Labour and its Reward

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Labour and its Reward  (1573) 
by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
A panegyric prefaced to Cardanus's Comfort, Thomas Bedingfield's translation of De Consolatione by Girolamo Cardano. It was accompanied by a letter written by Oxford in praise of the book.

The labouring man that tills the fertile soil,
And reaps the harvest fruit, hath not indeed
The gain, but pain; and if for all his toil
He gets the straw, the lord will have the seed.

The manchet fine falls not unto his share;
On coarsest cheat his hungry stomach feeds.
The landlord doth possess the finest fare;
He pulls the flowers, he plucks but weeds.

The mason poor that builds the lordly halls,
Dwells not in them; they are for high degree;
His cottage is compact in paper walls,
And not with brick or stone, as others be.

The idle drone that labours not at all,
Sucks up the sweet of honey from the bee;
Who worketh most to their share least doth fall,
With due desert reward will never be.

The swiftest hare unto the mastiff slow
Oft-times doth fall, to him as for a prey;
The greyhound thereby doth miss his game we know
For which he made such speedy haste away.

So he that takes the pain to pen the book,
Reaps not the gifts of goodly golden muse;
But those gain that, who on the work shall look,
And from the sour the sweet by skill doth choose,

For he that beats the bush the bird not gets,
But who sits still and holdeth fast the nets.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.