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The Dragon With Many Heads, and the Dragon With Many Tails

(Recueil 1, Livre 1, Fable 12)



An envoy of the Porte Sublime,

As history says, once on a time,

Before the imperial German court

Did rather boastfully report,

The troops commanded by his master's firman,

As being a stronger army than the German:

To which replied a Dutch attendant,

"Our prince has more than one dependant

Who keeps an army at his own expense."

The Turk, a man of sense,

Rejoined, "I am aware

What power your emperor's servants share.

It brings to mind a tale both strange and true,

A thing which once, myself, I chanced to view.

I saw come darting through a hedge,

Which fortified a rocky ledge,

A hydra's hundred heads; and in a trice

My blood was turning into ice.

But less the harm than terror,

The body came no nearer;

Nor could, unless it had been sundered,

To parts at least a hundred.

While musing deeply on this sight,

Another dragon came to light,

Whose single head avails

To lead a hundred tails:

And, seized with juster fright,

I saw him pass the hedge,

Head, body, tails,—a wedge

Of living and resistless powers.

The other was your emperor's force; this ours."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 1, Fable 12



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