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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 I, fables 21, 22
 

THE HORNETS AND BEES (I, 21)
The artist by his work is known.

Some honeycombs without their lords were found :
The hornets came and claimed them as their own ;
Some bees opposing gathered round.
Over the cause a wasp presided,
A cause not easily decided.
The witnesses deposed that round the combe,
Winged insects, longish, buzzing at their ease,
Of tawny colour like the bees,
Had long been seen, as in their native homes.
But lo ! the hornets had their marks the same !
On this the wasp, quite puzzled what to say,
Another trial did proclaim,
In hopes that what an ant-hill swore,
Would make it clearer than before.
At last a bee, for wisdom famed,
Arose, and with some warmth exclaimed
“ We've worked six months in this affair,
And now we're only where we were.
The summer's gone, the honey run to waste,
’Tis time, Sir Judge, to make some haste ;
You've had enough of us, and we of you,
All further legal gibberish we eschew.
Certes, we own your pleaders wondrous clever,
But now, let bees and hornets work together ;
Build cells together and produce,
We’ll see which gives the honey-juice ! ”
Then the poor hornets flinched their part,
Which proved the work beyond their art ;
And their pretensions thus being quashed
They lost their law-suit quite abashed.
Ah ! might such wisdom o'er all suits preside !
Might we in this but follow Turkish modes !
Plain common-sense would serve for civil codes :
And what a saving of expense beside !
Instead of this, devoured by law's delay,
Lawyers like vultures on our substance prey :
At last the judge the oyster eats, and tells
The clients that they've gained the shells.

THE OAK AND REED  (I, 22)
The oak one day addressed the reed,
“ Nature you may accuse indeed ;
A wren for you’s a heavy load,
The softest breeze that stirs abroad,
That ruffles but the water's bed,
Compels you to hang down your head ;
While I, like some proud mountain’s brow,
Not only stop the solar ray,
But brave the blasts that round me play :
Loud rowing storms to you, to me like zephyrs blow.
Now, did you spring within the shade I throw,
Were you beneath my sheltering foliage found,
You would not suffer from the north unkind ;
I could defend you from the tempests round ;
But ye are seldom, save in marshy ground,
Upon the borders of the realms of wind.
Nature to you I really think unjust.”
“ Your pity,” answered him the reed, “ I trust
From goodness springs, but pray that pity spare ;
The winds that trees and mountains tear
Alarm not me—unbroken still I bend.
You hitherto, ’tic true, unshaken bear
Their mighty blasts—but wait the end.”
                Just as he spoke,
A tempest from the far horizon broke ;
Ne’er from the bowels of the north,
Till then, came such a son of fury forth ;
The oak stood fast ; the reed bowed down again.
The winds then bursting with redoubled roar,
Up by the roots the boasting giant tore,
Whose cloud-capped head so proud did reign,
Whose feet sank down to death's domain.

the oak and reed

Ill. Etienne Bellan

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