Who joins not with his restless race
To give Dame Fortune eager chase?
O, had I but some lofty perch,
From which to view the panting crowd
Of care-worn dreamers, poor and proud,
As on they hurry in the search,
From realm to realm, over land and water,
Of Fate’s fantastic, fickle daughter!
Ah! slaves sincere of flying phantom!
Just as their goddess they would clasp,
The jilt divine eludes their grasp,
And flits away to Bantam!
Poor fellows! I bewail their lot.
And here’s the comfort of my ditty;
For fools the mark of wrath are not
So much, I’m sure, as pity.
“That man,” say they, and feed their hope,
“Raised cabbages—and now he’s pope.
Don’t we deserve as rich a prize?”
Ay, richer? But, has Fortune eyes?
And then the popedom, is it worth
The price that must be given?—
Repose?—the sweetest bliss of earth,
And, ages since, of gods in heaven?
It’s rarely Fortune’s favourites
Enjoy this cream of all delights.
Seek not the dame, and she will you—
A truth which of her sex is true.
Snug in a country town
A pair of friends were settled down.
One sighed unceasingly to find
A fortune better to his mind,
And, as he chanced his friend to meet,
Proposed to quit their dull retreat.
“No prophet can to honour come,”
Said he, “unless he quits his home;
Let’s seek our fortune far and wide.”
“Seek, if you please,” his friend replied:
“For one, I do not wish to see
A better clime or destiny.
I leave the search and prize to you;
Your restless humour please pursue!
You’ll soon come back again.
I vow to nap it here till then.”
The enterprising, or ambitious,
Or, if you please, the avaricious,
Betook him to the road.
The morrow brought him to a place
The flaunting goddess ought to grace
As her particular abode—
I mean the court—whereat he staid,
And plans for seizing Fortune laid.
He rose, and dressed, and dined, and went to bed,
Exactly as the fashion led:
In short, he did whatever he could,
But never found the promised good.
Said he, “Now somewhere else I’ll try—
And yet I failed I know not why;
For Fortune here is much at home
To this and that I see her come,
Astonishingly kind to some.
And, truly, it is hard to see
The reason why she slips from me.
It’s true, perhaps, as I have been told,
That spirits here may be too bold.
To courts and courtiers all I bid adieu;
Deceitful shadows they pursue.
The dame has temples in Surat;
I’ll go and see them—that is flat.”
To say so was t” embark at once.
O, human hearts are made of bronze!
His must have been of adamant,
Beyond the power of Death to daunt,
Who ventured first this route to try,
And all its frightful risks defy.
It was more than once our venturous wight
Did homeward turn his aching sight,
When pirate’s, rocks, and calms and storms,
Presented death in frightful forms—
Death sought with pains on distant shores,
Which soon as wished for would have come,
Had he not left the peaceful doors
Of his despised but blessed home.
Arrived, at length, in Hindostan,
The people told our wayward man
That Fortune, ever void of plan,
Dispensed her favours in Japan.
And on he went, the weary sea
His vessel bearing lazily.
This lesson, taught by savage men,
Was after all his only gain:
Contented in your country stay,
And seek your wealth in nature’s way.
Japan refused to him, no less
Than Hindostan, success;
And hence his judgment came to make
His quitting home a great mistake.
Renouncing his ungrateful course,
He hastened back with all his force;
And when his village came in sight,
His tears were proof of his delight.
“Ah, happy he,” exclaimed the wight,
“Who, dwelling there with mind sedate,
Employs himself to regulate
His ever-hatching, wild desires;
Who checks his heart when it aspires
To know of courts, and seas, and glory,
More than he can by simple story;
Who seeks not over the treacherous wave—
More treacherous Fortune’s willing slave—
The bait of wealth and honours fleeting,
Held by that goddess, aye retreating.
Henceforth from home I budge no more!”
Pop on his sleeping friends he came,
Thus purposing against the dame,
And found her sitting at his door.
The Man Who Ran After Fortune, and the Man Who Waited For Her In His Bed by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 7
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