THE BEAR AND THE AMATEUR OF GARDENING. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE BEAR AND THE AMATEUR OF GARDENING. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

A certain Mountain Bruin once, they say,
Was wont within a lonely wood to stray,—
A new Bellerophon secluded there,
His mind had gone, and left his brain-pan bare.
Reason on lonely people sheds no ray;
It′s good to speak—better to silent stay:
Both in excess are bad. No animal
Was ever seen, or was within a call.
Bear though he was, he wearied of this life,
And longed for the world′s joy and the world′s strife:
Then "Melancholy marked him for her own."
Not far from him an old man lived alone:

Dull as the Bear, he loved his garden well;
Was priest of Flora and Pomona; still,
Though the employment′s pleasant, a kind friend
Is needful, its full charms to it to lend:
Gardens talk little, save in my small book.
Weary at last of their mere smiling look,
And those his dumb companions, one fine day,
Our man set forth upon his lonely way,
To seek a friend. The Bear, with the same thought,
Had left his mountain, satisfied with nought.
By chance most strange the two adventurers meet
At the same turning. He′s afraid to greet
The Bear; but fly he can′t. What can he do?
Well, like a Gascon, he gets neatly through:
Conceals his fright. The bear is not well bred;
Still growls, "Come, see me!" but the other said,
"Here is my cottage; pray come in, my lord;
Do me the honour at my frugal board
To lunch al fresco. I have milk and fruit,
That will, perhaps, your worship′s pleasure suit
For once, though not your ordinary fare;
I offer all I have." With friendly air
They′re chums already before reaching home;
Still better friends when there they′ve fairly come.
In my opinion it′s a golden rule:
Better be lonely than be with a fool.
The Bear, who did not speak two words a day,
Left the drudge there to work and toil away.
Bruin went hunting, and brought in the game,
Or flapped the blow-flies, when the blow-flies came;
And kept from off his sleeping partner′s face
Of winged parasites the teasing race.
One day a buzzer o′er the sleeping man
Poised, and then settled on his nose,—their plan.
The Bear was crazy: all his chase was vain;
"I′ll catch you, thief!" he cried: it came again.
′Twas said, ′twas done; the flapper seized a stone,
And launched it bravely—bravely it was thrown.
He crushed the fly, but smashed the poor man′s skull—
A sturdy thrower, but a reasoner dull.
Nothing′s so dangerous as a foolish friend;
Worse than a real wise foe, you may depend.

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