Selected Fables: A Dual-Language Book

Selected Fables: A Dual-Language Book

by Jean de La Fontaine
     
 

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First published between 1668 and 1693, the Fables of La Fontaine rank among the masterpieces of French literature. This volume contains 75 of the best, in the original French with new English line-for-line literal translations. "The Cicada and the Ant," "The City Rat and the Country Rat," "The Fox and the Grapes," many more.See more details below

Overview

First published between 1668 and 1693, the Fables of La Fontaine rank among the masterpieces of French literature. This volume contains 75 of the best, in the original French with new English line-for-line literal translations. "The Cicada and the Ant," "The City Rat and the Country Rat," "The Fox and the Grapes," many more.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486117645
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Series:
Dover Dual Language French
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
699,004
File size:
1 MB

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Selected Fables Fables Choisies

A Dual-Language Book


By Jean de La Fontaine, STANLEY APPELBAUM

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11764-5



CHAPTER 1

Selected Fables Fables Choisies


La cigale et la fourmi

La cigale, ayant chanté Tout l'été, Se trouva fort dépourvue Quand la bise fut venue. Pas un seul petit morceau De mouche ou de vermisseau. Elle alla crier famine Chez la fourmi sa voisine, La priant de lui prêter Quelque grain pour subsister Jusqu'à la saison nouvelle. «Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle, Avant l'oût, foi d'animal, Intérêt et principal.» La fourmi n'est pas prêteuse; C'est lá son moindre défaut. «Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud? Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse. —Nuit et jour à tout venant Je chantais, ne vous déplaise. —Vous chantiez? j'en suis fort aise. Eh bien! dansez maintenant.»


Le corbeau et le renard

Maître corbeau, sur un arbre perché, Tenait en son bec un fromage. Maître renard, par l'odeur alléché, Lui tint à peu près ce langage: «Hé! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau. Que vous êtes joli! que vous me semblez beau! Sans mentir, si votre ramage Se rapporte à votre plumage, Vous êtes le phénix des hôtes de ces bois.» A ces mots, le corbeau ne se sent pas de joie; Et pour montrer sa belle voix, Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie. Le renard s'en saisit, et dit: «Mon bon monsieur, Apprenez que tout flatteur Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute. Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage sans doute.» Le corbeau honteux et confus, Jura, mais un peu tard, qu'on ne l'y prendrait plus.


La grenouille qui se veut faire aussi grosse que le bœuf

Une grenouille vit un bœuf Qui lui sembla de belle taille. Elle qui n'était pas grosse en tout comme un œuf, Envieuse s'étend, et s'enfle, et se travaille Pour égaler l'animal en grosseur, Disant: «Regardez bien, ma sœur; Est-ce assez? dites-moi. N'y suis-je point encore? –Nenni.–M'y voici donc?–Point du tout.–M'y voilà? –Vous n'en approchez point.» La chétive pécore S'enfla si bien qu'elle creva.

Le monde est plein de gens qui ne sont pas plus sages: Tout bourgeois veut bâtir comme les grands seigneurs;

Tout petit prince a des ambassadeurs; Tout marquis veut avoir des pages.


La besace

Jupiter dit un jour: «Que tout ce qui respire S'en vienne comparaître aux pieds de ma grandeur. Si dans son composé quelqu'un trouve à redire, Il peut le déclarer sans peur: Je mettrai remède à la chose. Venez, singe, parlez le premier, et pour cause. Voyez ces animaux, faites comparaison De leurs beautés avec les vôtres. Êtes-vous satisfait?–Moi, dit-il, pourquoi non? N'ai-je pas quatre pieds aussi bien que les autres? Mon portrait jusqu'ici ne m'a rien reproché; Mais pour mon frère l'ours, on ne l'a qu'ébauché. Jamais, s'il me veut croire, il ne se fera peindre.» L'ours venant là-dessus, on crut qu'il s'allait plaindre. Tant s'en faut: de sa forme il se loua très fort, Glosa sur l'éléphant; dit qu'on pourrait encor Ajouter à sa queue, ôter à ses oreilles; Que c'était une masse informe et sans beauté. L'éléphant étant écouté, Tout sage qu'il était, dit des choses pareilles. Il jugea qu'à son appétit Dame baleine était trop grosse. Dame fourmi trouva le ciron trop petit, Se croyant, pour elle, un colosse. Jupin les renvoya s'étant censurés tous, Du reste contents d'eux. Mais, parmi les plus fous,

Notre espèce excella: car tout ce que nous sommes, Lynx envers nos pareils et taupes envers nous,

Nous nous pardonnons tout, et rien aux autres hommes. On se voit d'un autre œil qu'on ne voit son prochain.

Le fabricateur souverain Nous créa besaciers tous de même manière, Tant ceux du temps passé que du temps d'aujourd'hui. Il fit pour nos défauts la poche de derrière, Et celle de devant pour les défauts d'autrui.


Le rat de ville, et le rat des champs

Autrefois le rat de ville Invita le rat des champs, D'une façon fort civile, A des reliefs d'ortolans.

Sur un tapis de Turquie Le couvert se trouva mis. Je laisse à penser la vie Que firent ces deux amis.

Le régal fut fort honnête, Rien ne manquait au festin; Mais quelqu'un troubla la fête Pendant qu'ils étaient en train.

A la porte de la salle Ils entendirent du bruit. Le rat de ville détale, Son camarade le suit.

Le bruit cesse, on se retire: Rats en campagne aussitôt; Et le citadin de dire: «Achevons tout notre rôt.

–C'est assez, dit le rustique; Demain vous viendrez chez moi: Ce n'est pas que je me pique De tous vos festins de roi;

Mais rien ne vient m'interrompre: Je mange tout à loisir. Adieu donc, fi du plaisir Que la crainte peut corrompre!»


Le loup et l'agneau

La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure, Nous l'allons montrer tout à l'heure. Un agneau se désaltérait Dans le courant d'une onde pure. Un loup survient à jeun qui cherchait aventure, Et que la faim en ces lieux attirait. «Qui te rend si hardi de troubler mon breuvage? Dit cet animal plein de rage: Tu seras châtié de ta témérité. –Sire, répond l'agneau, que Votre Majesté Ne se mette pas en colère; Mais plutôt qu'elle considère Que je me vas désaltérant Dans le courant, Plus de vingt pas au-dessous d'Elle, Et que par conséquent en aucune façon Je ne puis troubler sa boisson. –Tu la troubles, reprit cette bête cruelle, Et je sais que de moi tu médis l'an passé. –Comment l'aurais-je fait, si je n'étais pas né? Reprit l'agneau, je tette encor ma mère. –Si ce n'est toi, c'est donc ton frère. –Je n'en ai point.—C'est donc quelqu'un des tiens: Car vous ne m'épargnez guère, Vous, vos bergers et vos chiens. On me l'a dit: il faut que je me venge.» Là-dessus au fond des forêts Le loup l'emporte, et puis le mange Sans autre forme de procès.


La mort et le bûcheron

Un pauvre bûcheron, tout couvert de ramée, Sous le faix du fagot aussi bien que des ans Gémissant et courbé marchait à pas pesants, Et tâchait de gagner sa chaumine enfumée. Enfin, n'en pouvant plus d'effort et de douleur, Il met bas son fagot, il songe à son malheur. Quel plaisir a-t-il eu depuis qu'il est au monde? En est-il un plus pauvre en la machine ronde? Point de pain quelquefois, et jamais de repos. Sa femme, ses enfants, les soldats, les impôts, Le créancier et la corvée, Lui font d'un malheureux la peinture achevée. Il appelle la mort; elle vient sans tarder, Lui demande ce qu'il faut faire. «C'est, dit-il, afin de m'aider A recharger ce bois; tu ne tarderas guère.»

Le trépas vient tout guérir; Mais ne bougeons d'où nous sommes. Plutôt souffrir que mourir, C'est la devise des hommes.


Le chêne et le roseau

Le chêne un jour dit au roseau: «Vous avez bien sujet d'accuser la nature: Un roitelet pour vous est un pesant fardeau. Le moindre vent qui d'aventure Fait rider la face de l'eau Vous oblige à baisser la tête: Cependant que mon front, au Caucase pareil, Non content d'arrêter les rayons du soleil,

Brave l'effort de la tempête. Tout vous est aquilon, tout me semble zéphyr.

Encor si vous naissiez à l'abri du feuillage Dont je couvre le voisinage, Vous n'auriez pas tant à souffrir: Je vous défendrais de l'orage. Mais vous naissez le plus souvent Sur les humides bords des royaumes du vent. La nature envers vous me semble bien injuste. –Votre compassion, lui répondit l'arbuste, Part d'un bon naturel; mais quittez ce souci. Les vents me sont moins qu'à vous redoutables. Je plie, et ne romps pas. Vous avez jusqu'ici Contre leurs coups épouvantables Résisté sans courber le dos; Mais attendons la fin.» Comme il disait ces mots, Du bout de l'horizon accourt avec furie Le plus terrible des enfants Que le Nord eût portés jusque-là dans ses flancs. L'arbre tient bon, le roseau plie; Le vent redouble ses efforts, Et fait si bien qu'il déracine Celui de qui la tête au ciel était voisine, Et dont les pieds touchaient à l'empire des morts.


The Cicada and the Ant

The cicada, after singing all summer long, found she was very low on provisions when the wintry north wind arrived. Not a single little bit of fly or wormlet. She went crying hunger to the home of her neighbor, the ant, asking her to lend her a few grains to live on until springtime. "I'll pay you," she said to her, "before harvest time, on my word as an animal, both interest and principal." The ant wasn't the lending kind; if she had any fault, it wasn't that one. "What were you doing during the warm weather?" she asked that borrower. "Night and day I would sing to all and sundry, if it please you, ma'am." "You were singing? I'm very glad to hear it. Well, then, now dance."


The Crow and the Fox

Master Crow, perched on a tree, was holding a cheese in his beak. Master Fox, allured by the aroma, spoke to him more or less like this: "Hello! Good day, Sir Crow. How good-looking you are! How handsome you seem to me! It's no lie; if your singing is any match for your plumage, you are the phoenix among the inhabitants of this forest." At those words, the crow is beside himself with joy; and, to show his beautiful voice, he opens his beak wide and drops his catch. The fox seizes it and says: "My dear sir, learn that every flatterer makes his living at the expense of those who listen to him. This lesson is surely well worth a cheese." The crow, ashamed and embarrassed, swore, though a bit too late, that he would never again be fooled that way.


The Frog Who Wanted to Become as Large as the Ox

A frog saw an ox who seemed to her to be of a lovely size. She, who was altogether not as big as an egg, in her envy stretched and swelled and strained in order to equal that animal in bulk, saying: "Take a good look, sister; is this enough? Tell me. Am I not there yet?" "No." "Is this it?" "Not at all." "What about this?" "You're nowhere near." The puny creature swelled up until she burst.

The world is full of people who are no wiser than that: every member of the middle class wants to build palaces like great lords;

every petty princeling has ambassadors; every minor nobleman wants to have pages.


The Double Shoulder-Bag

Jupiter said one day: "Let all creatures who draw breath come and appear at the foot of my glorious throne. If any of them finds fault with his physical make-up, he can declare it without fear: I will remedy the matter. Come, monkey, you speak first, and rightly so. Look at these animals and compare their beautiful features with yours. Are you satisfied?" "I?" he said. "Why not? Don't I have four feet just like the rest? Up to now my portrait hasn't reproached me in any way; but as for my brother, the bear, he has been merely blocked roughly. If he takes my word for it, he'll never have his picture painted." The bear arriving thereupon, they thought he was going to complain. Far from it: he expressed great satisfaction with his shape, but carped at the elephant, said that it was still possible to add something to his tail and take something away from his ears, that he was a shapeless mass devoid of beauty. When the elephant was heard, as wise as he was, he said similar things. He deemed that, to his liking, Madame Whale was too big. Madame Ant found the mite too small, thinking she herself was a giant in comparison. Jupiter dismissed them after they had all criticized one another, while remaining contented with themselves. But among the most foolish

our species excelled: for, each and every one of us, lynx-eyed with regard to our fellows and mole-blind with regard to ourselves, we forgive ourselves everything and other men nothing. We see ourselves with other eyes than we see our neighbors with.

The supreme artisan created all of us as shoulder-bag carriers in the same way, those of bygone days as well as those of the present day. He made the back pouch for our own faults and the front pouch for the faults of others.


The City Rat and the Country Rat

Once upon a time the city rat invited the country rat most politely to some leftovers of ortolans.

On an Oriental carpet the table was spread. I leave it to you to imagine the good time these two friends had.

The banquet was quite a respectable one; nothing was lacking at the feast; but someone spoiled their enjoyment while they were in the midst of it.

At the door to the room they heard some noise. The city rat scooted away, his comrade followed him.

The noise stopped, whoever it was withdrew: the rats took the field again at once; and the city dweller said: "Let's finish all of our roast."

"This is enough," said the country fellow; "tomorrow you'll visit me: it's not that I can boast of all your royal feasts;

but nothing interrupts me: I eat in complete peace of mind. Farewell, then, I scorn the pleasure that can be ruined by fear!"


The Wolf and the Lamb

The stronger man's reasoning always carries the day, as we shall demonstrate at once. A lamb was quenching his thirst in the current of a clear stream. Along came a starving wolf out to try his luck; hunger had drawn him to that spot. "Who makes you so bold as to muddy my drinking water?" said that animal, full of rage: "You'll be punished for your rashness." "Sire," the lamb replied, "may it please your Majesty not to get angry; rather, consider that I am drinking from the flowing current more than twenty paces downstream from you, and that consequently there is no way in which I can muddy your drinking water." "You are muddying it," replied that cruel beast, "and I know that you slandered me last year." "How could I have, since I wasn't born yet?" replied the lamb; "I'm still suckling my mother." "If it wasn't you, then it was your brother." "I have none." "Then it was some relative of yours: for all of you show me no mercy, you, your shepherds and your dogs. I was told about it: I must take revenge for it." Thereupon the wolf carried him off deep into the forest, and then ate him without any other form of due process.


Death and the Woodcutter

An impoverished woodcutter, completely covered with branches, bending and groaning beneath the double burden of his bundle and his years, was walking with heavy steps, and was trying to reach his smoke-blackened hovel. Finally, totally worn out with the strain and the ache, he sets down his bundle and meditates on his unhappy situation. What pleasure has he had ever since he was born into the world? Is there anyone poorer than he on the entire globe? No bread at times and never any rest. His wife, his children, the soldiers, the taxes, the creditor and the forced labors make him the perfect picture of a miserable wretch. He calls upon Death, who appears without delay and asks him what he wants. He says: "It's to help me load this wood on my shoulders again; it'll take you no time at all."

Death comes as a cure for everything; but we don't stir a step from where we are. "Rather suffer than die" is the motto of mankind.


The Oak and the Reed

The oak said to the reed one day: "You have every right to blame nature: for you a wren is a heavy burden. The slightest breeze that happens to ripple the surface of the water makes you bow your head: while my brow, like unto the Caucasus range, not content with halting the rays of the sun, braves the assault of the tempest. Everything is a north wind to you, everything seems a gentle zephyr to me.

If you could only grow beneath the shelter of the foliage with which I cover the vicinity, you would not have to suffer so much: I would protect you from the storm. But most often you grow on the moist banks of the kingdoms of the wind. Nature seems to me to be very unfair to you." "Your pity," replied the small plant, "shows a good heart; but put aside those worries. I have less to fear from the winds than you do. I bend and don't break. Up to now you have withstood their frightful blows without bending your back; but let's wait until the end." As he spoke those words, from the end of the horizon there came blowing with fury the most terrible of the offspring that the north had hitherto carried in its womb. The tree held fast, the reed bent; the wind doubled its efforts and blew so hard that it uprooted the one whose head had been close to heaven and whose feet once reached to the realm of the dead.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Selected Fables Fables Choisies by Jean de La Fontaine, STANLEY APPELBAUM. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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