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The Fox, the Flies, and the Hedgehog

(Recueil 3, Livre 12, Fable 13)



A fox, old, subtle, vigilant, and sly,

By hunters wounded, fallen in the mud,

Attracted, by the traces of his blood,

That buzzing parasite, the fly.

He blamed the gods, and wondered why

The Fates so cruelly should wish

To feast the fly on such a costly dish.

"What! light on me! make me its food!

Me, me, the nimblest of the wood!

How long has fox-meat been so good?

What serves my tail? Is it a useless weight?

Go, Heaven confound you, greedy reprobate!

And suck your fill from some more vulgar veins!"

A hedgehog, witnessing his pains,

(This fretful personage

Here graces first my page,)

Desired to set him free

From such cupidity.

"My neighbour fox," said he,

My quills these rascals shall empale,

And ease your torments without fail."

"Not for the world, my friend!" the fox replied.

"Pray let them finish their repast.

These flies are full. Should they be set aside,

New hungrier swarms would finish me at last."

Consumers are too common here below,

In court and camp, in church and state, we know.

Old Aristotle's penetration

Remarked our fable's application;

It might more clearly in our nation.

The fuller certain men are fed,

The less the public will be bled.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 12, Fable 13



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