The Ingratitude And Injustice Of Men Towards Fortune.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine


A trader on the sea to riches grew;
Freight after freight the winds in favour blew;
Fate steer'd him clear; gulf, rock, nor shoal
Of all his bales exacted toll.
Of other men the powers of chance and storm
Their dues collected in substantial form;
While smiling Fortune, in her kindest sport,
Took care to waft his vessels to their port.
His partners, factors, agents, faithful proved;
His goods - tobacco, sugar, spice -
Were sure to fetch the highest price.
By fashion and by folly loved,
His rich brocades and laces,
And splendid porcelain vases,
Enkindling strong desires,
Most readily found buyers.
In short, gold rain'd where'er he went -
Abundance, more than could be spent -
Dogs, horses, coaches, downy bedding -
His very fasts were like a wedding.
A bosom friend, a look his table giving,
Inquired whence came such sumptuous living.
'Whence should it come,' said he, superb of brow,
'But from the fountain of my knowing how?
I owe it simply to my skill and care
In risking only where the marts will bear.'
And now, so sweet his swelling profits were,
He risk'd anew his former gains:
Success rewarded not his pains -
His own imprudence was the cause.
One ship, ill-freighted, went awreck;
Another felt of arms the lack,
When pirates, trampling on the laws,
O'ercame, and bore it off a prize.
A third, arriving at its port,
Had fail'd to sell its merchandize, -
The style and folly of the court
Not now requiring such a sort.
His agents, factors, fail'd; - in short,
The man himself, from pomp and princely cheer,
And palaces, and parks, and dogs, and deer,
Fell down to poverty most sad and drear.
His friend, now meeting him in shabby plight,
Exclaim'd, 'And whence comes this to pass?'
'From Fortune,' said the man, 'alas!'
'Console yourself,' replied the friendly wight:
'For, if to make you rich the dame denies,
She can't forbid you to be wise.'

What faith he gain'd, I do not wis;
I know, in every case like this,
Each claims the credit of his bliss,
And with a heart ingrate
Imputes his misery to Fate.[2]

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