The Rich Fool

There was a man, let’s call him Eric,
Well-endowed with business nouse,
Thanks to many years of labour,
Owned a rather handsome house,

With a farm which, due to frugal
Management, was doing well:
Oats and barley, wheat, alfalfa;
Crops that were not hard to sell.

Since his youth he had been striving,
Rising early, working late,
Giving little thought to leisure
Or to looking for a mate.

Didn’t have much time for reading
Or for strolling in a wood.
Didn’t care for friends or family,
Loathed the thought of “doing good”.

Still he planned for his retirement,
Some day, many years from now,
When he’d made sufficient millions,
He would cease to push the plough.

Things went well and Eric prospered,
Soon he bought up other farms.
So much produce, where to store it?
This meant building bigger barns,

And bigger barns, enormous structures!
Barns a hundred cubits wide!
Pulled them down and built them bigger,
Still he wasn’t satisfied.

Still no time for life’s adventures,
Only business filled his mind,
But as wealth increased, and status,
So his inner life declined.

Yet he swore that in the future
He would live a different life,
Do some reading, learn a language,
Maybe even take a wife.

“When my Mega Barn is finished
I will rest upon my lees;
Plan a trip, a long vacation,
Tell my soul to take its ease.

‘Soul’, I’ll say, ‘Eat, drink, be merry!
We have plenty stashed away.’
Then I’ll turn my thoughts to living,
Maybe have a chance to pray.

Find some solace in religion,
(There’s that bible on my shelf),
Pen some poems, write a novel,
When I have sufficient wealth.”

Eric woke one night and shuddered,
Death was standing by his bed.
In his ear the figure whispered,
“Where’s your soul? For you are dead!”

Eric staggered to the window,
Looked to where his barns were set
Like cathedrals in the moonlight,
Each one filled with his regret.

“Where’s my soul?” The question lingered.
Then a little voice replied,
“Here I am!” and from the chimney
There emerged a starving child.

“Why are you so small and withered?
Why this soot upon your face?
And your eyes so full of sadness,
Standing in the fireplace?”

Death stepped forward from the bedside
Took the infant by the hand,
Eric watched their forms departing,
Then began to understand.

All those years he had been granted,
So much time in his control,
Spent in building wealth and status,
He had never fed his soul!

He had never even met it!
As his pride had grown unchecked,
So his poor, forgotten soul
Had all but perished from neglect.

Eric stood there in the moonlight,
Fading as he ceased to feel.
Now his soul was gone he saw that
He himself had not been real.

Learn a lesson from poor Eric,
‘Ere the bell begins to toll:
In your struggle for existence,
Don’t forget to feed your soul.