(Recueil 1, Livre 4, Fable 22)
"Depend on yourself alone,"
Has to a common proverb grown.
It's thus confirmed in Aesop's way:
The larks to build their nests are seen
Among the wheat-crops young and green;
That is to say,
What time all things, dame Nature heeding,
Betake themselves to love and breeding
The monstrous whales and sharks,
Beneath the briny flood,
The tigers in the wood,
And in the fields, the larks.
One she, however, of these last,
Found more than half the spring time past
Without the taste of spring-time pleasures;
When firmly she set up her will
That she would be a mother still,
And resolutely took her measures;
First, got herself by Hymen matched;
Then built her nest, laid, sat, and hatched.
All went as well as such things could.
The wheat-crop ripening before the brood
Were strong enough to take their flight,
Aware how perilous their plight,
The lark went out to search for food,
And told her young to listen well,
And keep a constant sentinel.
"The owner of this field," said she,
"Will come, I know, his grain to see.
Hear all he says; we little birds
Must shape our conduct by his words."
No sooner was the lark away,
Than came the owner with his son.
"This wheat is ripe," said he: "now run
And give our friends a call
To bring their sickles all,
And help us, great and small,
Tomorrow, at the break of day."
The lark, returning, found no harm,
Except her nest in wild alarm.
Says one, "We heard the owner say,
Go, give our friends a call
To help, tomorrow, break of day."
Replied the lark, "If that is all,
We need not be in any fear,
But only keep an open ear.
As gay as larks, now eat your victuals."
They ate and slept the great and littles.
The dawn arrives, but not the friends;
The lark soars up, the owner wends
His usual round to view his land.
"This grain," says he, "ought not to stand.
Our friends do wrong; and so does he
Who trusts that friends will friendly be.
My son, go call our kith and kin
To help us get our harvest in."
This second order made
The little larks still more afraid.
"He sent for kindred, mother, by his son;
The work will now, indeed, be done."
"No, darlings; go to sleep;
Our lowly nest we'll keep."
With reason said; for kindred there came none.
Thus, tired of expectation vain,
Once more the owner viewed his grain.
"My son," said he, "we're surely fools
To wait for other people's tools;
As if one might, for love or pelf,
Have friends more faithful than himself!
Engrave this lesson deep, my son.
And know you now what must be done?
We must ourselves our sickles bring,
And, while the larks their matins sing,
Begin the work; and, on this plan,
Get in our harvest as we can."
This plan the lark no sooner knew,
Than, "Now is the time," she said, "my chicks;"
And, taking little time to fix,
Away they flew;
All fluttering, soaring, often grounding,
Decamped without a trumpet sounding.
Jean de La Fontaine
Book 4, Fable 22