A boy who savoured of his school,—
A double rogue and double fool,—
By youth and by the privilege
Which pedants have, by ancient right,
To alter reason, and abridge,—
A neighbour robbed, with fingers light,
Of flowers and fruit. This neighbour had,
Of fruits that make the autumn glad,
The very best—and none but he.
Each season brought, from plant and tree,
To him its tribute; for, in spring,
His was the brightest blossoming.
One day, he saw our hopeful lad
Perched on the finest tree he had,
Not only stuffing down the fruit,
But spoiling, like a Vandal brute,
The buds that play advance-courier
Of plenty in the coming year.
The branches, too, he rudely tore,
And carried things to such a pass,
The owner sent his servant over
To tell the master of his class.
The latter came, and came attended
By all the urchins of his school,
And thus one plunderer’s mischief mended
By pouring in an orchard-full.
It seems the pedant was intent
On making public punishment,
To teach his boys the force of law,
And strike their roguish hearts with awe.
The use of which he first must show
From Virgil and from Cicero,
And many other ancients noted,
From whom, in their own tongues, he quoted.
So long, indeed, his lecture lasted,
While not a single urchin fasted,
That, before its close, their thievish crimes
Were multiplied a hundred times.
I hate all eloquence and reason
Expended plainly out of season.
Of all the beasts that earth have cursed
While they have fed on’t,
The school-boy strikes me as the worst—
Except the pedant.
The better of these neighbours two
For me, I’m sure, would never do.
The Schoolboy, the Pedant, and the Owner Of A Garden by Jean de La Fontaine Fables – Book 9
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