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The Rat and the Elephant

(Recueil 2, Livre 8, Fable 15)



One's own importance to enhance,

Inspirited by self esteem,

Is quite a common thing in France;

A French disease it well might seem.

The strutting cavaliers of Spain

Are in another manner vain.

Their pride has more insanity;

More silliness our vanity.

Let's shadow forth our own disease

Well worth a hundred tales like these.

A rat, of quite the smallest size,

Fixed on an elephant his eyes,

And jeered the beast of high descent

Because his feet so slowly went.

On his back, three stories high,

There sat, beneath a canopy,

A certain sultan of renown,

His dog, and cat, and concubine,

His parrot, servant, and his wine,

All pilgrims to a distant town.

The rat professed to be amazed

That all the people stood and gazed

With wonder, as he passed the road,

Both at the creature and his load.

"As if," said he, "to occupy

A little more of land or sky

Made one, in view of common sense,

Of greater worth and consequence!

What see you, men, in this parade,

That food for wonder need be made?

The bulk which makes a child afraid?

In truth, I take myself to be,

In all aspects, as good as he."

And further might have gone his vaunt;

But, darting down, the cat

Convinced him that a rat

Is smaller than an elephant.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 8, Fable 15



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