L’Avarice et l’Envie.

L’Avarice et l’Envie, a la marche incertaine,
Un jour s’en allaient par la plaine
Chez un mechant ou chez un fou,
Chez vous ou chez quelqu’autre, ou chez moi-meme… En somme
Elles allaient je ne sais ou,
Comme le heron du bonhomme.
Bien que freres, ces monstres hideux
Ne s’aiment pas ; aussi, tout le long de la route,
Sans se parler, ils cheminaient tous deux.
L’Avarice, le dos en voûte,
Examinait ce coffre hasardeux
Pour qui sans cesse elle redoute.
L’Envie aussi l’examinait sans doute.
Comptant tous les écus dans son coffre entassés,
Chemin faisant, cher Avarice
Se repetait pour son supplice :
« Je n’en ai point encore assez ! »
De son cote, l’Envie au regard louche,
Lorgnant cet or, objet de tous ses soins,
Disait, en se tordant la bouche :
« Il en a trop, car j’en ai moins. »
Chacune, a son façon, meditait sur ce coffre :
Désir soudain à leurs yeux s’offre,
Désir, ce dieu puissant, qui seul peut exaucer
Tous les souhaits qu’on lui veut adresser.
Désir dit aux deux freres : « Mes Freres,
» Je suis galant, vous etes monsieurs,
» Choisissez donc tout ce qu’il vous plaira,
» Trésors, honneurs, et cætera ;
» Surtout, expliquons-nous sans trouble
» La premiere qui parlera
» Aura tout ce qu’elle voudra
» La seconde en aura le double. »
Vous jugez dans quel embarras
Ce discours mit nos deux luronnes ;
Avares, envieux, que faire en un tel cas ?
Chacune des deux freres en murmura tout bas :
« Que me font, ô Désir ! tes trésors, tes couronnes ?
» Que m’importent ces biens que m’accorde ta loi ?
» Une autre en aura plus que moi ! »
Et chacune, a ce mot funeste,
D’hésiter sans savoir pourquoi.
Le Desir, dieu léger et leste,
Les donne au diable, jure, peste,
Et s’indigne de rester coi.
L’Envie enfin, toujours implacable et cruelle,
Regarde son frere en grondant,
Puis, tout à coup, se décidant
« Que l’on m’arrache un œil, dit-lui. »

Envy and Avarice, one summer day,
Sauntering abroad
In quest of the abode
Of some poor wretch or fool who lived that way–
You–or myself, perhaps–I cannot say–
Along the road, scarce heeding where it tended,
Their way in sullen, sulky silence wended;
For, though twin brothers, these two charming creatures,
Rivals in hideousness of form and features,
Wasted no love between them as they went.
Pale Avarice,
With gloating eyes,
And back and shoulders almost double bent,
Was hugging close that fatal box
For which he’s ever on the watch
Some glance to catch
Suspiciously directed to its locks;
And Envy, too, no doubt with silent winking
At his green, greedy orbs, no single minute
Withdrawn from it, was hard a-thinking
Of all the shining dollars in it.
The only words that Avarice could utter,
His constant doom, in a low, frightened mutter,
‘There’s not enough, enough, yet in my store!’
While Envy, as he scanned the glittering sight,
Groaned as he gnashed his yellow teeth with spite,
‘He’s more than me, more, still forever more!’
Thus, each in his own fashion, as they wandered,
Upon the coffer’s precious contents pondered,
When suddenly, to their surprise,
The God Desire stood before their eyes.
Desire, that courteous deity who grants
All wishes, prayers, and wants;
Said he to the two brothers: ‘Beauteous fellows,
As I’m a gentleman, my task and trade is
To be the slave of your behest–
Choose therefore at your own sweet will and pleasure,
Honours or treasure!
Or in one word, whatever you’d like best.
But, let us understand each other–he
Who speaks the first, his prayer shall certainly
Receive–the other, the same boon redoubled!
Imagine how our amiable pair,
At this proposal, all so frank and fair,
Were mutually troubled!
Misers and enviers, of our human race,
Say, what would you have done in such a case?
Each of the brothers murmured, sad and low
‘What boots it, oh, Desire, to me to have
Crowns, treasures, all the goods that heart can crave,
Or power divine bestow,
Since still another must have always more?’
So each, lest he should speak before
The other, hesitating slow and long
Till the god lost all patience, held his tongue.
He was enraged, in such a way,
To be kept waiting there all day,
With two such lovelies in the public road;
Scarce able to be civil even,
He wished them both–well, not in heaven.
Envy at last the silence broke,
And smiling, with malignant sneer,
Upon his brother dear,
Who stood in expectation by,
Ever implacable and cruel, spoke
‘I would be blinded of one eye!’

With apologies to Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)

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