La Fontaine's fables Page 8
The Ass Loaded with Sponges.
A man, whom I shall call an ass-eteer,
His sceptre like some Roman emperor bearing,
Drove on two coursers of protracted ear,
The one, with sponges laden, briskly faring;
The other lifting legs
As if he trod on eggs,
With constant need of goading,
And bags of salt for loading.
O'er hill and dale our merry pilgrims pass'd,
Till, coming to a river's ford at last,
They stopp'd quite puzzled on the shore.
Our asseteer had cross'd the stream before;
So, on the lighter beast astride,
He drives the other, spite of dread,
Which, loath indeed to go ahead,
Into a deep hole turns aside,
And, facing right about,
Where he went in, comes out;
For duckings, two or three
Had power the salt to melt,
So that the creature felt
His burden'd shoulders free.
The sponger, like a sequent sheep,
Pursuing through the water deep,
Into the same hole plunges
Himself, his rider, and the sponges.
All three drank deeply: asseteer and ass
For boon companions of their load might pass;
Which last became so sore a weight,
The ass fell down,
Belike to drown
His rider risking equal fate.
A helper came, no matter who.
_The moral needs no more ado--_
_That all can't act alike,--_
_The point I wish'd to strike._
The Dove and the Ant.
A dove came to a brook to drink,
When, leaning o'er its crumbling brink,
An ant fell in, and vainly tried,
In this, to her, an ocean tide,
To reach the land; whereat the dove,
With every living thing in love,
Was prompt a spire of grass to throw her,
By which the ant regain'd the shore.
A barefoot scamp, both mean and sly,
Soon after chanced this dove to spy;
And, being arm'd with bow and arrow,
The hungry codger doubted not
The bird of Venus, in his pot,
Would make a soup before the morrow.
Just as his deadly bow he drew,
Our ant just bit his heel.
Roused by the villain's squeal,
The dove took timely hint, and flew
Far from the rascal's coop;--
And with her flew his soup.
The Cock and the Fox.
Upon a tree there mounted guard
A veteran cock, adroit and cunning;
When to the roots a fox up running,
Spoke thus, in tones of kind regard:--
"Our quarrel, brother, 's at an end;
Henceforth I hope to live your friend;
For peace now reigns
Throughout the animal domains.
I bear the news:--come down, I pray,
And give me the embrace fraternal;
And please, my brother, don't delay.
So much the tidings do concern all,
That I must spread them far to-day.
Now you and yours can take your walks
Without a fear or thought of hawks.
And should you clash with them or others,
In us you'll find the best of brothers;--
For which you may, this joyful night,
Your merry bonfires light.
But, first, let's seal the bliss
With one fraternal kiss."
"Good friend," the cock replied, "upon my word,
A better thing I never heard;
And doubly I rejoice
To hear it from your voice;
And, really there must be something in it,
For yonder come two greyhounds, which I flatter
Myself are couriers on this very matter.
They come so fast, they'll be here in a minute.
I'll down, and all of us will seal the blessing
With general kissing and caressing."
"Adieu," said fox; "my errand's pressing;
I'll hurry on my way,
And we'll rejoice some other day."
So off the fellow scamper'd, quick and light,
To gain the fox-holes of a neighbouring height,
Less happy in his stratagem than flight.
The cock laugh'd sweetly in his sleeve;--
'Tis doubly sweet deceiver to deceive.
The Lion beaten by the Man.
A picture once was shown,
In which one man, alone,
Upon the ground had thrown
A lion fully grown.
Much gloried at the sight the rabble.
A lion thus rebuked their babble:--
"That you have got the victory there,
There is no contradiction.
But, gentles, possibly you are
The dupes of easy fiction:
Had we the art of making pictures,
Perhaps our champion had beat yours!"
Philomel and Progne.
From home and city spires, one day,
The swallow Progne flew away,
And sought the bosky dell
Where sang poor Philomel.
"My sister," Progne said, "how do you do?
'Tis now a thousand years since you
Have been conceal'd from human view;
I'm sure I have not seen your face
Once since the times of Thrace.
Pray, will you never quit this dull retreat?"
"Where could I find," said Philomel, "so sweet?"
"What! sweet?" cried Progne--"sweet to waste
Such tones on beasts devoid of taste
Or on some rustic, at the most!
Should you by deserts be engross'd?
Come, be the city's pride and boast.
Besides, the woods remind of harms
That Tereus in them did your charms."
"Alas!" replied the bird of song,
"The thought of that so cruel wrong
Makes me, from age to age,
Prefer this hermitage;
For nothing like the sight of men
Can call up what I suffer'd then."