Fables (La Fontaine, tr. Wright)/The Heron
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One day,─no matter when or where,─ A long-legg'd heron chanced to fare By a certain river's brink, With his long, sharp beak Helved on his slender neck; "Twas a fish-spear, you might think. The water was clear and still, The carp and the pike there at will Pursued their silent fun, Turning up, ever and anon, A golden side to the sun. With ease might the heron have made Great profits in his fishing trade. So near came the scaly fry, They might be caught by the passer-by. But he thought he better might Wait for a better appetite─ For he lived by rule, and could not eat, Except at his hours, the best of meat. Anon his appetite return'd once more; So, approaching again the shore, He saw some tench taking their leaps, Now and then, from their lowest deeps. With as dainty a taste as Horace's rat, He turn'd away from such food as that. "What, tench for a heron! poh! I scorn the thought, and let them go." The tench refused, there came a gudgeon; "For all that," said the bird, "I budge on. I'll ne'er open my beak, if the gods please, For such mean little fishes as these." He did it for less; For it came to pass, That not another fish could he see; And, at last, so hungry was he, That he thought it of some avail To find on the bank a single snail. Such is the sure result Of being too difficult. Would you be strong and great, Learn to accommodate. Get what you can, and trust for the rest; The whole is oft lost by seeking the best. Above all things beware of disdain; Where, at most, you have little to gain. The people are many that make Every day this sad mistake. 'Tis not for the herons I put this case, Ye featherless people, of human race. ─List to another tale as true, And you'll hear the lesson brought home to you.