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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

“A Rich Man Loses his Child, a Poor Man Loses his Cow”

By Jacob Cats (1577–1660)

Translation through the German by Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson

COME hither, pray, O friends! Let me my sorrow tell you.

Wordless such loss to bear, my heart indeed endures not:

All that the soul downweighs seems to a man less bitter,

If to the friendly ear sorrow can be but uttered.

Dead is my neighbor’s child: dead is my only cow.

Comfort has fled from him; fled from me every joying.

So do we sorrow, both, reft of our peace each bosom:

He that his child is dead—I that my cow is taken.

Look you now, friends! how strange ay, and how sad Fate’s dealings!

I well had spared a child—one cow he well had wanted.

Turn things about, thou Death! Less evil seem thy doings.

Full is my house—too full: surely is full his cow-house!

Death, take his stalls for prey, or choose from out my seven!

There have you, Death, full room; less to us too the trouble.

Certain the pain’s forgot—ay, and forgotten quickly,

When, in the greater herd, one little wolf’s a robber!

What do I murmur thus? Ever is Death one earless.

Lost on him good advice, argument on him wasted.

Onward he moves, this Death, pallid and wholly blindly.

Oftenest he a guest just where his call’s least needed.

Ah, who can calm my grief; who, pray, shall still my neighbor’s?

Just as we would not choose, so unto each it happens!—

He who is rich must lose all that means nearest heirship,

I, the poor man, O God! stripped of my one possession!