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The Elephant and the Ape Of Jupiter

(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 21)



"Between elephant and beast of horned nose

About precedence a dispute arose,

Which they determined to decide by blows.

The day was fixed, when came a messenger

To say the ape of Jupiter

Was swiftly earthward seen to bear

His bright caduceus through the air.

This monkey, named in history Gill,

The elephant at once believed

A high commission had received

To witness, by his sovereign's will,

The aforesaid battle fought.

Uplifted by the glorious thought,

The beast was prompt on Monsieur Gill to wait,

But found him slow, in usual forms of state,

His high credentials to present.

The ape, however, before he went,

Bestowed a passing salutation.

His excellency would have heard

The subject matter of legation:

But not a word!

His fight, so far from stirring heaven,

The news was not received there, even!

What difference sees the impartial sky

Between an elephant and fly?

Our monarch, doting on his object,

Was forced himself to break the subject.

"My cousin Jupiter," said he,

"Will shortly, from his throne supreme,

A most important combat see,

For all his court a thrilling theme."

"What combat?" said the ape, with serious face.

"Is it possible you should not know the case?"

The elephant exclaimed not know, dear sir,

That Lord Rhinoceros disputes

With me precedence of the brutes?

That Elephantis is at war

With savage hosts of Rhinocer?

You know these realms, not void of fame?"

"I joy to learn them now by name,"

Returned Sir Gill, "for, first or last,

No lisp of them has ever passed

Throughout our dome so blue and vast."

Abashed, the elephant replied,

"What came you, then, to do?"

"Between two emmets to divide

A spire of grass in two.

We take of all a care;

And, as to your affair,

Before the gods, who view with equal eyes

The small and great, it has not chanced to rise."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 12, Fable 21



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