Javascript Menu by Deluxe-Menu.com fables of Jean de La Fontaine : the ass and dog, the bassa and merchant, the advantage of learning, Jupiter and thunder
portrait de Jean de La Fontaine le corbeau de la fable jardin de la maison natale actuellement le perron de l'entrée de la maison
Fable, Jean de La Fontaine, 
Book VIII, fables 17, 18, 19, 20
 

            THE ASS AND DOG (VIII, 17)

‘ Tis Nature’s law to help each other here.
An ass at this one day thought fit to sneer.
Strange, by the by, that this should slip his mind,
For Jack's a fellow of the obliging kind.
He gravely travelled with a dog one day ;
                Nothing to vex him on the way ;
           ....Their common master followed close.
He stopped to sleep : The ass began to browse ;
                A pleasant meadow met his nose,
And grass in which he might carouse.
No thistles though—for once he went without ;
One must not always have a dainty snout.
                And yet without this dish at last,
                Jack seldom makes a good repast ;
But he for once without it broke his fast.
                The dog with hunger dying lay :—
" Stoop down," he cried, " dear neighbour, pray,
                I'll eat my meal that's in the bag."
No word, no answer from the Arcadian nag,
                Afraid to let a moment pass,
                And lose a mouthful of the grass.
                At last he op'd his heavy ear,
                And said : " Good friend, my counsel hear.
                Wait till our master end his sleep,
And patiently till then your stomach keep ;
It can't be long—and then you'll have your food."
On this a wolf came hungry from the wood :
Soon to the dog the ass proclaimed his fear :
" Friend," quoth the dog unmoved, " my counsel hear ;
                Fly till our master be awake--
                It can't be long—haste, run away,
And should the wolf o'ertake thee, lack-a-day !
                His jaw-bone in a moment break.
                Take my advice—you're newly shod‑
   .............To lay him sprawling on the road.
" While thus the dog went eloquently on,
Sir Wolf came up and strangled Master John.

ass_dog

THE BASSA AND MERCHANT. (VIII, 18)

Once a Greek merchant, with a bassa's aid,
In certain provinces great traffic made,
For which a bassa's solid price he paid,
So dearly are protector's favours gained.
Of this where'er he went the Greek complained.
Three other Turks, of far inferior post,
Him jointly offered their support for hire,
While less acknowledgment they should require
Than one alone the trafficker would cost.
The merchant listened, and with them agreed.
The matter reached the bassa's ear with speed ;
        They told him even, if he were wise,
To get the start, and all the business end,
By giving them an errand to their friend
Mohammed, in his tranquil paradise ;
If not, and quickly too, that he at length
      Must fall by their united strength.
The Greek had means to strike a vengeful blow,
By poison to dispatch, and make him go
To sanction marchants in the world below.
To which our Turk a careless hearing lent,
Like Alexander.—To the Greek's he went,
Sat down to dinner as a cheerful guest,
The mirth partook, and sent about the jest,
As if no fears had harboured in his breast.
" You've left me, friend," he cried, " from what I hear ;
Nay, I am warned the consequence to fear ;
      Yet you're too good a man, I think,
To give me what I should not like to drink ;
But let us cut this trifling matter short—
As to your friends who promise their support,
Hear me – We’ll hold no tiresome loud debate ;
Let me a simple apologue relate.
One asked the shepherd of a flock one day,
Why he maintained a dog, that commonly
Devoured a loaf, enough to nourish three.
     You ought to give him up,' said he,
     ' To the rich village lord to keep,
And take three little curs to watch the sheep,
      Which three would do with greater care,
      Nor cost so much for daily fare.'
A triple portion passed our mastiffs maw,
      But then they did not reason right,
For he could also show a triple jaw,
      When hungry wolves came to the fight.
The shepherd changed him—three he took instead,
Who less devoured, but from the battle fled.
The flock soon felt the loss, as you will too,
If with these ragamuffins you've to do."
The Greek believed him. Better hence, we se;
That little states, on terms of honour free,
Accept the help one powerful king can lend,
Than upon several petty chiefs depend.


THE ADVANTAGE OF LEARNING
(VIII, 19)
        Of old between two burghers rose
        A quarrel difficult to dose.
        The one was poor,—but rich in lore ;
      ..The other rich,—in learning poor.
      ..The latter, in his heart of pride,
      ..Thought every sage, howe'er profound;
        To reverence him humbly bound ;
Or every sot—not rightly is renowned
        The man, if worth be wanting there.
The rich man's reason is not worth a hair.
" My friend," he often to the scholar said,
      " You that so much in learning glory,
        How is your dining-table laid ?

Your reading folk ! what money have they made ?
They seldom lodge but in the highest story,
Through summer sweating in their winter clothes,
And for a footman each bis shadow shows.
        The commonwealth gains much, no doubt,
        By those who lay no money out !
        No man so useful to be found,
        As he who scatters riches round.
        Gad knows our pleasures make them fly.
        The man who makes the petticoat,
The girl who wears it-both we keep afloat,
And stock the artisans for those who buy.
        While you, with dedication sly,
        Your wretched pages cringing lay
At feet of treasury lords, who well can pay. "
The sage gave all this insolence of sound
        Its just reward, contempt profound ;
And scorned on fools to threw his words away.
Vengeance from war and not from words he had.
Bellona threw their habitations down,
        And both compelled to quit the town.
        Houseless remained the fool, and sad ;
        All on the needy blockhead frowned.
The scholar everywhere new presents found.‑
And thus their quarrel ended in a trice.

Let sots then chatter—Learning hath its price.

 

JUPITER AND THUNDER (VIII, 20)

Jove, seeing mortals so perverse,
One day thus spoke his high behests :
" Let's fill again with other guests
The cantons of the universe, .
Inhabited by such a rout :
They weary all my patience out.
Go, Mercury, go down to hell,
And thence a Fury bring to me,
The cruellest of all the three.
Vile race ! that I but loved too well :
No longer think to gain my ear,
Or moderate my wrath severe.
O Kings !  ye gods in human form,
Jove's arbitrators of our fate
Between our ruin and your hate,
Between the menace and the storm,
Let pass one short reflecting night ! "

The smooth-tongued god, of wing so light,
Descended, and the sisters found,
Who at his beck came running round.
Alecto from the three lie chose,
So void of pity she to foes.
She, proud of this pre-eminence,
By Pluto swore, departing thence,
Full soon to add to his domain
The human race to deck his train.
But Jupiter, so wroth before,
Approved not what the Fury swore,
And quickly sent her back again..
Yet on a certain race his frown
The flashing thunder-bolt sent down :
Its roar flew harmless o'er the land,
'Twas guided by a father's hand,
Who checked his anger too severe,
When lie beheld them faint with fear.
A father strikes with pity's tear.
The rattiing storm its fury spent
In wilds where morfals never went.
What sprung from this ? our worthless race
Abused his sympathy and grace.—
Of this Olympus' chiefs complain ;
The god of thunder swore again
By Styx he swore, and hell's abyss,
To send them storms that should not miss
They smiling said, at what he swore,
That he a father's title bore.—
Better some other god should form
The thunder, and direct the storm.
This, Vulcan undertook to do,
And quick two different metals threw
Into his furnace like a lake‑
The one of which makes no mistake,
But straight the mark is sure to find,
From all Olympus' gods combined.
The other often turns its course,
And breaks on mountain-tops its force,
Or errs in its direction wild.—
This comes from Jupiter the mild.

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