Thursday, May 8, 2014

La Fontaine: Sun and Wind; Belly and Members (Wright)

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



Phoebus And Boreas 

Old Boreas and the sun, one day
Espied a traveller on his way,
Whose dress did happily provide
Against whatever might betide;
The time was autumn, when, indeed,
All prudent travellers take heed:
The rains that then the sunshine dash,
And Iris with her splendid sash,
Warn one who does not like to soak
To wear abroad a good thick cloak;
Our man was therefore well bedight
With double mantle, strong and tight.

"This fellow," said the wind, "has meant
To guard from every ill event;
But little does he wot that I
Can blow him such a blast
That, not a button fast,
His cloak shall cleave the sky.
Come, here's a pleasant game, Sir Sun!
Will play?"

              Said Phoebus, "Done!
We'll bet between us here
Which first will take the gear
From off this cavalier.
Begin, and shut away.
The brightness of my ray."

"Enough." Our blower, on the bet,
Swelled out his pursy form
With all the stuff for storm—
The thunder, hail, and drenching wet,
And all the fury he could muster;
Then, with a very demon's bluster,
He whistled, whirled, and splashed,
And down the torrents dashed,
Full many a roof uptearing
He never did before,
Full many a vessel bearing
To wreck on the shore —
And all to doff a single cloak.

But vain the furious stroke;
The traveller was stout,
And kept the tempest out,
Defied the hurricane,
Defied the pelting rain;
And as the fiercer roared the blast,
His cloak the tighter held he fast.

The sun broke out, to win the bet;
He caused the clouds to disappear,
Refreshed and warmed the cavalier,
And through his mantle made him sweat,
Till off it came, of course,
In less than half an hour;
And yet the sun saved half his power:
So much does mildness more than force.


The Members and the Belly 

Perhaps, had I but shown due loyalty,
This book would have begun with royalty,
Of which, in certain points of view,
Boss Belly is the image true,
In whose bereavements all the members share:
Of whom the latter once so weary were,
As all due service to forbear,
On what they called his idle plan,
Resolved to play the gentleman,
And let his lordship live on air.

"Like burden-beasts," said they,
"We sweat from day to day;
And all for whom, and what?
Ourselves we profit not.
Our labour has no object but one,
That is, to feed this lazy glutton.
We'll learn the resting trade
By his example's aid."

So said, so done; all labour ceased;
The hands refused to grasp, the arms to strike;
All other members did the like.
Their boss might labour if he pleased!

It was an error which they soon repented,
With pain of languid poverty acquainted:
The heart no more the blood renewed,
And hence repair no more accrued
To ever-wasting strength;
Whereby the mutineers, at length,
Saw that the idle belly, in its way,
Did more for common benefit than they.

For royalty our fable makes,
A thing that gives as well as takes
Its power all labour to sustain,
Nor for themselves turns out their labour vain:
It gives the artist bread, the merchant riches;
Maintains the diggers in their ditches;
Pays man of war and magistrate;
Supports the swarms in place,
That live on sovereign grace;
In short, is caterer for the state.

Menenius told the story well:
When Rome, of old, in pieces fell,
The commons parting from the senate.

"The ills," said they, "that we complain at
Are, that the honours, treasures, power, and dignity,
Belong to them alone; while we
Get nothing our labour for
But tributes, taxes, and fatigues of war."

Without the walls the people had their stand
Prepared to march in search of other land,
When by this noted fable
Menenius was able
To draw them, hungry, home
To duty and to Rome.





(600 words)

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