THE COBBLER AND THE BANKER. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE COBBLER AND THE BANKER. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

A Cobbler, who would sing from dawn to dark
(A very merry soul to hear and see,
As satisfied as all the Seven Wise Men could be),
Had for a neighbour, not a paltry clerk,
But a great Banker, who could roll in gold:
A Crœsus, singing little, sleeping less;
Who, if by chance he had the happiness,
Just towards morning, to drop off, I′m told,
Was by the Cobbler′s merry singing woke.
Loud he complain′d that Heaven did not keep
For sale, in market-places, soothing sleep.
He sent, then, for the Cobbler (′twas no joke):—
"What, Gregory, do you earn in the half-year?"
"Half-year, sir!" said the Cobbler, very gaily;
"I do not reckon so. I struggle daily
For the day′s bread, and only hunger fear."
"Well, what a day?—what is your profit, man?"
"Now more, now less;—the worst thing is those fêtes.
Why, without them—and hang their constant dates!—
The living would be tidy—drat the plan!
Monsieur the Curé always a fresh saint
Stuffs in his sermon every other week."
The Banker laughed to hear the fellow speak,
And utter with such naïveté his complaint.
"I wish," he said, "to mount you on a throne;
Here are a hundred crowns, knave—keep them all,
They′ll serve you well, whatever ill befall."
The Cobbler thought he saw before him thrown
All money in the earth that had been found.
Home went he to conceal it in a vault,
Safe from discovery and thieves′ assault.
There, too, he buried joy,—deep under ground;
No singing now: he′d lost his voice from fear.

His guests were cares, suspicions, vain alarms;
All day he watch′d,—at night still dreading harms:
If but a cat stirr′d, robbers he could hear.
At last the poor fool to his neighbour ran;
He had not woke him lately, I′m afraid:
"Return my songs and tranquil sleep," he said,
"And take your hundred crowns, my generous man."

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