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The Monkey and the Dolphin

(Recueil 1, Livre 4, Fable 7)

 

 

It was the custom of the Greeks

For passengers over sea to carry

Both monkeys full of tricks

And funny dogs to make them merry.

A ship, that had such things on deck,

Not far from Athens, went to wreck.

But for the dolphins, all had drowned.

They are a philanthropic fish,

Which fact in Pliny may be found;

A better voucher who could wish?

They did their best on this occasion.

A monkey even, on their plan

Well nigh attained his own salvation;

A dolphin took him for a man,

And on his dorsal gave him place.

So grave the silly creature's face,

That one might well have set him down

That old musician of renown.

The fish had almost reached the land,

When, as it happened,—what a pity!

He asked, "Are you from Athens grand?"

"Yes; well they know me in that city.

If ever you have business there,

I'll help you do it, for my kin

The highest offices are in.

My cousin, sir, is now lord mayor."

The dolphin thanked him, with good grace,

Both for himself and all his race,

And asked, "You doubtless know Piraeus,

Where, should we come to town, you'll see us."

"Piraeus? yes, indeed I know;

He was my crony long ago."

The dunce knew not the harbour's name,

And for a man's mistook the same.

The people are by no means few,

Who never went ten miles from home,

Nor know their market-town from Rome,

Yet cackle just as if they knew.

The dolphin laughed, and then began

His rider's form and face to scan,

And found himself about to save

From fishy feasts, beneath the wave,

A mere resemblance of a man.

So, plunging down, he turned to find

Some drowning wight of human kind.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 4, Fable 7

 

 

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