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The Fool who Sold Wisdom


Published on: Saturday 8 January 2005

Language for this article: français > Le fou qui vend la sagesse
Don’t stand in range where fools can reach you
Of all the things that I have said,
There’s nothing wiser I have to teach you
Than to run from a guy who has holes in his head.
One often sees them near a crown.
The king finds it amusing when their barbs bring down
Some self-important fop, some fraud, some courtly clown.
A fool went shouting all about the town,
That he sold wisdom. Soon, people were thickly pressed
Around him, each more credulous than the rest.
But after a bit one saw disgruntled faces,
For what their money bought
Was a swat on the ear and a thread-in length, two paces.
Most got angry-but anyone who thought
About it might have seen that this made them appear
In a worse light yet. Far better in this case
Had each one walked away, silently rubbing his ear
And clutching his thread, a rueful smile on his face.
For to think that one perceives a rational motive here
Makes little sense. Randomness better explains
The fantasies in damaged brains.
Still, one of his puzzled victims, hoping to resolve,
First, the sudden blow and then the proffered thread,
Consulted a sage, who scarcely paused before he said,
«These things are hieroglyphics, simple ones to solve.
All those who hope to prosper would do well to place
Between themselves and fools a space
Which this thread measures. If they do not,
They will receive a similar swat.
You were not cheated. The fool sold wisdom-which you got.»
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