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The Fly and the Ant

(Recueil 1, Livre 4, Fable 3)



A fly and ant, on a sunny bank,

Discussed the question of their rank.

"O Jupiter!" the former said,

"Can love of self so turn the head,

That one so mean and crawling,

And of so low a calling,

To boast equality shall dare

With me, the daughter of the air?

In palaces I am a guest,

And even at your glorious feast.

Whenever the people that adore you

May immolate for you a bullock,

I'm sure to taste the meat before you.

Meanwhile this starveling, in her hillock,

Is living on some bit of straw

Which she has laboured home to draw.

But tell me now, my little thing,

Do you camp ever on a king,

An emperor, or lady?

I do, and have full many a play-day

On fairest bosom of the fair,

And sport myself on her hair.

Come now, my hearty, rack your brain

To make a case about your grain."

"Well, have you done?" replied the ant.

"You enter palaces, I grant,

And for it get right soundly cursed.

Of sacrifices, rich and fat,

Your taste, quite likely, is the first;

Are they the better off for that?

You enter with the holy train;

So enters many a wretch profane.

On heads of kings and asses you may squat;

Deny your vaunting I will not;

But well such impudence, I know,

Provokes a sometimes fatal blow.

The name in which your vanity delights

Is owned as well by parasites,

And spies that die by ropes as you soon will

By famine or by ague chill,

When Phoebus goes to cheer

The other hemisphere,

The very time to me most dear.

Not forced abroad to go

Through wind, and rain, and snow,

My summer's work I then enjoy,

And happily my mind employ,

From care by care exempted.

By which this truth I leave to you,

That by two sorts of glory we are tempted,

The false one and the true.

Work waits, time flies; adieu:

This gabble does not fill

My granary or till."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 4, Fable 3



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