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A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

The Treasure And The Two Men

Title:     The Treasure And The Two Men
Author: Jean de La Fontaine [More Titles by La Fontaine]

A man whose credit fail'd, and what was worse,
Who lodged the devil in his purse,--
That is to say, lodged nothing there,--
By self-suspension in the air
Concluded his accounts to square,
Since, should he not, he understood,
From various tokens, famine would--
A death for which no mortal wight
Had ever any appetite.
A ruin, crown'd with ivy green,
Was of his tragedy the scene.
His hangman's noose he duly tied,
And then to drive a nail he tried;--
But by his blows the wall gave way,
Now tremulous and old,
Disclosing to the light of day
A sum of hidden gold.
He clutch'd it up, and left Despair
To struggle with his halter there.
Nor did the much delighted man
E'en stop to count it as he ran.
But, while he went, the owner came,
Who loved it with a secret flame,
Too much indeed for kissing,--
And found his money--missing!
'O Heavens!' he cried, 'shall I
Such riches lose, and still not die?
Shall I not hang?--as I, in fact,
Might justly do if cord I lack'd;
But now, without expense, I can;
This cord here only lacks a man.'
The saving was no saving clause;
It suffer'd not his heart to falter,
Until it reach'd his final pause
As full possessor of the halter,--
'Tis thus the miser often grieves:
Whoe'er the benefit receives
Of what he owns, he never must--
Mere treasurer for thieves,
Or relatives, or dust.
But what say we about the trade
In this affair by Fortune made?
Why, what but that it was just like her!
In freaks like this delighteth she.
The shorter any turn may be,
The better it is sure to strike her.
It fills that goddess full of glee
A self-suspended man to see;
And that it does especially,
When made so unexpectedly.

[The end]
Jean de La Fontaine's poem: Treasure And The Two Men