Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
 
Poems of Sentiment: VI. Labor and Rest
The Cobbler and the Financier
Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)
 
From the French by Elizur Wright

A COBBLER sang from morn till night:
’T was sweet and marvellous to hear;
His trills and quavers told the ear
Of more contentment and delight,
Enjoyed by that laborious wight,        5
Than e’er enjoyed the sages seven,
Or any mortals short of heaven.
His neighbor, on the other hand,
With gold in plenty at command,
But little sang, and slumbered less,—        10
A financier of great success.
If e’er he dozed at break of day,
The cobbler’s song drove sleep away;
And much he wished that Heaven had made
Sleep a commodity of trade,        15
In market sold, like food and drink,
So much an hour, so much a wink.
At last, our songster did he call
To meet him in his princely hall.
Said he, “Now, honest Gregory,        20
What may your yearly earnings be?”
“My yearly earnings! faith, good sir,
I never go, at once, so far,”
  The cheerful cobbler said,
  And queerly scratched his head,—        25
“I never reckon in that way,
But cobble on from day to day,
  Content with daily bread.”
  “Indeed! Well, Gregory, pray,
What may your earnings be per day?”        30
“Why, sometimes more and sometimes less.
The worst of all, I must confess,
(And but for which our gains would be
A pretty sight indeed to see,)
Is that the days are made so many        35
In which we cannot earn a penny.
The sorest ill the poor man feels:
They tread upon each other’s heels,
Those idle days of holy saints!
  And though the year is shingled o’er,        40
  The parson keeps a-finding more!”
With smile provoked by these complaints,
Replied the lordly financier,
  “I ’ll give you better cause to sing.
These hundred pounds I hand you here        45
  Will make you happy as a king.
Go, spend them with a frugal heed:
They ’ll long supply your every need.”
The cobbler thought the silver more
Than he had ever dreamed, before,        50
The mines for ages could produce,
Or world with all its people use.
He took it home, and there did hide,
And with it laid his joy aside.
No more of song, no more of sleep,        55
  But cares, suspicions, in their stead,
  And false alarms, by fancy fed.
His eyes and ears their vigils keep,
And not a cat can tread the floor
But seems a thief slipped through the door.        60
        At last, poor man!
Up to the financier he ran,—
Then in his morning nap profound:
  “Oh, give me back my songs,” cried he,
  “And sleep, that used so sweet to be,        65
And take the money, every pound!”
 
 
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