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The Lobster And Her Daughter

(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 10)



The wise, sometimes, as lobsters do,

To gain their ends back foremost go.

It is the rower's art; and those

Commanders who mislead their foes,

Do often seem to aim their sight

Just where they don't intend to smite.

My theme, so low, may yet apply

To one whose fame is very high,

Who finds it not the hardest matter

A hundred headed league to scatter.

What he will do, what leave undone,

Are secrets with unbroken seals,

Till victory the truth reveals.

Whatever he would have unknown

Is sought in vain. Decrees of Fate

Forbid to check, at first, the course

Which sweeps at last with torrent force.

One Jove, as ancient fables state,

Exceeds a hundred gods in weight.

So Fate and Louis would seem able

The universe to draw,

Bound captive to their law.

But come we to our fable.

A mother lobster did her daughter chide:

"For shame, my daughter! can't you go ahead?"

"And how go you yourself?" the child replied;

"Can I be but by your example led?

Head foremost should I, singularly, wend,

While all my race pursue the other end."

She spoke with sense: for better or for worse,

Example has a universal force.

To some it opens wisdom's door,

But leads to folly many more.

Yet, as for backing to one's aim,

When properly pursued

The art is doubtless good,

At least in grim Bellona's game.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 12, Fable 10



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