The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Gardener and the Aged Tree

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A tree that in a garden stood,
Had grown too old for doing good:
       Such is the fate of all.
It was a pear-tree that no more

Its former luscious fruitage bore;
       And hence was doom'd to fall.
Scarce had th' ungrateful gardener sunk
His sharp-edged axe into its trunk,
       When thus the old tree spoke:—
"Oh think of all the good I've done;
The fruit I've borne; the praise I've won,
       And spare the murd'rous stroke!
Oh do not hasten to their end
The few last days of your old friend!"
The ingrate answer'd:—"Yea, indeed,
I'm truly loath to lay you low;
But still of wood I stand in need,
And cannot to the forest go."
The nightingales then intercede;
Gush out a long and loud refrain,
And of th' intended wrong complain.
They wake the gardener's memory—
His wife oft sitting 'neath that tree,
And list'ning to their song the while
Their dulcet notes her cares beguile.
But he, unheeding their appeal,
Resolv'd another blow to deal.
The aged trunk the stroke broke in,
Which rais'd around his ears a din.
For out there came a swarm of bees,
And gave th' intruder words like these:—
"What are you doing, wretched man?
Your int'rests inj'ring all you can!
Are you not able to perceive

That if this home to us you'd leave,
Our honey of more worth would be
Than all the wood of this old tree?
All tender memories apart,
Does not this reason reach your heart?"
"Ah, yes!" the gardener said at last,
"What happy days have here been past!
Much do I owe this good old tree
For all the fruit 't has given me.
How oft my wife has hither stray'd,
To sit beneath its soothing shade,
While 'midst its whisp'ring leaves above,
The nightingales recall'd our love!

       Yes, let the old tree stand!
And for these bees whose honied store
Will make me richer than before,
       With flowers I'll plant the land."

So thus it is, we may rely,
       That mankind grateful will be found,
When only ev'ry means we try
       To have them by their int'rests bound.