A man amass’d. The thing, we know,
Doth often to a frenzy grow.
No thought had he but of his minted gold–
Stuff void of worth when unemploy’d, I hold.
Now, that this treasure might the safer be,
Our miser’s dwelling had the sea
As guard on every side from every thief.
With pleasure, very small in my belief,
But very great in his, he there
Upon his hoard bestow’d his care.
No respite came of everlasting
Recounting, calculating, casting;
For some mistake would always come
To mar and spoil the total sum.
A monkey there, of goodly size,–
And than his lord, I think, more wise,–
Some doubloons from the window threw,
And render’d thus the count untrue.
The padlock’d room permitted
Its owner, when he quitted,
To leave his money on the table.
One day, bethought this monkey wise
To make the whole a sacrifice
To Neptune on his throne unstable.
I could not well award the prize
Between the monkey’s and the miser’s pleasure
Derived from that devoted treasure.
With some, Don Bertrand, would the honour gain,
For reasons it were tedious to explain.
One day, then, left alone,
That animal, to mischief prone,
Coin after coin detach’d,
A gold jacobus snatch’d,
Or Portuguese doubloon,
Or silver ducatoon,
Or noble, of the English rose,
And flung with all his might
Those discs, which oft excite
The strongest wishes mortal ever knows.
Had he not heard, at last,
The turning of his master’s key,
The money all had pass’d
The same short road to sea;
And not a single coin but had been pitch’d
Into the gulf by many a wreck enrich’d.
Now, God preserve full many a financier
Whose use of wealth may find its likeness here!
The Fables of La Fontaine
by Jean de La Fontaine, 1875
Translation by Elizur Wrigh
So which one are you, the monkey or the miser?