|Fable, Jean de La
fables 7, 8, 9, 10,11
THE MOUSE METAMORPHOSED
INTO A MAID. (IX, 7)
A mouse fell from an owl on high :
I had not picked it up, not I ;
A Brahmin did though, and, which I believe,
Each country thinks as they their thoughts receive.
The mouse was injured by the fall.
Of such a neighbour we think nought at all :
But Brahmins treat him as a brother,
For they have sucked it in somehow or other,
That the great soul, just as it quits a king,
Takes lodging in some common thing,
Enters a mite, a grub, a louse, a fly,
Pythagoras drew up this mystery.
Ruled by his laws, the Brahmin thought
He did his duty, and a conjuror sought,
Begged him to lodge the mouse as lodged of old.
He did so, and a wondrous nymph behold,
With every charm, just turned fifteen.
Paris for her had more enraptured been,
And had done more than for his Grecian queen.
The Brahmin., wondering at this object, said :
" You that just now were but a wounded mouse,
Have wounded all, 0 lovely youthful maid
And you have but to choose your spouse."
" I choose the strongest then," the maid replied.
" 0 sun ! " the kneeling Brahmin quick replied,
" For son-in-law I fix on thee."
" No," cried the sun, " that pitchy cloud ye spy,
Hides all my rags, and stronger is than I :
I recommend you then my powerful shroud.
" Well," cried the Brahmin to the flying cloud,
" Art thou born. for her ?" " No, for still I find
I'm chased from clime to climate by the wind !
I don't pretend with Boreas to reign."
The Brahmin cried with haste again.:
" Then. come, 0 wind ! and wed the fair.."
He came : mountain stopped him in the air.
The Brahmin next the mighty mountain. tried,
Who in his turn. the ball refusing, cried :
" War with the rat might hence ensue,
And I my folly soon. might rue,
As he in time could eat me through."
At sound of rat, the fair Miss Mouse
Opened her ears an.d hailed him spouse.
" A rat ! a rat ! such. matches love has made :
0 love ! we wonder at the pairs we find ;
Thus such a one and such in wedlock joined.
But this between ourselves be said."
Men of their birthplace show the trace ; the tale
Proves that point well, but then it seems to fail
Elsewhere, and shows a little sophistry.
For what spouse is not better than the Sun,
If we may take it thus ? and is a flea
Stronger than giants, because, all said and done,
It makes its dinner off them ? Then the rat
In logic ought to offer to the cat
His fair one ; he should give her to the hound,
He to the wolf, and so on till the round
Was come full circle, and again
The fair one to the Sun was ta'en ;
Thus had Pilpay doubtless done,
And with her young bloom fed the Sun.
Again metempsychosis seems to be
Proved false by this good Brahmin's sorcery.
According to his system, man and mouse
Receive their souls from one same treasure-house;
Both then are of one temper, though they act
Diversely both in theory and fact.
'Tis owing to the organ solely then,
That the mouse creeps and we're erect as men;
If so, how comes it that a lovely farm
So highly organised did not compel
The maid to wed the Sun, however warm ?
The reason was she loved the rat too well.
Shortly, they're net the same in my advice,
The souls of maidens and the souls of mice.
Fixed is your portion by the laws of fate ;
Fleeting the forms your fancy may create.
Consult the devil in a conjuror's room,
'Tis all but marching on to meet your doom.
People who wish good counsel to improve,
This length of cord from madmen will remove ;
If not, their blows your fondness soon may cure :
The fool has sold you wisdom, I am sure."
THE MADMAN SELLING WISDOM (IX,8)
Ne'er come within a madman's reach :
This is the wisest lesson I can teach ;
The best of counsels this alone,
Avoid the men whose brains are gone.
They please the prince, for still they sport
Against the rogues and fools at court.
A fool went crying up and down the streets,
Wisdom to sell ; and soon with fools he meets,
Running to buy, as eager to be gone.
The fool put wild grimaces on,
Dealt each a blow with all his strength ;
Yet for their cash he gave them, with his jargon,
A cord two fathoms length.
The greater part were angry at the bargain ;
Yet what redress for them, in short,
But to give others greater sport ?
Their wisdom was to laugh and keep the cord,
And with the blow walk off without a word ;
For waiting for the sense at such a school,
Each had been scouted as a silly fool.
Must reason answer for a madman's brain,
Where hazard blind holds but a random reign ?
Yet with the cord and blow, a dupe perplexed,
Went to a sage with this unravelled text,
Who said, without the smallest hesitation : "
In figure here is clearest revelation ;
People who wish good counsel to improve,
This length of cord from madmen soon may cure :
If not, their blows your fondness soon may cure :The fool has sold your wisdom, I am sure."
THE OYSTER AND LITIGANTS (IX,9)
Two pilgrims travelling o'er the sands one day,
Saw a great oyster that was washed their way :
Their fingers pointed-wildly stared their eyes ;
Their mouths both watered for the tempting prize :
One springing, stooped in haste to seize the prey,
The other bawled while driving him away :
" Not quite so fast-let us decide our right ;
'Tis his to whom it first appeared in sight,
And while he sucks, the other may look on."
" If that's the argument you go upon,
My sight is good, thank God," his neighbour cried.
" And mine's not bad," his friend as quick replied ;
" I saw it first, or may I die ! "
" Be it," his neighbour made reply ;
" You'll own. I first the oyster fait."
While thus in vain dispute they dwelt,
John Doe came past-as judge they bid him sit.
The clients' eyes with pleasing hope were lit.
Grave John the oyster oped and swallowed it.
He wiped his mouth, and said in judge-like speech :
" Whereas the court allows a shell to each,
Free of all costs-go home, and live like friends."
Count what it costs before a lawsuit ends ;
Count what it takes from starving families' backs :
John gets the cash and home the client sends,
And barely for their papers leaves them sacks.
The oyster and litigants
THE WOLF AND MEAGRE DOG (IX, 10)
........I've sung before how carpling fry
........Preached all in vain, though very sly ;
........They put him in the pan to fry.
I showed that to let go what we have got,
With hopes of better fortune for the pot,
Shows want of wisdom quite.
The fisherman and carpling both were right :
Each in his life's behalf urged all his lore.
To what I then advanced take one tale more.
A wolf, as foolish as our man was wise,
Without the village met a dog, and straight
Prepared to size him as his prize.
The dog but pleaded his poor meagre state :
" May it please your lordship yet awhile to wait,
Until my master's only daughter's wed,
As I must share the wedding feast ;
Spite of my teeth, you'll see a different beast.
" The wolf believed, and left him to get fed.
The wolf soon alter, longing for the meat,
Went to inquire if he were fit to eat.
But now the rogue at home, no more afraid,
Looked through the gate, and to his neighbour said :
" Dear friend, a moment wait, and I'm with you ;
The porter of the house is coming too."
This porter was a dog of dreadful fame,
Who proudly worried wolves as common game.
Ours had some doubt : " Porter," he cried, "adieu! "
And took to flight. For running he was made,
But he was somewhat silly, be it said,
A wolf who had not yet acquired his trade.
A MEDIUM IN ALL THINGS (IX, 11)
I see no living creature round
By moderation duly bound.
Nature in everything requires
A medium in our desires.
Is it observed ? It never yet has been ;
In good or evil 'tis but seldom seen.
The corn, rich gift that Ceres fair bestows,
Exhausts, if thick, the furrow where it grows ;
Sprearling too much, rising too high in length,
Takes from the grain its wonted strength.
Such is the tree that too much fruit displays.
To browse the lavish part, and save the crop,
God suffered sheep among the corn to graze,
But nothing their excess could stop ;
They spoiled it all in turning it all ways.
When Heaven permitted wolves on sheep to fall,
And scranch up some, they scranched them all ;
Or if not all, at least they did their best.
Then Heaven permitted men to punish these.
They in their turn abused the high behest ;
For men much more than beasts, or corn, or trees,
Run to excess in all they meet,
And stand condemned both small and great.
There's not a living soul but deviates here.
Medium in all things, we must daily hear :
Nothing in which are mortals less sincere.