La Fontaine: Frogs (Wright)

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

The Frog and the Rat 

They to bamboozle are inclined,
Says Merlin, who bamboozled are:
The word, though rather unrefined,
Has yet an energy we ill can spare;
So by its aid I introduce my tale.

A well-fed rat, rotund and hale,
Not knowing either Fast or Lent,
Disporting round a frog-pond went.

A frog approached, and, with a friendly greeting,
Invited him to see her at her home,
And pledged a dinner worth his eating —
To which the rat was nothing loath to come;
Of words persuasive there was little need:
She spoke, however, of a grateful bath;
Of sports and curious wonders on their path;
Of rarities of flower, and rush, and reed;
One day he would recount with glee
To his assembled progeny
The various beauties of these places,
The customs of the various races,
And laws that sway the realms aquatic,
(She did not mean the hydrostatic!)
One thing alone the rat perplexed—
He was but moderate as a swimmer.

The frog this matter nicely fixed
By kindly lending him her
Long paw, which with a rush she tied
To his; and off they started, side by side.

Arrived on the lakelet's brink,
There was but little time to think:
The frog leaped in, and almost brought her
Bound guest to land beneath the water.

Perfidious breach of law and right!
She meant to have a supper warm
Out of his sleek and dainty form;
Already did her appetite
Dwell on the morsel with delight.

The gods, in anguish, he invokes;
His faithless hostess rudely mocks;
He struggles up, she struggles down.

A kite that hovers in the air,
Inspecting everything with care,
Now spies the rat belike to drown,
And, with a rapid wing,
Upbears the wretched thing,
The frog, too, dangling by the string!

The joy of such a double haul
Was to the hungry kite not small.
It gave him all that he could wish—
A double meal of flesh and fish.

The best contrived deceit
Can hurt its own contriver,
And perfidy does often cheat
Its author's purse of every stiver.

The Frogs Asking A King 

A certain commonwealth aquatic,
Grown tired of order democratic,
By clamouring in the ears of Jove, effected
Its being to a monarch's power subjected:
Jove flung it down, at first, a king pacific,
Who nathless fell with such a splash terrific,
The marshy folks, a foolish race and timid,
Made breathless haste to get from him hid;
They dived into the mud beneath the water,
Or found among the reeds and rushes quarter,
And long it was they dared not see
The dreadful face of majesty,
Supposing that some monstrous frog
Had been sent down to rule the bog.

The king was really a log,
Whose gravity inspired with awe
The first that, from his hiding-place
Forth venturing, astonished, saw
The royal blockhead's face;
With trembling and with fear,
At last he drew quite near —
Another followed, and another yet,
Till quite a crowd at last were met;
Who, growing fast and strangely bolder,
Perched soon on the royal shoulder:
His gracious majesty kept still,
And let his people work their will.

Clack, clack! What din beset the ears of Jove?
"We want a king," the people said, "to move!"

The god straight sent them down a crane,
Who caught and slew them without measure,
And gulped their carcasses at pleasure,
Whereat the frogs more wofully complain.

"What! what!" great Jupiter replied;
"By your desires must I be tied?
Think you such government is bad?
You should have kept what first you had;
Which having blindly failed to do,
It had been prudent still for you
To let that former king suffice,
More meek and mild, if not so wise.
With this now make yourselves content,
Lest for your sins a worse be sent."

(500 words)

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