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

Joel Benton (1832–1911)

Fohi’s Retribution

FOHI the righteous, after journeyings wide,

A wealthy woman’s house at night espied,

And faint from hunger, weary, and foot-sore,

Asked if he might not rest within her door.

But she was stern: “Vagrant, your way pursue;

My house was not designed for such as you:”

And, crowding him aside with cold disdain,

“No roving vagabonds I entertain.”

Oppressed in heart, he turned his heavy feet

Where a poor woman lived across the street;

But ere he could his simple speech begin,

She met him at the gate and led him in.

Mixing some goat’s milk with her crumbs of bread,

“This is my only food,” the woman said;

“But if Fohi the humble fare should bless,

There will be full enough for both, I guess.”

Then she prepared for him a couch of straw,

And when he fell asleep, with grief she saw

He had no under-robe—a plight so sad,

She made him one from all the cloth she had.

When from their breakfast guest and hostess rise,

She begged him not her simple gift despise,

And journeying with him for a little way,

He said, “May your first work last all the day.”

Arriving home, she took the linen weft,

To fold and lay aside the pieces left,

When lo! it grew, till she, by working hard,

Filled up with cloth by night her house and yard!

When her rich neighbor saw this wondrous pelf,

Deeply annoyed, and vexed within herself,

She thought, although her lips could not complain,

“No such good fortune shall escape again.”

Months after, Fohi came along once more,

When the rich woman met him at the door,

And pressed him in, and made him take a seat,

And cooked her very best for him to eat.

Then in the morning, sleep and breakfast done,

Of her fine garments gave she Fohi one,

And journeying with him for a little way,

He said, “May your first work last all the day.”

So, turning back, but thinking all the while

Her cloth would turn into a mountainous pile,

She heard her cows, thirsting for water, low,

And said, “To fetch you drink, poor beasts, I go.”

But as she poured into the trough her pail,

It emptied not, nor ever seemed to fail;

She kept on pouring, but it ran all day,

And drowned her cows, and swept her house away.

Her neighbors thought the highest heavens had rained,

And of the ruin to their lands complained—

Yet never ceased the source of all her ills

Until the sun sank down behind the hills.