A father once, whose sons were two,
For each a gift had much ado.
At last upon this course he fell:
'My sons,' said he, 'within our well
Two treasures lodge, as I am told;
The one a sunken piece of gold, -
A bowl it may be, or a pitcher, -
The other is a thing far richer.
These treasures if you can but find,
Each may be suited to his mind;
For both are precious in their kind.
To gain the one you'll need a hook;
The other will but cost a look.
But O, of this, I pray, beware! -
You who may choose the tempting share, -
Too eager fishing for the pitcher
May ruin that which is far richer.'
Out ran the boys, their gifts to draw:
But eagerness was check'd with awe,
How could there be a richer prize
Than solid gold beneath the skies?
Or, if there could, how could it dwell
Within their own old, mossy well?
Were questions which excited wonder,
And kept their headlong av'rice under.
The golden cup each fear'd to choose,
Lest he the better gift should lose;
And so resolved our prudent pair,
The gifts in common they would share.
The well was open to the sky.
As o'er its curb they keenly pry,
It seems a tunnel piercing through,
From sky to sky, from blue to blue;
And, at its nether mouth, each sees
A brace of their antipodes,
With earnest faces peering up,
As if themselves might seek the cup.
'Ha!' said the elder, with a laugh,
'We need not share it by the half.
The mystery is clear to me;
That richer gift to all is free.
Be only as that water true,
And then the whole belongs to you.'
That truth itself was worth so much,
It cannot be supposed that such.
A pair of lads were satisfied;
And yet they were before they died.
But whether they fish'd up the gold
I'm sure I never have been told.
Thus much they learn'd, I take for granted, -
And that was what their father wanted: -
If truth for wealth we sacrifice,
We throw away the richer prize.