Translation:The House of Cards

For works with similar titles, see The House of Cards.
Fables  (1793)  by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian, translated from French by Wikisource
The House of Cards

A goodman, his wife, and their two attractive sprogs,
Were living out their days in Virgilian calm.
They all inhabited a cabin made of logs.
The couple, together in sweet domestic charm,
Looked after their garden and harvested their corn
And on a summer night ate outside on their farm,
In winter poked their fire to keep warm.
They preached wisdom and virtue their sons to impress
And told them of the joy such qualities procure;
The father told a story tedium to cure,
The mother did the same with a caress.
The eldest of her children, studious and grave,
Read and pondered what he read no less:
The second-born, light-hearted, a social success,
Jumped about, leapt and laughed, all games enjoyed and played.
One night, as was their custom, next to the pater,
Sitting near a table on which leaned the mater,
The eldest was perusing a history made
By Charles Rollin. The youngest, who cared little for Parthian dards,
Was using all his art, in which he took much pride,
To gradually build up on each of its four sides
A shaky house of cards.
For fear and concentration he could hardly breathe,
Which makes the would-be reader seethe
And stop: "Father," he said, "lest I flounder,
Why are certain warriors conquerors called
And others empire founders?
Are they any different from each other when all' told?"
The father was preparing points to score
When his youngest cried out, with pleasure transported
At having been able - who'd have thought it? -
To put in place his second floor:
"I've done it!" His brother, provoked by this, muttered,
Lost his temper, at a stroke all the younger had worked for
Destroyed. The sibling wept and loud sobs uttered.
"My son," the father's voice an answer sounded,
"Your brother worked, an empire founded
You have conquered, left him gutted."

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