When certain people get wise
Spaniards get wise in fitting guise –
Before the deed has time to speak;
Italians, rather, wisdom seek
Flagrante; Germans stay unwise
Till deeds are done, when passions rise.
That means, at best: Please be my guest
when dinner’s done – not bad advice!
The knock-kneed steed you’ll wait for twice
Before it comes. Don’t bolt the stall
Until the cow is gone withal.
If only, once the harm was done,
We could immediately get wise,
It would be easy to advise
And help us. Here, though, vain will be
Example, warning, rod or plea.
Others surmise they first are wise
When forty, they deserve full praise
Since they’ve had time to mend their ways
Or made at least a honest try,
Themselves have bettered by and by.
Others by shoal lack time and goal
To search for wisdom, for their part
They tarry in the fools’ great cart
And say: ‘When times lack rhyme and rule
Only th’unwise won’t play the fool.’
Many surmise they must be wise
Like fathers in the past have been,
In nature and in rank and mien,
Or since their views are roughly those
Their much-deluded masters chose.
Or in a daze and empty haze
Think lineage and ancient stock
When taken in one solid block
Will make them wise without a doubt
As if inherited, like gout.
How people and what’s more the land
Are shielded to a great extent
One clearly sees! Where fools are sent
To market, dealers profit much:
The wise world’s full of fools as such.