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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Death and the Woodcutter
By Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)
 
Translation of George McLean Harper

A POOR woodcutter, covered with green boughs,
Under the fagot’s weight and his own age
Groaning and bent, ending his weary stage,
Was struggling homeward to his smoky hut.
At last, worn out with labor and with pain,        5
Letting his fagot down, he thinks again
  What little pleasure he has had in life.
  Is there so cursed a wretch in all the strife?
No bread sometimes, and never any rest;
  With taxes, soldiers, children, and a wife,        10
      Creditors, forced toil oppressed,
He is the picture of a man unblessed.
 
  He cries for Death. Death comes straightway,
    And asks why he was called upon.
  “Help me,” the poor man says, “I pray,        15
    To lift this wood, then I’ll begone.”
 
      Death comes to end our woes.
        But who called him? Not I!
      The motto of mankind still goes:
        We’ll suffer all, sooner than die.        20
 
 
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