A lover of gardens, half cit and half clown,
Possessed a nice garden beside a small town;
And with it a field by a live hedge inclosed,
Where sorrel and lettuce, at random disposed,
A little of jasmine, and much of wild thyme,
Grew gaily, and all in their prime
To make up Miss Peggy’s bouquet,
The grace of her bright wedding day.
For poaching in such a nice field—’twas a shame;
A foraging, cud-chewing hare was to blame.
Whereof the good owner bore down
This tale to the lord of the town:
“Some mischievous animal, morning and night,
In spite of my caution, comes in for his bite.
He laughs at my cunning-set dead-falls and snares;
For clubbing and stoning as little he cares.
I think him a wizard. A wizard! the coot!
I had catch him if he were a devil to boot!”
The lord said, in haste to have sport for his hounds,
“I’ll clear him, I warrant you, out of your grounds;
To morrow I’ll do it without any fail.”
The thing thus agreed on, all hearty and hale,
The lord and his party, at crack of the dawn,
With hounds at their heels cantered over the lawn.
Arrived, said the lord in his jovial mood,
“We’ll breakfast with you, if your chickens are good.
That lass, my good man, I suppose is your daughter:
No news of a son-in-law? Any one sought her?
No doubt, by the score. Keep an eye on the docket,
Eh? Dost understand me? I speak of the pocket.”
So saying, the daughter he graciously greeted,
And close by his lordship he bade her be seated;
Avowed himself pleased with so handsome a maid,
And then with her kerchief familiarly played,—
Impertinent freedoms the virtuous fair
Repelled with a modest and lady-like air,—
So much that her father a little suspected
The girl had already a lover elected.
Meanwhile in the kitchen what bustling and cooking!
“For what are your hams? They are very good looking.”
“They’re kept for your lordship.” “I take them,” said he;
“Such elegant flitches are welcome to me.”
He breakfasted finely his troop, with delight,—
Dogs, horses, and grooms of the best appetite.
Thus he governed his host in the shape of a guest,
Unbottled his wine, and his daughter caressed.
To breakfast, the huddle of hunters succeeds,
The yelping of dogs and the neighing of steeds,
All cheering and fixing for wonderful deeds;
The horns and the bugles make thundering din;
Much wonders our gardener what it can mean.
The worst is, his garden most wofully fares;
Adieu to its arbours, and borders, and squares;
Adieu to its chiccory, onions, and leeks;
Adieu to whatever good cookery seeks.
Beneath a great cabbage the hare was in bed,
Was started, and shot at, and hastily fled.
Off went the wild chase, with a terrible screech,
And not through a hole, but a horrible breach,
Which some one had made, at the beck of the lord,
Wide through the poor hedge! “Twould have been quite absurd
Should lordship not freely from garden go out,
On horseback, attended by rabble and rout.
Scarce suffered the gard’ner his patience to wince,
Consoling himself—’Twas the sport of a prince;
While bipeds and quadrupeds served to devour,
And trample, and waste, in the space of an hour,
Far more than a nation of foraging hares
Could possibly do in a hundred of years.
Small princes, this story is true,
When told in relation to you.
In settling your quarrels with kings for your tools,
You prove yourselves losers and eminent fools.
The Gardener And His Lord – Jean de La Fontaine Fables – Book 4
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