Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The Fly, A Fable - Christian Fürchtegott Gellert

That insects think, as well as speak,
Needs, at this day, small eloquence to show;
Esop, whom even children prize in Greek,
Affirm'd as much, some thousand years ago.
Fontaine, in French, asserted just the same;
Who then shall dare deny the reptile claim
To faculties, the world esteems so low,
As scarce to notice, if you think or no?

Within a temple, where the builder's art,
Grandeur and elegance at once had join'd;
While due proportion, reign'd in every part,
And simple grace, with solid strength combin'd.
In such a temple's wall, sat perch'd on high,
A solemn, thoughtful, philosophic fly.
For flies, an air so grave, of wisdom take,
And on one leg, the head will often hold,
And into wrinkles, oft the forehead fold,
Only because they deep reflection's make;
And to the bottom dive to know,
The source of all things here below.

Thus then, involv'd in contemplation deep,
With half a dozen wrinkles on his brow,
This fly began, around himself to peep,
And question whence the building rose, and how?
No maker of this work can I perceive,
Quoth he—and that there is one, scarce believe;
For who should such a maker be?
'Art,' said a spider sage. 'Art built the work you see,
For, wheresoever turns your eye,
Fix'd laws, and order you descry;
And hence, a fair conclusion grows,
That from the hand of Art, the building rose.'
At this the fly, in his conceptions proud,
Laugh'd out aloud,
And with a sneer of scorn, replied—
'Most learned sir, I oft have tried,
At this same Art to get a sight,
But never on him yet could light;
And now, the more I think, the more I find,
Your Art is but a fiction of the mind.
Now learn from me how this same temple grew:
Once on a time, it so by chance befel
That pebbles numberless together flew,
And settling, form'd this hollow shell,
Where you, and I, friend spider, dwell;
Say, what can be more evidently true?'
A fly, for such a system, we forgive;
But if great geniuses should live,
Who deem this world's well-order'd frame,
Sprung from blind accident alone,
And chance, as author of their lives proclaim,
Rather than bow to God's eternal throne,
The sole excuse a creed, like this admits,
Is, that its votaries have lost their wits.

Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715-1769) Germany
Translator not stated
Source: PoemHunter

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