LE SAVETIER ET LE FINANCIER - VIII.2THE COBBLER AND THE BANKER
Jean de la Fontainetrans. Gordon Pirie
Un savetier chantait du matin jusqu'au soir:
C'était merveilles de le voir,
Merveilles de l'ouïr; il faisait des passages,
Plus content qu'aucun des sept sages.
Son voisin au contraire, étant tout cousu d'or,
Chantait peu, dormait moins encor.
C'était un homme de finance.



Si sur le point du jour parfois il sommeillait,
Le savetier alors en chantant l'éveillait,
Et le financier se plaignait
Que les soins de la Providence
N’eussent pas au marché fait vendre le dormir
Comme le manger et le boire.
En son hôtel il fait venir
Le chanteur et lui dit: "Or çà, sire Grégoire,
Que gagnez-vous par an?" - "Par an? Ma foi, Monsieur,"
Dit avec un ton de rieur
Le gaillard savetier, "ce n'est point ma manière
De compter de la sorte, et je n'entasse guère
Un jour sur l'autre: il suffit qu'à la fin
J’attrape le bout de l'année.
Chaque jour amène son pain."



- "Eh bien ! que gagnez-vous," dites-moi, "par journée?"
"Tantôt plus, tantôt moins: le mal est que toujours
(Et sans cela nos gains seraient assez honnêtes),
Le mal est que dans l'an s'entremêlent des jours
Qu’il faut chômer: on nous ruine en fêtes.
L’une fait tort à l'autre, et monsieur le curé
De quelque nouveau saint charge toujours son prône."
Le financier, riant de sa naïveté,
Lui dit: "Je vous veux mettre aujourd'hui sur le trône.
Prenez ces cent écus: gardez-les avec soin,
Pour vous en servir au besoin."
Le savetier crut voir tout l'argent que la terre
Avait depuis plus de cent ans
Produit pour l'usage des gens.



Il retourne chez lui; dans sa cave il enserre
L’argent et sa joie à la fois.
Plus de chant; il perdit la voix
Du moment qu'il gagna ce qui cause nos peines.
Le sommeil quitta son logis,
Il eut pour hôtes les soucis,
Les soupçons, les alarmes vaines.
Tour le jour il avait l'oeil au guet; et la nuit,
Si quelque chat faisait du bruit,
Le chat prenait l'argent. À la fin le pauvre homme
S’en courut chez celui qu'il ne réveillait plus.
"Rendez-moi," lui dit-il, "mes chansons et mon somme,
Et reprenez vos cent écus."
A cobbler, at his last, sang all day long,
And when you heard the notes hatch in his throat,
Fly from his tongue like birds, and float
Or flutter in the air,
"Here was a man," you felt, "untouched by care."
His neighbour, on the other hand, was rarely moved to song.
He was a banker, with a flair
For making money; and financial speculations,
Having engrossed him through the day,
Would often haunt him as he lay
In bed, tossing and turning half the night,
A prey to sums and calculations.
And if, when it was getting light,
Sometimes he fell into a doze,
The cobbler’s early song would wake him up again.
And then the banker would complain:
Why hadn’t Providence disposed
For sleep to be on sale at market, bought
And sold like meat and drink? He had the cobbler brought
Before him. "Now, my man, I’m curious to know
How much a year, your cobbling work brings in."
The cobbler stared, then gave a grin:
"A year? God bless you, sir, I’ve no
Idea. You see, it’s not my way
To make that sort of reckoning.
If I can live from day to day
And make ends meet, that’s good enough for me."
"Then tell me what you earn a day."
"That all depends, sir. Trouble is, you see,
There’s all these feast days in the year
When we must go to church to hear
The parson talk about a saint.
They’re always cropping up! That puts a stop
To work, and makes me shut up shop."
Amused at this naïve complaint,
The banker thought he’d make a trial
Of the other’s sunny disposition,
And said: "Now, my dear fellow, listen
Carefully. You see that pile
Of fifty crowns upon the table? Well,
They’re yours! You take them home and keep
Them safe, and use them when you’re short.
But I advise you not to tell
Your neighbours." When he saw the heap
Of shining coins, the cobbler thought
That here was gold enough to stock
The coffers of a king.
He put his treasure under lock
And key - and from that day forgot to sing;
For there and then his joy was spent.
Farewell tranquillity! Farewell content!
And sleep, that welcome guest
Who every night had blest
His pillow, came no more;
But cares and vain alarms besieged his door,
And put an end to every pleasure.
All day he must be on the watch;
And if, at night, he heard the scratch
Of rat or mouse about the house,
Then surely they were at his treasure!
In desperation he went back to see
The man he woke no longer with his song.
"Here are your fifty crowns," said he
"I’ve found them very wearisome to keep.
Please take them back where they belong;
I’d rather have my music and my sleep."

Trans. Copyright © Estate of Gordon Pirie 2002


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