HomeJean de La FontaineDEATH AND THE DYING MAN

DEATH AND THE DYING MAN. Jean de La Fontaine

DEATH AND THE DYING MAN. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

DEATH AND THE DYING MAN. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

Death never yet surprised the sage,
Who′s always ready for the stage;
Knowing each hour that comes may be
His passage to eternity.
Death′s rule embraces every day:
Each moment is beneath his sway.
We all pay tribute to that lord;
We all bow down beneath his sword.
The instant the king′s child has birth—
And looks forth on this desert earth—-
That instant Death may it surprise,
And close its scarcely-opened eyes.
Beauty, youth, virtue, every day,
Death steals so ruthlessly away.
One day the world will be his prey:
This knowledge is most largely shared;
For no event we′re less prepared.

A dying man, a century old,
Complained to Death, that he was told
Too suddenly, before his will
Was made; he′d duties to fulfil;
"Now, is it just," this was his cry,
"To call me, unprepared, to die?
No; wait a moment, pray, sir, do;
My wife would wish to join me, too.
For still one nephew I′d provide:
And I have causes to decide.
I must enlarge my house, you know.
Don′t be so pressing, pray, sir, go."
"Old man," said Death, "for once be wise;
My visit can be no surprise.
What! I impatient? In the throng
Of Paris who has lived so long?
Find me in all France even ten;
I should have warned you, you say then?
And so your will you would have made,
Your grandson settled; basement laid.
What! not a warning, when your feet
Can scarcely move, and fast retreat
Your memory makes, when half your mind
And wit is left a league behind?
When nearly all fails?—no more hearing—
No taste—all fading, as I′m fearing.
The star of day shines now in vain
For you: why sigh to view again
The pleasures out of reach? Just see
Your comrades drop continually,
Dead, dying: is no warning there?
I put it to you, is this fair?
Come, come, old man; what! wrangling still?
No matter, you must leave your will;
The great republic cares not, sir,
For one or no executor."

And Death was right: old men, at least,
Should die as people leave a feast,
Thanking the host—their luggage trim:
Death will not stay to please their whim.
You murmur, dotard! look and sigh,
To see the young, that daily die;
Walk to the grave or run, a name
To win of everlasting fame:
Death glorious may be, yet how sure,
And sometimes cruel to endure.
In vain I preach; with foolish zeal,
Those most akin to death but feel
The more regret in quitting life,
And creep reluctant from the strife.

Next →

Thank you for reading Jean de La Fontaine's "DEATH AND THE DYING MAN"!
Read Jean de La Fontaine's
Main page

© e-libr.com