Friday Fable: La Fontaine’s “THE (HOUSE) OF SOCRATES.”*

Posted by jlubans on May 24, 2013

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Caption: Reminiscent of Diogenes abode** this house might have appealed to Socrates.

“A house was built by Socrates
That failed the public taste to please.
Some blamed the inside; some, the out; and all
Agreed that the apartments were too small.
Such rooms for him, the greatest sage of Greece!
'I ask,' said he, 'no greater bliss
Than real friends to fill e'en this.'
And reason had good Socrates
To think his house too large for these.
A crowd to be your friends will claim,
Till some unhandsome test you bring.
There's nothing plentier than the name;
There's nothing rarer than the thing.”

No fool celebrity, Socrates knew about the scarcity and evanescence of true friendship. He built his house for his few “real” friends.
And so it goes at work. If all of our friends are from work, then our retirement may well be a lonely one. A few of those friendships do survive, but most do not. Maintaining relationships is a struggle, to be sure. Once absent, the heart may not grow fonder; instead it may grow forgetful.
And that works both ways. Like my retired university friend responded when I asked him why he had moved to a distant retirement community instead of living in the one preferred by his university colleagues: “I had to work with those bastards for forty years!”

*Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New Edition, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882.

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**Caption: Diongenes who lived in a barrel, is the butt of a practical joke by Max und Moritz (Katzenjammer). The joke backfires, flattening the two mischief makers.

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