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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 III, fables 5, 6, 7, 8
 

THE FOX AND GOAT (III, 5)

Lieutenant Reynard for companion chose
To travel with a goat with horns so high ;
  The latter saw no farther than his nose,
The former was well versed in trickery.
  Compelled by drought, they ventured down a well ;
There drank abundantly, and quenched their thirst.
    Said Reynard “ Gaffer, canst thou tell
How we may now get out, and which the first ?
    ’Tis not enough, my friend, to drink ;
    But stop ; I have it now, I think,
  Raise up thy hoofs and horns against the wall,
Along thy back let me first gain the brink,
And when I’m on thy horns don’t fall :
By aid of this machine I shall. get out,
    And then ’twill be thy bout. ”
“ So by my beard,” said Gaffer, “ it shall be,
I'm proud to travel with great wits like thee !
    I should have tortured my poor brain,
    And cudgelled it, alas ! in vain. ”
Sir Reynard left the well and friend behind,
    Preached him a very pretty sermon,
    That might to patience him determine.
“ If Heaven,” he said, “to thee had been as kind,
In gift of knowledge, as in length of beard,
    Thou very wisely would'st have feared
    Descending thus into a well ;
    But I've escaped, and so farewell !
     Use every effort to get out, my friend,
  I've urgent business, and I must away---
Business, dear Gaffer, that I can't delay. ”
In every matter we should mind the end.

The Fox and Goat

THE EAGLE, WILD SOW, AND CAT (III, 6)

High in the hollow of a tree
The eagle nursed her young ;
The root did to a sow belong,
A cat between them lodged ; the three
Thus separately messed, from discord free.
The treacherous cat disturbed the quiet shade,
Climbed to the eagle's garret, and thus said :
        “ Our death draws near, my worthy dame,
        At least our children's, which is much the same.
        Do you perceive that cursèd sow
For ever digging there a mine below ?
        ’Tis to root up the oak, you need not doubt,
           And in the fatal overthrow
           To get our young ones in her power,
           And all devour :
For safety's sake let none of us stir out.
       With less distress shall I repine,
       If I preserve but one of mine.”
       Leaving the eagle full of fear,
The treacherous cat went to the sow in labour,
       And whispered slyly in her ear,
       “ Harkee, my friend and worthy neighbour,
       ’Tis good advice I bring below—
       The eagle, who has seen you dig,
If you go out, will eat each new-born pig ;
       But not a word that I said so,
       Her rage would fall on me, you know. ”
       Here also having fear inspired,
       The cat into her hole retired.
To quit her nest the eagle did not dare,
To search her young ones' food—the sow still less ;
             Fools, not to see in their distress
          That famine soon must find them there !
Both kept their homes mort obstinately blind,
To guard their young against the doom portending,
The royal bird afraid of being mined,
       The sow afraid of her descending ;
Famine destroyed them all ; not one remained
       Of eagle race or boar,
       On this side of death's door,
     By which the cats a something gained.
     Many and fatal are the wrongs
That spring from cunning treacherous tongues ;
Of all the ills Pandora's box outpoured,
Deceit, I think, is rightly most abhorred.


   THE DRUNKARD AND WIFE (III, 7)

Each has his foible, where he ever fails,
Nor fear, nor shame, for remedy avails ;
Take now a tale, that yields a pretty sample,
For I prove all I say by some example.
A son of Bacchus, in the drinking curse,
Impaired his health, his senses, and his purse ;
Such folks in life are seldom half-way on
         Before the last half-crown be gone.
         One night, with sences quite bereft,
All in the bottom of the bottle left,
          His wife, to bring him to his mind,
          Had him in dungeon dark confined ;
There gave him time to let the vapours rise.
He woke at last. By a sepulchral light
Saw round him grave-clothes, and to his surprise
Found himself wrapt in winding-sheet quite tight.
“ Ah, ha ! ” said he, as on his breech he rose,
“ My wife's a widow now, I may suppose. ”
His wife appeared, disguised in fury's gear,
And spoke with voice fit for the realms below
Whilst drawing near the corps lain in the bier:
“ This caudle eat ; 'tis Lucifer's, you know ! ”
In fact, she acted the Alecto, since
She wished her goodman to convince
That he was now a subject of Hell's prince.
“ And who are you, good phantom ? ” asked the bound.
“ Satan's head cook, ” she said. “ I carry round
Victuals to prisoners here in darkness drowned.”
“ Victuals ! ” he thoughtless cried, “ and don't ye think

To bring a drop of something good to drink ? ”

the drunkard and wife
Illustration : J.J. Grandville

THE GOUT AND SPIDER (III, 8)
         “ MY daughters,” said a fiend of hell,
As he produced the spider and the gout,
       “ Among the human race turn out,
       And be their terror where ye dwell.
Now, let us see where your abodes may be.
Those little huts so humble do ye see,
And these grand palaces so decked with gold ?
Agree to which of them you will repair ;
Or with two little sticks you here behold,
Draw lots, and settle as your fortunes share.”
“ I don't much like the huts,” the spider cried ;
“ Nor I the palaces,” the gout replied‑
“ Too many folks called doctors there, I see,
And they would prove tormenting foes to me.”
She chose her lot, and to the hut did go,
Stretched herself out upon a poor man's toe,
And said : “ Where could the gout so snugly lie ?
        I fancy I shall tarry here ;
        Hippocrates I need not fear.”
        Meantime the spider camped on high,
        From danger far and strife,
And took the ceiling on a lease for life,
Made sure to stay, a web already wrought,
        And flies into her quarters brought.
A servant came and swept them round the room ;
She weaved again—again she felt the broom.
Returned and worked, but was dislodged again.
Then, seeing every effort was in vain,

She sought the gout in her retired abode,
A thousand times more wretched in her berth
Than all the wretched spide'rs upon earth.
Led by her host with every painful load,
        To dig, to hoe, to hew the wood.
The gout, they say, which labour can endure
        Is half-way on the road to cure.
        “ Sister,” quoth she, in plaintive mood,
“ I can no longer my poor master bear ;
Let us change places, prithee, bed and board.”
        The listening spider, full of care,
        Most gladly took her at her word,
Crept to the hut, fearless of brush or broom.
The gout set off to seal a prelate's doom,
And held him fast for ever in his room.
        Plasters, Heaven knows ! some people have no shame ;
        To make bad worse they think it game.
        Both found the bargain well worth striking,

         And each her lodging to her liking.



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