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The Child and the Date Palm

by  michwo

Posted: Thursday, March 08, 2018
Word Count: 390
Summary: A fable by Voltaire's great-nephew who died of TB in September 1794 as a result of being imprisoned during the Terror. Two other poets - André Chénier and Jean-Antoine Roucher - were guillotined in July that year.

The Child and the Date Palm
Not far from the Atlas Mountains
In a desert where a hundred tribes of nomads
Freely walk with camels and their tents in bags
Ran one day a child without his footsteps counting.
The young son of a Muslim, that’s no lie,
He’d run off from a caravanserai.
While his mother was sleeping, he saw what was what.
Down in a ravine, far from dry places,
Our child discovers an oasis.
A fine date palm’s near; of dates it bears a lot.
“Oh!  What joy!” he cries out.  “These dates, this water clear,
Are mine now; without me, in this lonely place here,
These hidden treasures, unsuspected,
Would have stayed forever undetected.
But since I’ve found them, they belong to me.”
Speaking thus the child now rushes to the tree
And to its top endeavours to be raised.
The going was tough;
The bark was sometimes smooth and sometimes rough.
It caused his hands to slip or to be grazed.
Twice he fell down, but, with ardour renewed,
He around the trunk his long legs slewed
And came at last, panting and sore in the crutch,
Up to these dates that he wanted so much.
He throws himself upon the dates,
Holding on with one hand, with the other foraging,
That even picked at random they are good to taste.
Suddenly our child, numbered now among our friends,
Stops to reflect and afterwards descends.
He runs to fetch his mother,
Takes charge of his younger brother,
Leads them to the palm.  The younger, bending down,
Leans against the trunk, his arms around it wraps,
Lets his brother climb upon his back.
His brother does so, then, as if from solid ground,
Effortlessly, both arms free, with nothing to endanger them,
Picks the dates and throws them down.  His mother keeps track,
Then upon a tablecloth arranges them.
The harvest once done and the table once laid,
The two brothers peaceful and contented feel,
Smile at their mother no longer afraid,
At the water’s edge enjoy a charming meal.
Of our society this is a reflection:
We need to share things that are not of our confection.
Hearts worthy the value of friendship to know,
Take heed of this old adage’s direction:
“Half is better than all here below.”