The Woodman and Mercury

La Fontaine January 17, 2015
2 min read
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    A man that labour’d in the wood
    Had lost his honest livelihood;
    That is to say,
    His axe was gone astray.
    He had no tools to spare;
    This wholly earn’d his fare.
    Without a hope beside,
    He sat him down and cried,
    “Alas, my axe! where can it be?
    O Jove! but send it back to me,
    And it shall strike good blows for thee.”
    His prayer in high Olympus heard,
    Swift Mercury started at the word.
    “Your axe must not be lost,” said he:
    “Now, will you know it when you see?
    An axe I found upon the road.”
    With that an axe of gold he show’d.
    “Is’t this?” The woodman answer’d, “Nay.”
    An axe of silver, bright and gay,
    Refused the honest woodman too.
    At last the finder brought to view
    An axe of iron, steel, and wood.
    “That’s mine,” he said, in joyful mood;
    “With that I’ll quite contented be.”
    The god replied, “I give the three,
    As due reward of honesty.”
    This luck when neighbouring choppers knew,
    They lost their axes, not a few,
    And sent their prayers to Jupiter
    So fast, he knew not which to hear.
    His winged son, however, sent
    With gold and silver axes, went.
    Each would have thought himself a fool
    Not to have own’d the richest tool.
    But Mercury promptly gave, instead
    Of it, a blow upon the head.
    With simple truth to be contented,
    Is surest not to be repented;
    But still there are who would
    With evil trap the good,—
    Whose cunning is but stupid,
    For Jove is never dupéd.

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