Thursday, May 8, 2014

La Fontaine: Cats (Wright)

These stories are part of the La Fontaine unit. Story source: The Fables of La Fontaine translated by Elizur Wright (1882).




The Cat Metamorphosed Into A Woman 

A bachelor caressed his cat,
A darling, fair, and delicate;
So deep in love, he thought her mew
The sweetest voice he ever knew.

By prayers, and tears, and magic art,
The man got Fate to take his part;
And, lo! one morning at his side
His cat, transformed, became his bride.

In wedded state our man was seen
The fool in courtship he had been;
No lover ever was so bewitched
By any maiden's charms
As was this husband, so enriched
By hers within his arms.

He praised her beauties, this and that,
And saw there nothing of the cat;
In short, by passion's aid, he
Thought her a perfect lady.

It was night: some carpet-gnawing mice
Disturbed the nuptial joys.

Excited by the noise,
The bride sprang at them in a trice;
The mice were scared and fled.

The bride, scarce in her bed,
The gnawing heard, and sprang again —
And this time not in vain,
For, in this novel form arrayed,
Of her the mice were less afraid.

Through life she loved this mousing course,
So great is stubborn nature's force:
In mockery of change, the old
Will keep their youthful bent;
When once the cloth has got its fold,
The smelling-pot its scent,
In vain your efforts and your care
To make them other than they are —
To work reform, do what you will,
Old habit will be habit still.

Nor fork nor strap can mend its manners,
Nor cudgel-blows beat down its banners;
Secure the doors against the renter,
And through the windows it will enter.


The Eagle, the Wild Sow, and the Cat 

A certain hollow tree
Was tenanted by three:
An eagle held a lofty bough,
The hollow root a wild wood sow,
A female cat between the two.

All busy with maternal labours,
They lived awhile obliging neighbours;
At last the cat's deceitful tongue
Broke up the peace of old and young.

Up climbing to the eagle's nest,
She said, with whiskered lips compressed,
"Our death, or, what as much we mothers fear,
That of our helpless offspring dear,
Is surely drawing near:
Beneath our feet, see you not how
Destruction's plotted by the sow?
Her constant digging, soon or late,
Our proud old castle will uproot,
And then — O, sad and shocking fate! —
She'll eat our young ones, as the fruit!
Were there but hope of saving one,
'Twould soothe somewhat my bitter moan."

Thus leaving apprehensions hideous,
Down went the puss perfidious
To where the sow, no longer digging,
Was in the very act of pigging.

"Good friend and neighbour," whispered she,
"I warn you on your guard to be:
Your pigs should you but leave a minute,
This eagle here will seize them in it;
Speak not of this, I beg, at all,
Lest on my head her wrath should fall."

Another breast with fear inspired,
With fiendish joy the cat retired:
The eagle ventured no egress
To feed her young, the sow still less.

Fools they, to think that any curse
Than ghastly famine could be worse!

Both staid at home, resolved and obstinate,
To save their young ones from impending fate —
The royal bird for fear of mine,
For fear of royal claws the swine.

All died, at length, with hunger,
The older and the younger;
There staid, of eagle race or boar,
Not one this side of death's dread door —
A sad misfortune which
The wicked cats made rich.

O, what is there of hellish plot
The treacherous tongue dares not!
Of all the ills Pandora's box outpoured,
Deceit, I think, is most to be abhorred.



(500 words)

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