The Jew

A Jew doing commerce once travelled as farAs Constantinople, to search the bazaar.Since he meant to replenish his earthenware stock,He bought many a cup, and many a crock.He kept buying and buying, and just wouldn't stopTill he filled a large creel right up to the top.He called for a porter. The burden was large,And so was the fee that the porter did charge.He called the next porter, who charged even more.His offer all porters would simply ignore.The Jew then considered, and thought of a ruseTo save him the money he'd otherwise lose.He called one more porter: "I'm deploring the fateThat brought such a man to such lowly estate…Yet should you but carry my creel to the inn,And charge me no payment in silver or tin,I'll teach you three secrets – just three, not one more –To make your life richer than ever before. The porter, on hearing the cunning Jew sayHe'd be making him rich the very same day,Considered the matter: "How am I to know?My luck might be turning if it truly be so."And straining to shoulder the fully-packed creel,Said: "Just help me hoist it, I've taken your deal."Bent under the burden, he walked for a mile,Then unshouldered the creel, to rest for a while.He said: "Master, now tell me those secrets, I pray.""Not before you have carried that creel all the way.""At least one of the three," – the porter would plead – "To ease off my burden." The Jew then agreed –He sensed that the porter would otherwise notGet hold of his burden, and move from the spot –"So be it, I'll tell you the first secret, then.Remember it well, though, don't ask me again:If you're told horse riding is better a lotThan carriage and horses, believe it, pray, not.That comes from a wise man, as you may expect.He's a true sage, indeed – the saying's correct."On hearing such wisdom, the porter took heart,And hoisting the creel up, he made a fresh start.He walked for some distance, then walked for some more,Then stopped for a breather, as he'd done before:"One secret you've told me, I humbly allow,And lo, to be sure, I'm much better off now.So let's hear the next one… Do tell me, I pray,A secret to lighten the rest of my way."The Jew, understanding that naught could be done,Consented to tell him. "Then hear the next one:If you're told that walking is better a lotThan riding on horseback, believe it, pray, not.This is a true saying, receive it, therefore,For the man it comes from had wisdom galore." As he mused on such wisdom, the porter agreedTo pick up his burden, content to proceed.He soon stopped again, though, and asked of the JewTo tell the last secret he claimed that he knew.The Jew was unwilling, but try as he may,He couldn't withhold what he'd promised to pay."If you're told", he replied, "The master's own lotIs worse than the servant's, believe it, pray, not.To the truth of these words you ought to take heed,For a wise man it is whence such teachings proceed." Perceiving at last that he'd got a raw deal,The porter trudged onwards, bent under the creel,And arrived at long last in front of the inn.He dropped down his load with a terrible din,Saying, "Sir, if you're told that even one potHas been left in one piece, believe it, pray, not." Word Without End

by Anton Pann (1794-1854)