And with ourselves, God’s providence?
Now chance does bid defiance
To every thing like science;
it were wrong, if not,
To call it hazard, fortune, lot—
Things palpably uncertain.
But from the purposes divine,
The deep of infinite design,
Who boasts to lift the curtain?
Whom but himself does God allow
To read his bosom thoughts? and how
Would he imprint on the stars sublime
The shrouded secrets of the night of time?
And all for what? To exercise the wit
Of those who on astrology have writ?
To help us shun inevitable ills?
To poison for us even pleasure’s rills?
The choicest blessings to destroy,
Exhausting, before they come, their joy?
Such faith is worse than error—It’s a crime.
The sky-host moves and marks the course of time;
The sun sheds on our nicely-measured days
The glory of his night-dispelling rays;
And all from this we can divine
Is, that they need to rise and shine,—
To roll the seasons, ripen fruits,
And cheer the hearts of men and brutes.
How tallies this revolving universe
With human things, eternally diverse?
You horoscopers, waning quacks,
Please turn on Europe’s courts your backs,
And, taking on your travelling lists
The bellows-blowing alchemists,
Budge off together to the land of mists.
But I have digressed. Return we now, bethinking
Of our poor star-man, whom we left a drinking.
Besides the folly of his lying trade,
This man the type may well be made
Of those who at chimeras stare
When they should mind the things that are.

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