World of Tales

La Fontaine's fables Page 1

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The Grasshopper and the Ant.

A grasshopper gay
Sang the summer away,
And found herself poor
By the winter's first roar.
Of meat or of bread,
Not a morsel she had!
So a-begging she went,
To her neighbour the ant,
For the loan of some wheat,
Which would serve her to eat,
Till the season came round.
"I will pay you," she saith,
"On an animal's faith,
Double weight in the pound
Ere the harvest be bound."
The ant is a friend
(And here she might mend)
Little given to lend.
"How spent you the summer?"
Quoth she, looking shame
At the borrowing dame.
"Night and day to each comer
I sang, if you please."
"You sang! I'm at ease;
For 'tis plain at a glance,
Now, ma'am, you must dance."

 

The Thieves and the Ass.

Two thieves, pursuing their profession,
Had of a donkey got possession,
Whereon a strife arose,
Which went from words to blows.
The question was, to sell, or not to sell;
But while our sturdy champions fought it well,
Another thief, who chanced to pass,
With ready wit rode off the ass.

_This ass is, by interpretation,_
_Some province poor, or prostrate nation._
_The thieves are princes this and that,_
_On spoils and plunder prone to fat,--_
_As those of Austria, Turkey, Hungary._
_(Instead of two, I've quoted three--_
_Enough of such commodity.)_
_These powers engaged in war all,_
_Some fourth thief stops the quarrel,_
_According all to one key,_
_By riding off the donkey_

 

The Wolf Accusing the Fox.

A wolf, affirming his belief
That he had suffer'd by a thief,
Brought up his neighbour fox--
Of whom it was by all confess'd,
His character was not the best--
To fill the prisoner's box.
As judge between these vermin,
A monkey graced the ermine;
And truly other gifts of Themis
Did scarcely seem his;
For while each party plead his cause,
Appealing boldly to the laws,
And much the question vex'd,
Our monkey sat perplex'd.
Their words and wrath expended,
Their strife at length was ended;
When, by their malice taught,
The judge this judgment brought:
"Your characters, my friends, I long have known,
As on this trial clearly shown;
And hence I fine you both--the grounds at large
To state would little profit--
You wolf, in short, as bringing groundless charge,
You fox, as guilty of it."

_Come at it right or wrong, the judge opined_
_No other than a villain could be fined_

 

The Lion and the Ass Hunting.

The king of animals, with royal grace,
Would celebrate his birthday in the chase.
'Twas not with bow and arrows,
To slay some wretched sparrows;
The lion hunts the wild boar of the wood,
The antlered deer and stags, the fat and good.
This time, the king, t' insure success,
Took for his aide-de-camp an ass,
A creature of stentorian voice,
That felt much honour'd by the choice.
The lion hid him in a proper station,
And order'd him to bray, for his vocation,
Assured that his tempestuous cry
The boldest beasts would terrify,
And cause them from their lairs to fly.
And, sooth, the horrid noise the creature made
Did strike the tenants of the wood with dread;
And, as they headlong fled,
All fell within the lion's ambuscade.
"Has not my service glorious
Made both of us victorious?"
Cried out the much-elated ass.
"Yes," said the lion; "bravely bray'd!
Had I not known yourself and race,
I should have been myself afraid!"
The donkey, had he dared,
With anger would have flared
At this retort, though justly made;
For who could suffer boasts to pass
So ill-befitting to an ass?

 

The Wolf turned Shepherd.

A wolf, whose gettings from the flocks
Began to be but few,
Bethought himself to play the fox
In character quite new.
A shepherd's hat and coat he took,
A cudgel for a crook,
Nor e'en the pipe forgot:
And more to seem what he was not,
Himself upon his hat he wrote,
"I'm Willie, shepherd of these sheep."
His person thus complete,
His crook in upraised feet,
The impostor Willie stole upon the keep.
The real Willie, on the grass asleep,
Slept there, indeed, profoundly,
His dog and pipe slept, also soundly;
His drowsy sheep around lay.
As for the greatest number,
Much bless'd the hypocrite their slumber,
And hoped to drive away the flock,
Could he the shepherd's voice but mock.
He thought undoubtedly he could.
He tried: the tone in which he spoke,
Loud echoing from the wood,
The plot and slumber broke;
Sheep, dog, and man awoke.
The wolf, in sorry plight,
In hampering coat bedight,
Could neither run nor fight.

_There's always leakage of deceit_
_Which makes it never safe to cheat._
_Whoever is a wolf had better_
_Keep clear of hypocritic fetter._

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