THE TWO DOGS AND THE DEAD ASS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE TWO DOGS AND THE DEAD ASS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

The Virtues must, surely, sisters be,
For that Vices are brothers, we all well know.
And if but to one a man′s heart be free,
All the others, like hurricanes, inward blow.
Yet, of course, both of virtues and vices ′tis true
That one heart holds but of either few;
And not more than once in an age we see
The Virtues in one small heart agree.
For if a man be valiant, ′tis sure,
In a thousand cases, he′s also rash;
And if he be prudent, the greed for more
Will that respectable virtue dash.
Above all animals beside,
In faithfulness the Dog takes pride;
But, far too oft, for food he craves,
And even dogs are Folly′s slaves.

Two Mastiffs, on a certain day,
Beheld a Donkey′s carcase floating,
And fain had seized it for their prey,
But baffling winds deceived their gloating.
At length one said, "Your eyes are good,
My friend, so look on yonder flood,
And tell me what is that I see;
If savoury ox or horse it be."
"Of what it is," replied the other,
"What boots it, friend, to make a bother?
For dogs like us, in want of food,
Even a scurvy Ass is good.
The thing that now the most concerns us
Is, how to swim to such a distance,
Against this plaguy wind′s resistance.
But, stay! let′s quench the thirst that burns us,
By drinking up the river dry;
And when we′ve quenched our thirst, we′ll pass
And gorge us on that savoury Ass."
With haste the Mastiffs now began
To quaff the river as it ran;
But, well-a-day! it came to pass
That, long ere they had reached the Ass,
The twain had long since quenched their thirst,
And, still persisting, nobly burst.
With us weak mortals ′tis the same,
When eager seeking wealth or fame.
What is hopeless seems not so;
So on from ill to ill we go.
A king whose states are amply round,
Will conquer still, to make them square;
And wealthy men, with gold to spare,
Sigh for just fifty thousand pound;
Whilst others, just as foolish, seek
To learn all science,—Hebrew, Greek!
In short, we most of us agree,
′Tis easy work to drain the sea!
A mortal man, to carry out
The projects of his single soul,
Would need four bodies, strong and stout,

And then would not complete the whole.
For, even should his life extend
To twice Methuselah′s, depend
Ten thousand years would find him still
Where he began—the total nil.

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