Javascript Menu by Deluxe-Menu.com fable Jean de La Fontaine : The dog carrying his master's dinner, the wag and fishes, the rat and oyster
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 7, 8, 9
 

THE DOG CARRYING
HIS MASTER'S DINNER.
(VIII, 7)

We have not eyes too proof against the fair,
            Nor hands too proof against the gold ;
            And very few a treasure hold,
            With faithfulness enough and care.
Homeward a certain dog the dinner bore,
Which like collar round his neck he wore.
Temperate was he, more than he wished to be,
            When he beheld delicious food !
But such he was ;—and weak, alas ! are we
Against temptation, seeing something good.
Strange thought ! that temperance should be learnt by dogs,
And men remain unteachable as hogs !
Our dog thus furnished, holding on his way,
Met with a cur who wished to seize his prey.
His pleasing hopes were not all realized.—
          The dog, who much his master prized,
Laid down the dinner, to defend it light ;
          And now behold a dreadful fight.
          Some other dogs soon joined the fray,
         Those dogs who on the public feed,
         And bites or blows but little heed.
Our dog, who saw he could not beat them all,
And that the meat must to the victors fall,
Desired his part, and like a sage he spoke :
" Good Sirs, no strife—a lunch shall me suffice,
.........Do with the rest as suits your choice."
He said, and first a lumping piece he took ;
The cur and other thieves with greedy eye,
With equal stomachs to the cheer apply ;
Each had his share, or finger in the pie.
From this I form the emblem of a town,
Where public funds at people's mercy lie,
And magistrates and others in the gown
Can fill their clutch.—'Tis pastime to behold,
When they've example from some brother bold,
How clean they sweep a heap of crowns away
            Or  if some scrupulous mind persist
With silly reasons to defend the prey,
            They soon the timid sot enlist.
            'Tis no great task to bring him in,
         He's oft the readiest to begin.


THE WAG AND FISHES (VIII, 7)

Wags I avoid—some hold them in esteem
The talents for that art claim rank supreme.
          God formed for folly's laughing herds
          Those wretched witlings upon words ;
And one of such, perhaps, my tale may show,
On whom, perhaps too, some will praise bestow.
A wag who with a banker dined one day,
Seated where only little fishes lay‑
          The great ones were without his reach
Took up the fry, and whispering to each,
          He feigned to hear their answer too,
Which from the wondering guests attention drew.
The wag then said with gravest tone,
" That much he feared a friend of his, long gone
          To India, where his fortune lay,
                       Might have been cast away ;
          I therefore asked these little fry ;
          But they're too young, they all reply,
          Too young by far to k-now his fate ;
The big ones, sirs, they say, can more relate :
May I a big one then interrogate ? "
           I doubt if his comparions took
          The joke with an approving look.
           It did at last so much avail him,
He got a big one old enough to tell him
All the great searchers' names of worlds unknown,
Yet unreturned—and for a century gone
Down to the dreary dark abyss, to sleep
With the dull hoary dwellers of the deep.


THE RAT AND OYSTER. (VIII, 9)

A country rat, a rat of little brain,
Grew tired of his paternal house and plain,
His home abandoned with his fields and grain.
Soon as he left his wicket onward bound,
He stopped and cried with rapture and surprise,
" How great, how spacious is the world around !
Here's Caucasus, and there the Alps arise ! "
Mole-hills were mighty mountains his eyes.
A few days after, as he wandered o'er
A country, where he saw upon the shore
A heap of oysters that had lest the tide,
He thought them ships—" three-masters sure !" he cried :
" My father was a sorry sire, I think ;
Afraid of travelling to the last degree ;
While Neptune's empire I already see :
I've deserts crossed, but there we did not drink." *
These things the rat from some magister knew,
And thus at random from his mouth they flew ;
None of those rats who gnaw great volumes through,
           And over ears in learning grow.
           'Mongst all the oysters chut, was one
That opened, and lay gaping to the sun,
Drawing the cooling zephyr with delight,
           Full-blown and tempting to the sight,
           White, fat, and delicately good.
The distant rat beheld it thus, and cries
" What do I see ? 'tis certainly some food ;
And if the colour don't deceive my eyes,
To-day or never I shall make good cheer."
He said, and, flushed with hope, drew near,
Stretched out his neck a little, making bold.
The oyster closed, and formed his prison-hold.
          Two lessons in this tale appear :
First, those who nothing know will ever be
Astonished at the silliest things they see ;
          And secondly, we see the wit
.......   Of those who thought to bite, got bit.

 

the dog carrying his master's dinner

The dog carrying his master's dinner

 

Other fables