An argosy of fables/Polish fables

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PART VI

POLISH FABLES

THE WAGGONER AND THE BUTTERFLY

T
HE rain so soft had made the road,

 That, in a rut, a Waggon-load,
 The poor man's harvest (bitter luck).
 Sank down a foot, and then it stuck.
 He whipp'd his horses, but in vain;
They pull'd and splash'd and pulled again,
But vainly still, the slippery soil
Defied their strength, and mock'd their toil.
Panting they stood, with legs outspread.
The driver stood and scratched his head:
(A common custom, by-the-by.
When people know not what to try,
Tho' not, it seems, a remedy).
A Butterfly, in flower concealed,
Had travell'd with them from the field,
Who in the Waggon was thrown up.
While feasting on a buttercup.
The panting of each lab'ring beast
Disturbed her at her fragrant feast;
The sudden stop, the driver's sigh,
Awoke her gen'rous sympathy.
And seeing the distressing case
She cried, while springing from her place,
(Imagining her tiny freight
A vast addition to the weight),
"I must have pity—and be gone,
Now, master Waggoner, drive on."


Do not admire this Butterfly,
Young reader; I will tell you why:
At first good nature seems a cause,
Why she should merit your applause,
But 'twas conceit, that fill'd her breast:
Her self-importance made a jest
Of what might otherwise have claimed
Your praise,—but now she must be blamed.
Should any case occur when you
May have some friendly act to do;
Give all your feeble aid—as such,
But estimate it not too much.

(Translated from the Polish of Ignace Krasicki.)


THE BIRD-CALL

A MIMIC I knew.
To give him his due.
Was exceeded by none and was equalled by few.


He could bark like a dog;
He could grunt like a hog;
Nay, I really believe, he could croak like a frog.


Then, as for a bird,
You may trust to my word,
'Twas the best imitation that ever you heard.


Yes, it must be confessed
That he copied them best;
You'd have thought he had lived all his life in a nest!


The Chaffinch's tone
Was completely his own;
Not one of the tribe had the difference known.


The Goldfinch and Thrush
Would often cry, "Hush!
Our brothers are singing in yonder low bush!"


And then what a race
To fly to the place.
Where the cunning rogue cleverly captured the brace!


But it happened one day
That he came in the way
Of a sportsman, an excellent marksman, they say.


While near a hedge-wall
With his little bird-call
He amused himself mimicking birds, one and all.


And so well did he do it
That many flew to it;
But, alas! he had presently good cause to rue it:


For it proved sorry fun,
Since the man with the gun,
Who was seeking for Partridges, took him for one.


He was shot in the side;
And he feelingly cried,
A very few minutes before he died:


"Who for others prepare
A trap, should beware
Lest they sooner or later fall in their own snare."

(From the Polish of Ignace Krasicki.)


THE MAN AND HIS COAT

A MAN beat his Coat
 Now and then with a cane;
And, astonished, one morning,
He heard it complain:


"Ungratefully treated!
My fortune is hard!
To beat me, dear Master!
Is this my reward?"


"I beat you?" he answered,
"The charge is unjust:
I but gently endeavour
To take out the dust.


The means I make use of
To you may seem hard;
But it does not diminish,
Good Coat, my regard.


My son, whom I cherish
More fondly than you,
I cane rather often,
For like reason too.


The faults that, in children,
We needs must repress.
Are like dust, that beclouds
The most exquisite dress;


A little exertion
Will soon work a cure.
And will make both more lovely.
More worthy, more pure."


Though the fable is good.
Yet I never will blush
To own, I prefer dusting
My coat with a brush.


To most of my readers
I need not explain.
Advice is the brush
I prefer to a Cane.

(Translated from the Polish of Ignace Krasicki.)


THE ASS AND THE LAMB

"HOW hard is my fate!
 What sorrows await,"
Said the Ass to the Sheep, "my deplorable state!


Cold, naked, ill-fed,
I sleep in a shed,
And the snow, wind and rain come in over my head.


All this day did I pass
In a yard without grass:—
What a pity that I was created an Ass!


As for Master, he sat
By the fire, with the Cat;
And they both looked as you do, contented and fat.


Your nice coat of wool.
So elastic and full,
Makes you much to be envied,—aye, more than the Bull!"


"How can you pretend,"
Said his poor bleating friend,
"To complain? Let me silence to you recommend.


My sorrows are deep,"
Continued the Sheep,
And her eyes looked as if she were ready to weep.


"I expect,—'tis no fable,—
To be dragged from the stable.
And to-morrow, perhaps, be cut up for the table.


Now you, with docility.
Strength and civility,—
Will live some years longer, in all probability.


So, no envy, I beg.
For I'll bet you an egg.
You will carry the spinach to eat with my leg."

The situation of those we envy is often much worse than our own.

(Translated from the Polish of Ignace Krasicki.)


THE BROOK AND THE FOUNTAIN

A FOUNTAIN varied gambols played
 Close by an humble Brook;
While gently murmuring through the glade,
Its peaceful course it took.


Perhaps it gave one envious glance
Upon the Fountain's height.
While glittering in the morning's rays,
Pre-eminently bright.


In all the colours of the sky
Alternately it shone:
The Brook observed with a sigh
But quietly rolled on.


The owner of the Fountain died;
Neglect soon brought decay:
The bursting pipes were ill-supplied:
The Fountain ceased to play.


But still the Brook her peaceful course
Continued to pursue;
Her ample, inexhaustive source
From nature's fount she drew.


"Now," said the Brook, "I bless my fate,
My showy rival gone;
Contented in its native state
My little stream rolls on.


And all the world has cause, indeed.
To own, with grateful heart.
How much great Nature's work excels
The feeble works of art."

Humble usefulness is preferable to idle splendour.

(From the Polish of Ignace Krasicki.)


WINE AND WATER

A PARTY of pleasure their sandwiches took,
 In the shade of a willow, that hung o'er a brook;
A bottle of Wine, that stood ready for drinking,
Thus spoke to the Water (I think, without thinking):―


 "How much more than you to be envied am I!
 The drink of the titled and rich I supply,—
While you (I could never endure it, I'm sure).
 Are stood in by cattle and drunk by the poor."


 "I own," said the Water, with modest reply,
 "Your grandness,—I never aspire so high.
 I know the rich think me their notice below.
 Except just for washing their faces, or so.


 If to boasting inclined, I have reason,—for see
 Yon group of young swimmers, delighting in me.
 To give pleasure and health to them, only is mine;
 For who ever bathed in a river of Wine?


 Then look at the strength of the lads in this place;
 Who, contented with me, have such health in their face;
 They work for your master and frugally dine.
 And give him the money to pay for his Wine.


 They envy him not, nor do I envy you;
 The rich are but mortals, — the poor are so too, —
 The rich may be happy with Wine and the gout;
 But pray let the poor man be happy without."

(Translated from the Polish of Ignace Krasicki.)