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The Fishes and the Shepherd Who Played The Flute

(Recueil 2, Livre 10, Fable 10)

 

 

Thrysis who for his Annette dear

Made music with his flute and voice,

Which might have roused the dead to hear,

And in their silent graves rejoice

Sang once the livelong day,

In the flowery month of May,

Up and down a meadow brook,

While Annette fished with line and hook.

But never a fish would bite;

So the shepherdess's bait

Drew not a fish to its fate,

From morning dawn till night.

The shepherd, who, by his charming songs,

Had drawn savage beasts to him in throngs,

And done with them as he pleased to,

Thought that he could serve the fish so.

"O citizens," he sang, "of this water,

Leave your Naiad in her grot profound;

Come and see the blue sky's lovely daughter,

Who a thousand times more will charm you;

Fear not that her prison will harm you,

Though there you should chance to get bound.

It's only to us men she is cruel:

You she will treat kindly;

A snug little pond she'll find you,

Clearer than a crystal jewel,

Where you may all live and do well;

Or, if by chance some few

Should find their fate

Concealed in the bait,

The happier still are you;

For envied is the death that's met

At the hands of sweet Annette."

This eloquence not effecting

The object of his wishes,

Since it failed in collecting

The deaf and dumb fishes,

His sweet preaching wasted,

His honeyed talk untasted,

A net the shepherd seized, and, pouncing

With a fell scoop at the scaly fry,

He caught them; and now, madly flouncing,

At the feet of his Annette they lie!

O you shepherds, whose sheep men are,

To trust in reason never dare.

The arts of eloquence sublime

Are not within your calling;

Your fish were caught, from oldest time,

By dint of nets and hauling.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 10, Fable 10

 

 

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