A shepherd, neighbour to the sea,
Lived with his flock contentedly.
His fortune, though but small,
Was safe within his call.
At last some stranded kegs of gold
Him tempted, and his flock he sold,
Turn’d merchant, and the ocean’s waves
Bore all his treasure—to its caves.
Brought back to keeping sheep once more,
But not chief shepherd, as before,
When sheep were his that grazed the shore,
He who, as Corydon or Thyrsis,
Might once have shone in pastoral verses,
Bedeck’d with rhyme and metre,
Was nothing now but Peter.
But time and toil redeem’d in full
Those harmless creatures rich in wool;
And as the lulling winds, one day,
The vessels wafted with a gentle motion,
“Want you,” he cried, “more money, Madam Ocean?
Address yourself to some one else, I pray;
You shall not get it out of me!
I know too well your treachery.”
This tale’s no fiction, but a fact,
Which, by experience back’d,
Proves that a single penny,
At present held, and certain,
Is worth five times as many,
Of Hope’s, beyond the curtain;
That one should be content with his condition,
And shut his ears to counsels of ambition,
More faithless than the wreck−strown sea, and which
Doth thousands beggar where it makes one rich,—
Inspires the hope of wealth, in glorious forms,
And blasts the same with piracy and storms.
The Shepherd and the Sea – Jean de La Fontaine Fables in Book 4