If we the vows remember'd which
It drives us to! But, danger past,
Kind Providence is paid the last.
No earthly debt is treated so.
'Now, Jove,' the wretch exclaims, 'will wait;
He sends no sheriff to one's gate,
Like creditors below;'
But, let me ask the dolt,
What means the thunderbolt?
A passenger, endanger'd by the sea,
Had vow'd a hundred oxen good
To him who quell'd old Terra's brood.
He had not one: as well might he
Have vow'd a hundred elephants.
Arrived on shore, his good intents
Were dwindled to the smoke which rose
An offering merely for the nose,
From half a dozen beefless bones.
'Great Jove,' said he, 'behold my vow!
The fumes of beef thou breathest now
Are all thy godship ever owns:
From debt I therefore stand acquitted.'
With seeming smile, the god submitted,
But not long after caught him well,
By sending him a dream, to tell
Of treasure hid. Off ran the liar,
As if to quench a house on fire,
And on a band of robbers fell.
As but a crown he had that day,
He promised them of sterling gold
A hundred talents truly told;
Directing where conceal'd they lay,
In such a village on their way.
The rogues so much the tale suspected,
Said one, 'If we should suffer you to,
You'd cheaply get us all detected;
Go, then, and bear your gold to Pluto.'
Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 9.13. Inother versions of this fable, the man makes the vow because he is sick, not because he is afraid of shipwreck.
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