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The Original Fables of La Fontaine - Rendered into English Prose by Fredk. Colin Tilney
by Jean de la Fontaine
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"I will be his master in the art of the lyre," promised the fair and learned Apollo.

"And I," said Hercules with the lion's-skin, "will teach him how to overcome Vice and quell evil passions, those poisonous monsters which like Hydras[15] are ever reborn in the heart. A foe to effeminate pleasures, he shall learn from me those too seldom trodden paths that lead to honour along the tracks of virtue."

When it came to Cupid, the god of love, to speak he simply said, "I can show him everything."

And Cupid was right; for what cannot be achieved with wit and the desire to please?

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 14: The Goddess of Spring and of Flowers, was also regarded by the Greeks as the Goddess of Youth and its pleasures.]

[Footnote 15: The Hydra was a monster with one hundred heads. If one was cut off two grew in its place unless the wound was stopped by fire.]



XXXV

THE LION, THE MONKEY, AND THE TWO ASSES

(BOOK XI.—No. 5)

King Lion, thinking that he would govern better if he took a few lessons in moral philosophy, had a monkey brought to him one fine day who was a master of arts in the monkey tribe. The first lesson he gave was as follows:—

"Great King, in order to govern wisely a prince should always consider the good of the country before yielding to that feeling which is commonly known as self-love, for that fault is the father of all the vices one sees in animals. To rid oneself of this sentiment is not an easy thing to do, and is not to be done in a day. Indeed, merely to moderate it is to achieve a good deal, and if you succeed so far you will never tolerate in yourself anything ridiculous or unjust."

"Give me," commanded the king, "an example of each of those faults."

"Every species of creature," continued the philosopher, "esteems itself in its heart above all the others. These others it regards as ignoramuses, calling them by many hard names which, after all, hurt nobody. At the same time this self-love, which sneers at other tribes and other kinds of beasts, induces the individual to heap praise upon other individuals of his own species, because that is a very good way of praising oneself too. From this it is easy to see that many talents here below are in reality but empty pretence, assumption, and pose, and a certain gift of making the most of oneself, better understood by ignorant people than by learned.

"The other day I followed two asses who were offering the incense of flattery to each other by turns, and heard one say, 'My Lord, do you not think that man, that perfect animal, is both unjust and stupid? He profanes our august name by calling every one of his own kind an ass who is ignorant, or dull, or idiotic; and he calls our laughter and our discourse by the term "braying." It is very amusing that these human people pretend to excel us!'

"'My friend,' said his companion, 'it is for you to speak, and for them to hold their tongues. They are the true brayers. But let us speak no more of them. We two understand each other; that is sufficient. And as for the marvels of delight your divine voice lets fall upon our ears, the nightingale herself is but a novice in comparison. You surpass the court musician.'

"To this the other donkey replied, 'My lord, I admire in you exactly the same excellencies.'

"Not content with flattering each other in this way, these two asses went about the cities singing aloud each other's praises. Either one thought he was doing a good turn to himself in thus lauding his companion.

"Well, your majesty, I know of many people to-day, not among asses, but among exalted creatures, whom heaven has been pleased to raise to a high degree, who would, if they dared, change their title of 'Excellency to that of 'Majesty.' I am saying more than I should, perhaps, and I hope your majesty will keep the secret. You wished to hear of some incident which would show you, among other things, how self-love makes people ridiculous, and there I have given you a good instance. Injustice I will speak of another time, it would take too long now."

Thus spoke the ape. No one has ever been able to tell me whether he ever did speak of injustice to his king. It would have been a delicate matter, and our master of arts, who was no fool, regarded the lion as too terrible a king to submit to being lectured too far.



XXXVI

THE WOLF AND THE FOX IN THE WELL

(BOOK XI.—No. 6)

Why does AEsop give to the fox the reputation of excelling in all tricks of cunning? I have sought for a reason, but cannot find one. Does not the wolf, when he has need to defend his life or take that of another, display as much knowingness as the fox? I believe he knows more, and I dare, perhaps with some reason, to contradict my master in this particular.

Nevertheless, here is a case where undoubtedly all the honour fell to the dweller in burrows.

One evening a fox, who was as hungry as a dog, happened to see the round reflection of the moon in a well, and he believed it to be a fine cheese. There were two pails which alternately drew up the water. Into the uppermost of these the fox leapt, and his weight caused him to descend the well, where he at once discovered his mistake about the cheese. He became extremely worried and fancied his end approaching, for he could see no way to get up again but by some other hungry one, enticed by the same reflection, coming down in the same way that he had.

Two days passed without any one coming to the well. Time, which is always marching onward, had, during two nights, hollowed the outline of the silvery planet, and Reynard was in despair.



At last a wolf, parched with thirst, drew near, to whom the fox called from below, "Comrade, here is a treat for you! Do you see this? It is an exquisite cheese, made by Faunus[16] from milk of the heifer Io.[17] If Jupiter were ill and lost his appetite he would find it again by one taste of this. I have only eaten this piece out of it; the rest will be plenty for you. Come down in the pail up there. I put it there on purpose for you."

A rigmarole so cleverly told was easily believed by the fool of a wolf, who descended by his greater weight, which not only took him down, but brought the fox up.

We ought not to laugh at the wolf, for we often enough let ourselves be deluded with just as little cause. Everybody is ready to believe the thing he fears and the thing he desires.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 16: The benign spirit of the fields and woods.]

[Footnote 17: A priestess who was changed by Hera, wife of Zeus, into a white heifer.]



XXXVII

THE MICE AND THE SCREECH-OWL

(BOOK XI.—No. 9)

It is not always wise to say to your company, "Just listen to this joke" or "What do you think of this for a marvel?" for one can never be sure that the listeners will regard the matter in the same way that the teller does. Yet here is a case that makes an exception to this good rule, and I maintain that it is in truth wonderful, and, although it has the appearance of being a fable, it is in reality absolute fact.

There was once an extremely old pine-tree which an owl, that grim bird which Atropus[18] takes for her interpreter, had made to serve as his palace. But there were other tenants lodging in its cavernous and time-rotted trunk. These were mice, well fed, positive balls of fat, but not one of them had a foot. They had all been mutilated. The owl had nipped their feet off with his beak, whilst feeding and fostering them with wheat from neighbouring stacks.

It must be confessed that this bird had reasoned.

Doubtless, in his time, when hunting mice, he had found that after bringing them home they escaped again from the trunk, and to prevent the recurrence of such a loss the artful rascal had thenceforth nipped off the feet of all he caught, keeping them prisoners and eating them one to-day and one to-morrow. To eat them all at once would have been impossible. He had his health to think of. His forethought, which went quite as far as ours, extended to bringing them grain for their subsistence.

* * * * *

If this is not reasoning, then I do not understand what reasoning is. See what arguments he used:—

"When these mice are caught they run away, therefore I must eat them as I catch them. What all? Impossible! But would it not be well to keep some for a needy future? If so, I must keep them and feed them too, without their escaping. But how's that to be done? Happy thought! Nip off their feet!"

Now find me among human beings anything better carried out. Did Aristotle and his followers do any better thinking, by my faith?

NOTE.—This is not a fable. The thing actually occurred, although marvellous enough and almost incredible. I have perhaps carried the forethought of this owl too far, for I do not pretend to establish in animals a line of reasoning; but in this style of literature a little exaggeration is pardonable.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 18: One of the three Fates, the first and second being Clotho and Lachesis. They spun, measured, and cut off, respectively, the thread of life for men at their birth.]



XXXVIII

THE COMPANIONS OF ULYSSES

(BOOK XII.—No. 1)

That great hero-wanderer Ulysses had been with his companions driven hither and thither at the will of the winds for ten years, never knowing what their ultimate fate was to be. At length they disembarked upon a shore where Circe, the daughter of Apollo, held her court. Receiving them she brewed a delicious but baneful liquor, which she made them drink. The result of this was that first they lost their reason, and a few moments after, their bodies took the forms and features of various animals; some unwieldy, some small. Ulysses alone, having the wisdom to withstand the temptation of the treacherous cup, escaped the metamorphosis. He, besides possessing wisdom, bore the look of a hero and had the gift of honeyed speech, so that it came about that the goddess herself imbibed a poison little different from her own; that is to say, she became enamoured of the hero and declared her love to him. Now was the time for Ulysses to profit by this turn of events, and he was too cunning to miss the opportunity, so he begged and obtained the boon that his friends should be restored to their natural shapes.

"But will they be willing to accept their own forms again?" asked the nymph. "Go to them and make them the offer."

Ulysses, glad and eager, ran to his Greeks and cried, "The poisoned cup has its remedy, and I come to offer it to you. Dear friends of mine, will you not be glad to have your manly forms again? Speak, for your speech is already restored."

The lion was the first to reply. Making an effort to roar he said, "I, for one, am not such a fool. What! renounce all the great advantages that have just been given me? I have teeth. I have claws. I can pull to pieces anything that attacks me. I am, in fact, a king. Do you think it would suit me to become a citizen of Ithaca once more? Who knows but that you might make of me a common soldier again. Thank you; but I will remain as I am."

Ulysses, in sad surprise, turned to the bear. "Ah, brother! what form is this you have taken, you who used to be so handsome?"

"Well, really! I like that!" said the bear in his way. "What form is this? you ask. Why it is the form that a bear should have. Pray who instructed you that one form is more handsome than another? Is it your business to judge between us? I prefer to appeal to the sight of the gentler sex in our ursine race. Do I displease you? Then pass on. Go your ways and leave me to mine. I am free and content as I am, and I tell you frankly and flatly that I will not change my state."

The princely Greek then turned to a wolf with the same proposals, and risking a similar rebuff said: "Comrade, it overwhelms me that a sweet young shepherdess should be driven to complain to the echoing crags of the gluttonous appetite that impelled you to devour her sheep. Time was when you would have protected her sheepfold. In those days you led an honest life. Leave your lairs and become, instead of a wolf, an honest man again."

"What is that?" answered the wolf. "I don't see your point. You come here treating me as though I were a carnivorous beast. But what are you, who are talking in this strain? Would not you and yours have eaten these sheep, which all the village is deploring, if I had not? Now say, on your oath, do you really think I should have loved slaughter any less if I had remained a man? For a mere word, you men are at times ready to strangle each other. Are you not, therefore, as wolves one to another? All things considered, I maintain as a matter of fact that, rascal for rascal, it is better to be a wolf than a man. I decline to make any change in my condition."

In this way did Ulysses go from one to another making the same representations and receiving from all, large and small alike, the same refusals. Liberty, unbridled lust of appetite, the ambushes of the woods, all these things were their supreme delight. They all renounced the glory attaching to great deeds.

They thought that in following their passions they were enjoying freedom, not seeing that they were but slaves to themselves.



XXXIX

THE QUARREL BETWEEN THE DOGS AND THE CATS AND BETWEEN THE CATS AND THE MICE

(BOOK XII—No. 8)

Discord has always reigned in the universe; of this our world furnishes a thousand different instances, for with us the sinister goddess has many subjects.

Let us begin with the four elements. Here you may be astonished to observe that they are, throughout, in antagonism to each other. Besides these four potentates how many other forces of all descriptions are everlastingly at war!

In bygone times there was a house which was full of cats and dogs who lived together like amicable cousins, for this reason: Their master had made a hundred irrevocable laws and rules, settling their respective tasks, their meals, and every other incident of their lives, and at the same time he threatened with the whip the first one who should promote a quarrel. The kindly, almostly brotherly nature of this union was very edifying to the neighbours.

But at last the concord ceased. Some little favouritism in the bestowal of a bone, or a dish of food, caused the outraged remainder to raise furious protests. I have heard some chroniclers attribute the discord to an affair of love and jealousy. At any rate, whatever the origin, the altercation speedily fired both hall and kitchen, and divided the company into partisans for this cat or for that dog.

A new rule was made, which exasperated the cats, and their complaints deafened the whole neighbourhood. Their advocate advised returning absolutely to the old rules and decrees. The law books were searched for, but could nowhere be found. And that was no wonder, for the books which had been hidden in a corner by one set of partisans at first had been at last devoured by mice. This gave rise to another law-suit, which the mice lost and had to pay for.

Many old cats, cunning, subtle, and sharp, and bearing a grudge against the whole race of mice beside, lay in wait for them, caught them, and cleared them out of the house, much to the advantage of the master of the establishment.

So, returning to my moral, one cannot find under heaven any animal, any being, any creature who has not his opponent. This appears to be a law of nature. It would be time wasted to seek for a reason. God does well whatever he does. Beyond that I know nothing; but I do know that people come to high words over nothing three times out of four. Ah, ye human folk! even at the age of sixty you ought to be sent back to the schoolmaster.



XL

THE WOLF AND THE FOX

(BOOK XII.—No. 9)

A fox once remarked to a wolf, "Dear friend, do you know that the utmost I can get for my meals is a tough old cock or perchance a lean hen or two. It is a diet of which I am thoroughly weary. You, on the other hand, feed much better than that, and with far less danger. My foraging takes me close up to houses; but you keep far away. I beg of you, comrade, to teach me your trade. Let me be the first of my race to furnish my pot with a plump sheep, and you will not find me ungrateful."

"Very well," replied the obliging wolf. "I have a brother recently dead, suppose you go and get his skin and wear it." This the fox accordingly did and the wolf commenced to give him lessons. "You must do this and act so, when you wish to separate the dogs from the flocks." At first Reynard was a little awkward, but he rapidly improved, and with a little practice he reached at last the perfection of wolfish strategy. Just as he had learned all that there was to know a flock approached. The sham wolf ran after it spreading terror all around, even as Patroclus wearing[19] the armour of Achilles spread alarm throughout camp and city, when mothers, wives, and old men hastened to the temples for protection. "In this case, the bleating army made sure there must be quite fifty wolves after them, and fled, dog and shepherd with them, to the neighbouring village, leaving only one sheep as a hostage.

This remaining sheep our thief instantly seized and was making off with it. But he had not gone more than a few steps when a cock crew near by. At this signal, which habit of life had led him to regard as a warning of dawn and danger, he dropped his disguising wolf-skin and, forgetting his sheep, his lesson, and his master, scampered off with a will.

Of what use is such shamming? It is an illusion to suppose that one is really changed by making the pretence. One resume's one's first nature upon the earliest occasion for hiding it.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 19: At the Siege of Troy. He was mistaken for Achilles.]



XLI

LOVE AND FOLLY

(BOOK XII.—No. 14)

Everything to do with love is mystery. Cupid's arrows, his quiver, his torch, his boyhood: it is more than a day's work to exhaust this science. I make no pretence here of explaining everything. My object is merely to relate to you, in my own way, how the blind little god was deprived of his sight, and what consequences followed this evil which perchance was a blessing after all. On the latter point I will decide nothing, but will leave it to lovers to judge upon.

One day as Folly and Love were playing together, before the boy had lost his vision, a dispute arose. To settle this matter Love wished to lay his cause before a council of the gods; but Folly, losing her patience, dealt him a furious blow upon the brow. From that moment and for ever the light of heaven was gone from his eyes.

Venus demanded redress and revenge, the mother and the wife in her asserting themselves in a way which I leave you to imagine. She deafened the gods with her cries, appealing to Jupiter, Nemesis, the judges from Hades, in fact all who would be importuned. She represented the seriousness of the case, pointing out that her son could now not make a step without a stick. No punishment, she urged, was heavy enough for so dire a crime, and she demanded that the damage should be repaired.

When the gods had each well considered the public interest on the one hand and the complainant's demands upon the other, the supreme court gave as its verdict that Folly was condemned for ever more to serve as a guide for the footsteps of Love.



XLII

THE FOREST AND THE WOODCUTTER

(BOOK XII.—No. 16)

A woodcutter had broken or lost the handle of his hatchet and found it not easy to get it repaired at once. During the time, therefore, that it was out of use, the woods enjoyed a respite from further damage. At last the man came humbly and begged of the forest to allow him gently to take just one branch wherewith to make him a new haft, and promised that then he would go elsewhere to ply his trade and get his living. That would leave unthreatened many an oak and many a fir that now won universal respect on account of its age and beauty.

The innocent forest acquiesced and furnished him with a new handle. This he fixed to his blade and, as soon as it was finished, fell at once upon the trees, despoiling his benefactress, the forest, of her most cherished ornaments. There was no end to her bewailings: her own gift had caused her grief.

Here you see the way of the world and of those who follow it. They use the benefit against the benefactors. I weary of talking about it. Yet who would not complain that sweet and shady spots should suffer such outrage. Alas! it is useless to cry out and be thought a nuisance: ingratitude and abuses will remain the fashion none the less.



XLIII

THE FOX AND THE YOUNG TURKEYS

(BOOK XII.—No. 18)

Some young turkeys were lucky enough to find a tree which served them as a citadel against the assaults of a certain fox. He, one night, having made the round of the rampart and seen each turkey watching like a sentinel, exclaimed, "What! These people laugh at me, do they? And do they think that they alone are exempt from the common rule? No! by all the gods! no!"

He accomplished his design.

The moon shining brilliantly seemed to favour the turkey folk against the fox. But he was no novice in the laying of sieges, and had recourse to his bag of rascally tricks. He pretended to climb the tree; stood upon his hind legs; counterfeited death; then came to life again. Harlequin himself could not have acted so many parts. He reared his tail and made it gleam in the moonshine, and practised a hundred other pleasantries, during which no turkey could have dared to go to sleep. The enemy tired them out at last by keeping their eyes fixed upon him. The poor birds became dazed. One lost its balance and fell. Reynard put it by. Then another fell and was caught and laid on one side. Nearly half of them at length succumbed and were taken off to the fox's larder.

To concentrate too much attention upon a danger may cause us to tumble into it.



XLIV

THE APE

(BOOK XII.—No. 19)

There is an ape in Paris to whom a wife was once given; and he, imitating many another husband, beat the poor creature to such an extent that she sighed all the breath out of her body and died.

Their son uttered the most doleful howls as a protest to this terrible business.

The father laughs now. His wife is dead and he already has found other lady companions, whom, no doubt, he beats in the same way; for he haunts the taverns and is frequently tipsy.

Never expect anything good from people who imitate, whether they be apes or authors. Of the two the worst kind is the imitating author.



XLV

THE SCYTHIAN PHILOSOPHER

(BOOK XII.—No. 20)

A certain austere philosopher of Scythia, wishing to follow a pleasant life, travelled through the land of the Greeks, and there he found in a quiet spot a sage, one such as Virgil has written of; a man the equal of kings, the peer almost of the gods, and like them content and tranquil.

The happiness of this sage lay entirely in his beautiful garden. There the Scythian found him, pruning hook in hand, cutting away the useless wood from his fruit trees; lopping here, pruning there, trimming this and that, and everywhere aiding Nature, who repaid his care with usury.

"Why this wrecking?" asked the philosopher. "Is it wisdom thus to mutilate these poor dwellers in your garden? Drop that merciless tool, your pruning hook. Leave the work to the scythe of time. He will send them, soon enough, to the shores of the river of the departed."

"I am taking away the superfluous," answered the sage, "so that what is left may flourish the better."

The Scythian returned to his cheerless abode and, taking a bill-hook, cut and trimmed every hour in the day, advising his neighbours to do likewise and prescribing to his friends the means and methods. A universal cutting-down followed. The handsomest boughs were lopped; his orchard mutilated beyond all reason. The seasons were disregarded, and neither young moons nor old were noted. In the end everything languished and died.

This Scythian philosopher resembles the indiscriminating Stoic who cuts away from the soul all passions and desires, good as well as bad, even to the most innocent wishes. For my own part, I protest against such people strongly. They take from the heart its greatest impulses and we cease to live before we are dead.



XLVI

THE ELEPHANT AND JUPITER'S APE

(BOOK XII.—No. 21)

Once in the olden times the elephant and the rhinoceros disputed as to which was the more important, and which should, therefore, have empire over the other animals. They decided to settle the point by battle in an enclosed field.

The day was fixed, and all in readiness, when somebody came and informed them that Jupiter's ape, bearing a caduceus, had been seen in the air. The fact of his holding a caduceus[20] proved him to be acting as official messenger from Olympus, and the elephant immediately took it for granted that the ape came as ambassador with greetings to his highness. Elated with this idea he waited for Gille, for that was the name of the ape, and thought him rather tardy in presenting his credentials. But at length Master Gille did salute his excellency as he passed, and the elephant prepared himself for the message. But not a word was forthcoming.

It was evident that the gods were not giving so much attention to these matters as the elephant supposed.

What does it matter to those in high places whether one is an elephant or a fly?

The would-be monarch was reduced to the necessity of opening the conversation himself. "My cousin Jupiter," he began, "will soon be able to watch a rather fine combat from his supreme throne, and his court will see some splendid sport."

"What combat?" asked the ape rather severely.

"What! Do you not know that the rhinoceros denies me precedence: that the Elephantidae are at war with the Rhinocerotidae? You surely know these families: they have some reputation."

"I am charmed to learn their names," replied Master Gille. "We are little concerned about such matters in our vast halls."

This shamed and surprised the elephant. "Eh! What, then, is the reason of your visit amongst us?"

"Oh, it was to divide a blade of grass between two ants. We care for all. As for your affair, nothing has been said about it in the council of the gods. The little and the great are equal in their eyes."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 20: The wand or official staff of Hermes.]



XLVII

THE LEAGUE OF RATS

(BOOK XII.—No. 26)

There was once a mouse who lived in terrible fear of a cat that had lain in wait watching for her. She was in great anxiety to know what she could do to escape the threatening danger.

Being prudent and wise she consulted her neighbour, a large and important rat. His lordship the rat had taken up his abode in a very good inn, and had boasted a hundred times that he had no fear for either tom-cat or she-cat. Neither teeth nor claws caused him any anxious thought.

"Dame Mouse," said this boaster, "whatever I do, I cannot, upon my word, chase away this cat that threatens you without some help. But let me call together all the rats hereabouts and I'll play him a sorry trick or two."

The mouse curtsied humbly her thanks and the rat ran with speed to the head-quarters; that is to say to the larder, where the rats were in the habit of assembling. Arriving out of breath and perturbed in mind he found them making a great feast at the expense of their host.

"What ails you?" asked one of the feasters. "Speak!"

"In two words," answered he, "the reason for my coming among you in this way is simply that it has become absolutely necessary to help the mice; for Grimalkin is abroad making terrible slaughter among them. This, the most devilish of cats, will, when she has no mice left, turn her attention to the eating of rats."

"He says what is true," cried they all. "To arms, to arms!" Nothing could stem the tide of their impetuosity; although, it is said, a few she-rats shed tears. It was no matter. Every one overhauled his equipment, and filled his wallet with cheese. To risk life was the determination of all. They set off, as if to a fete, with happy minds and joyful hearts.

Alas, for the mouse! These warriors were a moment too late. The cat had her already by the head. Advancing at the double the rats ran to the succour of their good little friend; but the cat swore, and stalked away in front of the enemy, having no intention of surrendering her prey.

At the sound of the cat's defiance, the prudent rats, fearing ill fate, beat a safe retreat without carrying any further their intended onslaught. Each one ran to his hole, and whenever any ventured out again it was always with the utmost caution to avoid the cat.



XLVIII

THE ARBITER, THE HOSPITALLER, AND THE HERMIT

(BOOK XII.—No. 28)

Three saints, all equally zealous and anxious for their salvation, had the same ideal, although the means by which they strove towards it were different. But as all roads lead to Rome, these three were each content to choose their own path.

One, touched by the cares, the tediousness, and the reverses which seem to be inevitably attached to lawsuits, offered, without any reward, to judge and settle all causes submitted to him. To make a fortune on this earth was not an end he had in view.

Ever since there have been laws, man, for his sins, has condemned himself to litigation half his lifetime. Half? three-quarters, I should say, and sometimes the whole. This good conciliator imagined he could cure the silly and detestable craze for going to law.

The second saint chose the hospitals as his field of labour. I admire him. Kindly care taken to alleviate the sufferings of mankind is a charity I prefer before all others.

The sick of those days were much as they are now—peevish, impatient, and ever grumbling. They gave our poor hospitaller plenty of work. They would say, "Ah! he cares very particularly for such and such. They are his friends, hence we are neglected."

But bad as were these complaints they were nothing to those which the arbiter had to face. He got himself into a sorry tangle. No one was content. Arbitration pleased neither one side nor the other. According to them the judge could never succeed in holding the balance level. No wonder that at last the self-appointed judge grew weary.

He betook himself to the hospitals. There he found that the self-sacrificing hospitaller had nothing better to tell of his results. Complaints and murmurs were all that either could gain.

With sad hearts they gave up their endeavours and repaired to the silent wood, there to live down their sorrows. In these retreats, at a spot sheltered from the sun, gently tended by the breezes, and near a pure rivulet, they found the third saint, and of him they asked advice.

"Advice," said he, "is only to be sought of yourselves; for who, better than yourselves, can know your own needs? The knowledge of oneself is the first care imposed upon mankind by the Almighty. Have you obeyed this mandate whilst out in the world? If there you did not learn to know yourselves, these tranquil shades will certainly help you; for nowhere else is it possible. Stir up this stream. Do you now see yourselves reflected in it? No! How could you, when the mud is like a thick cloud between us and the crystal? But let it settle, my brothers, and then you will see your image. The better to study yourselves live in the desert."

The lonely hermit was believed and the others followed his wise counsel.

It does not follow that people should not be well employed. Since some must plead; since men die and fall ill, doctors are a necessity and so also are lawyers. These ministers, thank God, will never fail us. The wealth and honours to be won make one sure of that. Nevertheless, in these general needs one is apt to neglect oneself. And you, judges, ministers, and princes, who give all your time to the public weal; you, who are troubled by countless annoyances and disappointments, disheartened by failure and corrupted by good fortune—you do not see yourselves. You see no one. Should some good impulse lead you to think over these matters, some flatterer breaks in and distracts you.

This lesson is the ending of this work. May the centuries to come find it a useful one. I present it to kings. I propose it to the wise. What better ending could I make?



LETCHWORTH

THE TEMPLE PRESS

PRINTERS

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