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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
Jean de La Fontaine, Fables (Book one, fables 1,2,3,4)
 

THE CICADA AND ANT (I,1)
The gay cicada, full of song
    
All the sunny season long,
Was unprovided and brought low,
    
When the north wind began to blow ;
           Had not a scrap of worm or fly,
Hunger and want began to cry ;
Never was creature more perplexed.
She called upon her neighbour ant,
And humbly prayed her just to grant
Some grain till August next ;
“I'll pay, ” she said, “what ye invest,
Both principal and interest,
           Honour of insects –and that's tender. ”
           The ant, however, is no lender ;
That is her least defective side ;
“But, hark ye, pray, Miss Borrower, ” she cried,
“What were ye doing in fine weather ? ”
“ Singing . . .  nay,! look not thus askance,
To every comer day and night together. ”
“ Singing ! I'm glad of that ; why now then dance. ”

 

 

THE CROW AND FOX. (I,2)
Perched on a tree sat Master Crow
While in his beak he held a cheese ;
Lured by the smell stood Master Fox below,
And hailed him in such words as these :
“ What ! Master Crow ! good day ! how be ye ?
’Pon honour I am glad to see ye !
How beautiful, how handsome ye appear !
How I should like to hear your note !
For if your warbling's like your coat,
You are the phoenix of the forests here. ”
At this the crow could not enough rejoice,
Opened a large beak to show his pretty voice ;
Down dropt the precious prey . . .
Which Reynard seized, and ran away,
Leaving this short adieu :
“ Learn, my good fellow, that the flattering crew
Live at the cost of those they slyly please ;
I hope my lesson's worth your cheese. ”
The Crow too late, ashamed, and full of pain

Swore they should never bilk him so again


THE FROG AND OX. (I,3)
A frog an ox with envy saw,
Admired his wondrous size,
Staring with both her little eyes.
And murmuring at Nature's law,
Thought fit for larger bulk to beg,
Herself no bigger than an egg ;
She laboured, stretched, began to swell,
“ Sister, ” she said, “ now mark me well,
Is that enough ?—tell me—may I compare ? ”
“ No, faith ; ”—“ look flow ? ” “ Not in the least ”—“ then there ? ”
“ You don't approach it, sister. ” . . . “ Then here goes !”
So swelled the silly thing, and burst amidst her throes.
Of just such fools, the world enough affords,
Cits buy and build to copy dukes and lords ;
Each petty prince a monarch’s pomp assumes,
Each count has pages strutting round his rooms.

The frog and ox

THE TWO MULES. (I,4)
Two mules were travelling one road,
The one was humbly charged with corn,
The salt-tag was the other's load,
A load with pride and pleasure borne ;
He ranghis bell, and marched with grace,
Proud of his master and his place.
When lo, the enemy appears !
A money-searching gang :
The treasure-bearing mule in tears,
They seized, and straight began to bang :
Vain the resistance that he tried,
All over stabs he groaned and sighed :
“ Is this the promise then of scenes so gay !
While fearless that poor mule holds on his way,
To fall and here neglected die ? ”
  “ Neighbour, ” his comrade did reply,
“ High places are not always good, you see ;
Had you been but a miller’s mule like me,
You now had been as well as I.”



Other fables