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The Heron

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 5)

 

 

One day, no matter when or where,

A long-legged heron chanced to fare

By a certain river's brink,

With his long, sharp beak

Helved on his slender neck;

It was a fish-spear, you might think.

The water was clear and still,

The carp and the pike there at will

Pursued their silent fun,

Turning up, ever and anon,

A golden side to the sun.

With ease might the heron have made

Great profits in his fishing trade.

So near came the scaly fry,

They might be caught by the passer by.

But he thought he better might

Wait for a better appetite

For he lived by rule, and could not eat,

Except at his hours, the best of meat.

Anon his appetite returned once more;

So, approaching again the shore,

He saw some tench taking their leaps,

Now and then, from their lowest deeps.

With as dainty a taste as Horace's rat,

He turned away from such food as that.

"What, tench for a heron! poh!

I scorn the thought, and let them go."

The tench refused, there came a gudgeon;

"For all that," said the bird, "I budge on.

I'll never open my beak, if the gods please,

For such mean little fishes as these."

He did it for less;

For it came to pass,

That not another fish could he see;

And, at last, so hungry was he,

That he thought it of some avail

To find on the bank a single snail.

Such is the sure result

Of being too difficult.

Would you be strong and great,

Learn to accommodate.

Get what you can, and trust for the rest;

The whole is often lost by seeking the best.

Above all things beware of disdain;

Where, at most, you have little to gain.

The people are many that make

Every day this sad mistake.

It's not for the herons I put this case,

You featherless people, of human race.

List to another tale as true,

And you'll hear the lesson brought home to you.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 5

 

 

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