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The Lion

(Recueil 2, Livre 11, Fable 1)



Some time ago, a sultan Leopard,

By means of many a rich escheat,

Had many an ox in meadow sweet,

And many a stag in forest, fleet,

And (what a savage sort of shepherd!)

Full many a sheep on the plains,

That lay within his wide domains.

Not far away, one morn,

There was a lion born.

Exchanged high compliments of state,

As is the custom with the great,

The sultan called his vizier Fox,

Who had a deeper knowledge box,

And said to him, "This lion's whelp you dread;

What can he do, his father being dead?

Our pity rather let him share,

An orphan so beset with care.

The luckiest lion ever known,

If, letting conquest quite alone,

He should have power to keep his own."

Sir Renard said,

And shook his head,

"Such orphans, please your majesty,

Will get no pity out of me.

We ought to keep within his favour,

Or else with all our might endeavour

To thrust him out of life and throne,

Before yet his claws and teeth are grown.

There's not a moment to be lost.

His horoscope I have cast;

He'll never quarrel to his cost;

But then his friendship fast

Will be to friends of greater worth

Than any lion's ever on earth.

Try then, my liege, to make it ours,

Or else to check his rising powers."

The warning fell in vain.

The sultan slept; and beasts and men

Did so, throughout his whole domain,

Till lion's whelp became a lion.

Then came at once the tocsin cry on,

Alarm and fluttering consternation.

The vizier called to consultation,

A sigh escaped him as he said,

"Why all this mad excitement now,

When hope is fled, no matter how?

A thousand men were useless aid,

The more, the worse, since all their power

Would be our mutton to devour.

Appease this lion; sole he does exceed

The helpers all that on us feed.

And three has he, that cost him nothing

His courage, strength, and watchful thought.

Quick send a wether for his use:

If not contented, send him more;

Yes, add an ox, and see you choose

The best our pastures ever bore.

Thus save the rest." But such advice

The sultan spurned, as cowardice.

And his, and many states beside,

Did ills, in consequence, betide.

However fought this world allied,

The beast maintained his power and pride.

If you must let the lion grow,

Don't let him live to be your foe.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 11, Fable 1



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