You lust of gain,—foul fiend, whose evil eyes
Regard as nothing the blessings of the skies,
Must I for ever battle you in vain?
How long demandest you to gain
The meaning of my lessons plain?
Will constant getting never cloy?
Will man never slacken to enjoy?
Haste, friend; you have not long to live:
Let me the precious word repeat,
And listen to it, I entreat;
A richer lesson none can give—
The sovereign antidote for sorrow—
ENJOY!—’I will.”—But when?—’Tomorrow.—”
Ah! death may take you on the way,
Why not enjoy, I ask, today?
Lest envious fate your hopes ingulf,
As once it served the hunter and the wolf.
The former, with his fatal bow,
A noble deer had laid full low:
A fawn approached, and quickly lay
Companion of the dead,
For side by side they bled.
Could one have wished a richer prey?
Such luck had been enough to sate
A hunter wise and moderate.
Meantime a boar, as big as ever was taken,
Our archer tempted, proud, and fond of bacon.
Another candidate for Styx,
Struck by his arrow, foams and kicks.
But strangely do the shears of Fate
To cut his cable hesitate.
Alive, yet dying, there he lies,
A glorious and a dangerous prize.
And was not this enough? Not quite,
To fill a conqueror’s appetite;
For, before the boar was dead, he spied
A partridge by a furrow’s side—
A trifle to his other game.
Once more his bow he drew;
The desperate boar on him came,
And in his dying vengeance slew:
The partridge thanked him as she flew.
Thus much is to the covetous addressed;
The miserly shall have the rest.
A wolf, in passing, saw that woeful sight.
“O Fortune,” cried the savage, with delight,
“A fane to you I’ll build outright!
“Four carcasses! how rich! But spare—
“I’ll make them last—such luck is rare,”
(The miser’s everlasting plea.)
“They’ll last a month for—let me see—
One, two, three, four—the weeks are four
If I can count—and some days more.
Well, two days from now
And I’ll commence.
Meantime, the string on this bow
I’ll stint myself to eat;
For by its mutton-smell I know
It’s made of entrails sweet.”
His entrails rued the fatal weapon,
Which, while he heedlessly did step on,
The arrow pierced his bowels deep,
And laid him lifeless on the heap.
Hark, stingy souls! insatiate leeches!
Our text this solemn duty teaches,—
Enjoy the present; do not wait
To share the wolf’s or hunter’s fate.
The Wolf and the Hunter by Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables in Book 8