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The Hare and the Tortoise

(Recueil 1, Livre 6, Fable 10)



To win a race, the swiftness of a dart

Avails not without a timely start.

The hare and tortoise are my witnesses.

Said tortoise to the swiftest thing that is,

"I'll bet that you'll not reach, so soon as I

The tree on yonder hill we spy."

"So soon! Why, madam, are you frantic?"

Replied the creature, with an antic;

"Pray take, your senses to restore,

A grain or two of hellebore.

"Say," said the tortoise, "what you will;

I dare you to the wager still."

It was done; the stakes were paid,

And near the goal tree laid

Of what, is not a question for this place,

Nor who it was that judged the race.

Our hare had scarce five jumps to make,

Of such as he is wont to take,

When, starting just before their beaks

He leaves the hounds at leisure,

Thence till the kalends of the Greeks,

The sterile heath to measure.

Thus having time to browse and doze,

And list which way the zephyr blows,

He makes himself content to wait,

And let the tortoise go her gait

In solemn, senatorial state.

She starts; she moils on, modestly and lowly,

And with a prudent wisdom hastens slowly;

But he, meanwhile, the victory despises,

Thinks lightly of such prizes,

Believes it for his honour

To take late start and gain on her.

So, feeding, sitting at his ease,

He meditates of what you please,

Till his antagonist he sees

Approach the goal; then starts,

Away like lightning darts:

But vainly does he run;

The race is by the tortoise won.

Cries she, "My senses do I lack?

What boots your boasted swiftness now?

You're beat! and yet, you must allow,

I bore my house on my back."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 6, Fable 10



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