A certain wood−chopper lost or broke From his axe’s eye a bit of oak. The forest must needs be somewhat spared While such a loss was being repair’d. Came the man at last, and humbly pray’d That the woods would kindly lend to him— A moderate loan—a single limb, Whereof might another helve be made, And his axe should elsewhere drive its trade.
O, the oaks and firs that then might stand, A pride and a joy throughout the land, For their ancientness and glorious charms! The innocent Forest lent him arms; But bitter indeed was her regret; For the wretch, his axe new−helved and whet, Did nought but his benefactress spoil Of the finest trees that graced her soil; And ceaselessly was she made to groan, Doing penance for that fatal loan.
Behold the world−stage and its actors, Where benefits hurt benefactors!— A weary theme, and full of pain; For where’s the shade so cool and sweet, Protecting strangers from the heat, But might of such a wrong complain?
Alas! I vex myself in vain; Ingratitude, do what I will, Is sure to be the fashion still.
The Woods and the Woodman by Jean de La Fontaine