Alphonse Marie Lois de Lamartine

(1790-1869 / France)

The Banker and the Cobbler


There was a cobbler once, who sang all day;
'Twas wonderful to see the man, and then
To hear him quavering away,
Happier than any of the Seven Wise Men!
His neighbor, on the contrary, who rolled
In heaps of gold,
Sung little and slept less; he had a bank;
And if, at times, near dawn, he ever sank
Into a doze, the cobbler, like a lark at
His singing, would not let him sleep a wink!
The banker grieved that heaven did not decree
Sleep to be bought and sold, at market,
Like meat and drink.

He had the singer brought to him; says he:
'Pray, Master Crispin, what's your yearly income?'
'Income!' the jolly cobbler cries, quite gay,
'I do not make my reckoning in that way,
With one day heaped on the other; but I think 'em
All right enough, if so it comes about,
I make both ends meet, when the twelvemonth's out;
The day just brings its daily bread always.'
'Well, what do you make a day?' the rich man says.
'Why, more or less; the worst--(and but for this,
Our gains would not be very much amiss)--
The worst is, we've so many holy days;
These saints' days almost ruin us outright,
Each festival impoverishes its brother;
And then our curate does take such delight
In finding for us some new saint or other.'

The banker laughed at his free, simple way.
'Crispin! I'll make a king of you today;
Look at these hundred crowns; I give you these:
Go, use them as you please!'

The cobbler thought he handled all the ore
That had been dug, a hundred years or more,
For the whole world--he thought he had it all!
Then he went home to his own stall
And there he buried in a hole
His cash--and with it all his mirth of soul.
No more gay songs; he lost his voice in getting
What causes all our pains; sleep left his bed,
And the cares came instead,
Endless alarms, suspicions all-besetting.
By day his eyes glanced both ways, and by night
If any cat but mewed upon her rounds,
That cat was at the cash! At last the wight
Ran to the man whom he had ceased to wake;
'Give me,' he cries, 'my songs and sleep, and take--
Take back these hundred crowns!'

Submitted: Thursday, September 02, 2010

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