La Fontaine: Insects (Larned)

These stories are part of the La Fontaine unit. Story source: Fables in Rhyme for Little Folks by W. T. Larned and illustrated by John Rae (1918).

The Grasshopper and the Ant

All summer long,
Now found winter stinging
And ceased in his song.
Not a morsel or crumb in his cupboard — 
So he shivered,and ceased in his song.

Miss Ant was his neighbor;
To her he went:
"O, you're rich from labor,
And I've not a cent.
Lend me food, and I vow I'll return it,
Though at present I have not a cent."

The Ant's not a lender,
I must confess.
Her heart's far from tender
To one in distress.

So she said: "Pray, how passed you the summer,
That in winter you come to distress?"
"I sang through the summer,"
Grasshopper said.
"But now I am glummer
Because I've no bread."

"So you sang!" sneered the Ant. "That relieves me.
Now it's winter — go dance for your bread!"

The Dove and the Ant

An Ant, who in a brook would drink,
Fell off the bank. He tried
To swim, and felt his courage sink — 
This ocean seemed so wide.
But for a dove who flew above
He would have drowned and died.

The friendly Dove within her beak
A bridge of grass-stem bore:
On this the Ant, though worn and weak,
Contrived to reach the shore.
Said he: "The tact of this kind act
I'll cherish evermore."

Behold! A barefoot wretch went by
With slingshot in his hand.
Said he: "You'll make a pigeon pie
That will be kind of grand."
He meant to murder the gentle bird — 
Who did not understand.

The Ant then stung him on the heel
(So quick to see the sling).
He turned his head and missed a meal:
The pigeon pie took wing.
And so the Dove lived on to love — 
Beloved by everything.

The Lion and the Gnat

The Lion once said to the Gnat: "You brat,
Clear out just as quick as you can, now — scat!
If you meddle with me
I will not guarantee
That you won't be slammed perfectly flat — 
D'ye see?"
Said the Gnat: 
"Because you're called King — you thing! — 
You fancy that you will make me take wing.
Why, an ox weighs much more,
Yet I drive him before
When I get good and ready to sting.
Now, roar!"

Then loudly his trumpet he blew.
And — whew!
How fiercely and fast at his foe he flew.
From the tail to the toes
He draws blood as he goes.
Then he starts in to sting and to chew
His nose.

Sir Lion was mad with the pain.
In vain
He roared and he foamed and he shook his mane.
All the beasts that were nigh
Fled in fear from his cry.
But the Gnat only stung him again — 
In the eye.

He looked and laughed as he saw
— Haw, Haw! — 
The Lion self-torn by his tooth and claw,
So His Majesty's hide
With his own blood was dyed.
Said the Gnat: "Shall I serve you up raw — 
Or fried?"

It's finished. The Lion's loud roar is o'er.
He's bitten and beaten, he's sick and sore.
But a spider's web spread
Trapped the Gnat as he sped
With the news... He will never fight more — 
He's dead!

(500 words)

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