I cannot vouch my tale is true,
Nor say, indeed, ’tis wholly new;
But true or false, or new or old,
I think you’ll find it fairly told.
A Frenchman, who had ne’er before
Set foot upon a foreign shore,
Weary of home, resolved to go
And see what Holland had to show.
He didn’t know a word of Dutch,
But that could hardly grieve him much;
He thought, as Frenchmen always do,
That all the world could “parley-voo.”
At length our eager tourist stands
Within the famous Netherlands,
And, strolling gaily here and there,
In search of something rich or rare,
A lordly mansion greets his eyes;
“How beautiful!” the Frenchman cries,
And, bowing to the man who sate
In livery at the garden gate,
“Pray, Mr. Porter, if you please,
Whose very charming grounds are these?
And, pardon me, be pleased to tell
Who in this splendid house may dwell.”
To which, in Dutch, the puzzled man
Replied what seemed like “Nick Van Stann,”
“Thanks!” said the Gaul; “the owner’s taste
Is equally superb and chaste;
So fine a house, upon my word,
Not even Paris can afford.
With statues, too, in every niche;
Of course Monsieur Van Stann is rich,
And lives, I warrant, like a king,—
Ah! wealth mast be a charming thing!”
In Amsterdam the Frenchman meets
A thousand wonders in the streets,
But most he marvels to behold
A lady dressed in silk and gold;
Gazing with rapture on the dame,
He begs to know the lady’s name,
And hears, to raise his wonders more,
The very words he heard before!
“Mercie!” he cries; “well, on my life,
Milord has got a charming wife;
‘Tis plain to see, this Nick Van Stann
Must be a very happy man.”
Next day our tourist chanced to pop
His head within a lottery shop,
And there he saw, with staring eyes,
The drawing of the mammoth prize.
“Ten millions! ’tis a pretty sum;
I wish I had as much at home:
I’d like to know, as I’m a sinner,
What lucky fellow is the winner?”
Conceive our traveler’s amaze
To hear again the hackneyed phrase.
“What? no! not Nick Van Stann again?
Faith! he’s the luckiest of men.
You may be sure we don’t advance
So rapidly as that in France:
A house, the finest in the land;
A lovely garden, nicely planned;
A perfect angel of a wife,
And gold enough to last a life;
There never yet was mortal man
So blest—as Monsieur Nick Van Stann!”
Next day the Frenchman chanced to meet
A pompous funeral in the street;
And, asking one who stood close by
What nobleman had pleased to die,
Was stunned to hear the old reply.
The Frenchman sighed and shook his head,
“Mon Dieu! poor Nick Van Stann is dead;
With such a house, and such a wife,
It must be hard to part with life;
And then, to lose that mammoth prize,—
He wins, and, pop,—the winner dies!
Ah, well! his blessings came so fast,
I greatly feared they could not last:
And thus, we see, the sword of Fate
Cuts down alike the small and great.”