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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 25, 26, 27

(VIII, 25)

          Virtues should wear the sisters' name,
          As vices that of brothers claim.
When one of these the heart can once ensnare,
All others follow—none are wanting there.
I mean those vices that no jarring hold ;
          One roof with case may all infold :
Whereas for virtues, seldom have they been
All in one person eminently seen ;
Nor undispersed can they together go.
          One's valiant, but too rashly bold ;
          Another's prudent, but too cold.
'Mongst animals the dog is proud, we know;
Of his fidelity and of his care ;
But he's a sot, and glutton as a bear.
Witness two curs who from afar descried
          A dead ass floating on the tide,
          Which moving from them seemed to be.
" Friend," cried the one, " far more than I you. see,
Throw just a glance across the watery course ;
I something spy—is it an ox or horse ?"
        " No matter," did the other cry,
" Behold good game ; to get it we must try.
The stream is broad, we swim against the wind ;
Let's drink all up, for with the thirst we find
We soon shall drain that mass of water dry,
And then of victuals we've a week's supply."
The dogs began, but soon they lost their breath ;
They drank so hard, they drank themselves to death.
          Both burst in twinkling of an eye.
Man's make is such : when something swells his mind,
He gives impossibilities to wind.
What time he loses upon mad desires !
Now riches dazzle, glory next inspires ;
Might he to his estates new fields behold !
Might he his coffers see all filled with gold !
Might he learn Hebrew, history, and Greek !
All science know, and every language speak !
This were to drink the ocean with excess ;
          Yet some men burst for nothing less.
To furnish what one scheming mind would do,
Four human bodies never could get through.:
Four old Methuselahs, when all was done,
Could not conclude the vain desires of one.

two dogs and dead ass
The two dogs ans dead ass

(VIII, 26)

Vulgar opinions I detest as trash ;
To me they sound profane, unjust, and rash.
Through a false medium everything they view,
And judge by what they feel of what's in you.
Of this Democritus experience had ;
His silly countrymen thought he was mad.
Prophets at home appear but in disguise ;
Yet they were fools, and he was truly wise.
So far the Abderites in their error went,
Hippocrates some messengers they sent,
                Whose letters begged him, with his skill,
To come and cure Democritus so ill.
" Our countryman," they said with faces sad,
" Has lost his brain—reading hath made him mad.
We should esteem him were he not so wise :
Unnumbered worlds, he says, roll round the skies,
                And these no end of numbers fill,
No doubt, of sages like himself in skill.
                To which he joins, in giddy trance,
                Atoms inform that round him dance ;
Measures the heavens while sitting on the ground,
And knowing not himself, knows all around.
Time was, he gave our quarrels to the wind;
But now his speech is to himself confined.
Come, heavenly mortal ! he has lost his mind."
Hippocrates gave them but small belief,
Yet went to heal Democritus in brief.
Behold their happy-destined meeting then :
The healer found his madman-patient when
He studied mort intensely as he read,
If reason seated in the heart or head
O'ershaded where he sat beside a brook,
                Tracing the mazes of the brain;
                        Around him many a book,
And so absorbed in what he wished to gain,
He scarce perceived his friend draw near.
Short compliments they paid each other's ear.
The wise man husbands words and time with fear.
Having all frivolous questions then declined,
And reasoned much on man, and on the mind,
Philosophy their well-met souls entwined.
               No need that I should here display
               What both enjoyed and had to say.

Such is the people's voice. 'Tis somewhat odd
The people's voice should be the voice of God.


O cursed thirst of gold ! monster whose eyes
Regard as nought the blessings of the skies,
Must I still lash thee through my work in vain ?
When shall my lessons thy attention gain ?
Man, deaf to me as to the sage's cry,
Will he ne'er say : " Enough, let's now enjoy ? "
Hasten, my friend—thy glass is nearly run ;
Mark what I say, 'tis worth a book alone‑
Enjoy.—" I will : but when, I ask ? To-morrow ?"
Friend, Death ere then may meet thee to thy sorrow !
Begin to-day, or fear a similar fate
To that of fools like thee I here relate.'

A hunter with his bow brought down a deer ;
Her fawn came up, and shared her fate severe.
A modest hunter had contented been
With such a handsome prey stretched on the green ;
Yet soon again his greedy eyes explore
A fat enormous monster of a boar.
He brought him down his appetite to glut,
Condemned to Styx. The Parcæ barely cut
His powerful thread, the monster struggling fell
With life suspended 'gainst the three of hell.
'Twas prey enough, but what new conquest stops
The ambitious victor feasting on his hopes ?
The boar revived a little ere he died :
               Meantime the man a partridge spied ;
A little more, he thought, to be acquired ;
                But his bent bow no more he twangs ;
                The boar on him laid fatal fangs,
And thus revenged, upon his corpse expired.
                The partridge thanked him as he flew.
Thus far, ye covetous, my tale revieve;
                Misers, the rest I dedicate to you.

A wolf came there, and saw the poor things killed
                " 0 Fortune ! " cried he, " for this show,
                To thee a temple I will build !
Four bodies stretched ! What store of wealth ! but no !
We must be saving, must not things abuse ;
                Such portions we but seldom know.
                Such is the miser's fond excuse.
" Here's for a month," cried Wolf, " or thereabout ;
One, two, three, four good bodies sound and sleek ;
Beginning two days hence by one per week,
                If I can count a month full out.
Meantime, let's eat the bow-string ; for the smell
Tells me 'tis gut—I know it pretty well."
He said, and heedless on the string he flew :
It twanged—the arrow pierced his bowels through !

Learn from these gluttons and their cruel fate,
Not to be taught your happiness too late.
To covetousness fell a prey the one,
Through avarice his neighbour was undone.




Wolf and Hunter

The wolf and hunter ...

wolf : the end
The end ... !

Other fables