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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
Fables, Jean de La Fontaine 
Book V, fables 13, 14, 15, 16
 

THE HEN WITH GOLDEN EGGS (V, 13)

A grasping miser loses all again ;
I seek no further proof to make it plain
Than what the fable of his Hen has told,
A Hen that daily laid an egg of gold.
He thought her body did a treasure hold,
So killed her, opened her, but did not find
That she was different from the common kind,
And lost the source from which he riches drew.

          A lesson, niggards, this for you.
In days of late we’ve seen, and not a few,
          Beggars become ’twixt morn and noon.
          In seeking to be rich too soon.

the hen with golden eggs
The hen with golden eggs (Ill. François Chauveau)


THE ASS CARRYING RELICS (V, 14)

A Jackass bearing relies seemed a lord,
Thought ’twas himself the gazing fools adored :
Thus a grave Square-toes he himself believed,
And hymns and prayers as his due received.
Some one his error soon found out, and said,
“ Good Jack, through vanity you’re off your head ;
          It is the idol, and not you,
          To whom they think the homage due.”

Men honour not the donkey magistrate,
They make a leg but to his robe of state.


THE STAG AND VINE (V, 15)

A Vine, such as in certain climes is found,
Spreading robust and rising beyond bound,
Sheltered a stag from hunter and from hound.
          The hunter blamed the pack,
And gave the cry to bring them back.
Ingratitude ! The stag, from danger free,
Began to browse his kind protecting tree !
They heard, returned, and him dislodged again,
And left him dying on the plain.
“ I have deserved this punishment,” he cried,
“ Profit by it, ye ingrates ! ” ere he died.
The pack fell to, his tears were lost :
Hunters are deaf to pity as a post.

An image this of many of our kind,
Who violate the asylum that they find.


THE SNAKE AND FILE (V, 16)

A snake into a watch-shop crept one day‑
Bad neighbour for the watchmaker, I say‑
And searched the shop for food, but nothing saw,
Except a file, which he began to gnaw.
          The file thus very coolly spoke :
          “ Sure, silly little snake, you joke ;
          My solid substance you may bite,
          From me you’ll never gain a doit ;
          You’ll break your teeth upon the steel.
The tooth of time is all I fear or feel.”

This tale’s for you, ye wits of lowest class,
Who, good for nothing, bite at all that pass.
           Ye torture your poor heads in vain,
To hiss at authors, or their merit stain.
To noble works you can no damage do,
           They're brass, steel, diamonds to you.



Other fables