La Fontaine: The Astrologer; The Dairywoman (Wright)

These stories are part of the La Fontaine unit. Story source: The Fables of La Fontaine translated by Elizur Wright (1882).

The Astrologer Who Stumbled Into A Well 

To an astrologer who fell
Plump to the bottom of a well,
"Poor blockhead!" cried a passer-by,
"Not see your feet, and read the sky?"
This upshot of a story will suffice
To give a useful hint to most;
For few there are in this our world so wise
As not to trust in star or ghost,
Or cherish secretly the creed
That men the book of destiny may read.
This book, by Homer and his pupils sung,
What is it, in plain common sense,
But what was chance those ancient folks among,
And with ourselves, God's providence?
Now chance does bid defiance
To every thing like science;
it were wrong, if not,
To call it hazard, fortune, lot—
Things palpably uncertain.
But from the purposes divine,
The deep of infinite design,
Who boasts to lift the curtain?
Whom but himself does God allow
To read his bosom thoughts? and how
Would he imprint on the stars sublime
The shrouded secrets of the night of time?
And all for what? To exercise the wit
Of those who on astrology have writ?
To help us shun inevitable ills?
To poison for us even pleasure's rills?
The choicest blessings to destroy,
Exhausting, before they come, their joy?
Such faith is worse than error—It's a crime.
The sky-host moves and marks the course of time;
The sun sheds on our nicely-measured days
The glory of his night-dispelling rays;
And all from this we can divine
Is, that they need to rise and shine,—
To roll the seasons, ripen fruits,
And cheer the hearts of men and brutes.
How tallies this revolving universe
With human things, eternally diverse?
You horoscopers, waning quacks,
Please turn on Europe's courts your backs,
And, taking on your travelling lists
The bellows-blowing alchemists,
Budge off together to the land of mists.
But I have digressed. Return we now, bethinking
Of our poor star-man, whom we left a drinking.
Besides the folly of his lying trade,
This man the type may well be made
Of those who at chimeras stare
When they should mind the things that are.

The Dairywoman and the Pot of Milk

A pot of milk on her cushioned crown,
Good Peggy hastened to the market town;
Short clad and light, with speed she went,
Not fearing any accident;
Indeed, to be the nimbler tripper,
Her dress that day,
The truth to say,
Was simple petticoat and slipper.
And, thus bedight,
Good Peggy, light,—
Her gains already counted,—
Laid out the cash
At single dash,
Which to a hundred eggs amounted.
Three nests she made,
Which, by the aid
Of diligence and care were hatched.
"To raise the chicks,
I'll easy fix,"
Said she, "beside our cottage thatched.
The fox must get
More cunning yet,
Or leave enough to buy a pig.
With little care
And any fare,
He'll grow quite fat and big;
And then the price
Will be so nice,
For which, the pork will sell!
"Twill go quite hard
But in our yard
I'll bring a cow and calf to dwell—
A calf to frisk among the flock!"
The thought made Peggy do the same;
And down at once the milk-pot came,
And perished with the shock.
Calf, cow, and pig, and chicks, adieu!
Your mistress' face is sad to view;
She gives a tear to fortune spilt;
Then with the downcast look of guilt
Home to her husband empty goes,
Somewhat in danger of his blows.
Who builds not, sometimes, in air
His cots, or seats, or castles fair?
From kings to dairy women,—all,—
The wise, the foolish, great and small,—
Each thinks his waking dream the best.
Some flattering error fills the breast:
The world with all its wealth is ours,
Its honours, dames, and loveliest bowers.
Instinct with valour, when alone,
I hurl the monarch from his throne;
The people, glad to see him dead,
Elect me monarch in his stead,
And diadems rain on my head.
Some accident then calls me back,
And I'm no more than simple Jack.

(600 words)

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