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The Ass and the Dog

(Recueil 2, Livre 8, Fable 17)

 

 

Dame Nature, our respected mother,

Ordains that we should aid each other.

The ass this ordinance neglected,

Though not a creature ill affected.

Along the road a dog and he

One master followed silently.

Their master slept: meanwhile, the ass

Applied his nippers to the grass,

Much pleased in such a place to stop,

Though there no thistle he could crop.

He would not be too delicate,

Nor spoil a dinner for a plate,

Which, but for that, his favourite dish,

Were all that any ass could wish.

"My dear companion," Towser said,

"It's as a starving dog I ask it,

Pray lower down your loaded basket,

And let me get a piece of bread."

No answer—not a word! indeed,

The truth was, our Arcadian steed

Feared lest, for every moment's flight,

His nimble teeth should lose a bite.

At last, "I counsel you," said he, "to wait

Till master is himself awake,

Who then, unless I much mistake,

Will give his dog the usual bait."

Meanwhile, there issued from the wood

A creature of the wolfish brood,

Himself by famine sorely pinched.

At sight of him the donkey flinched,

And begged the dog to give him aid.

The dog budged not, but answer made,

"I counsel you, my friend, to run,

Till master's nap is fairly done;

There can, indeed, be no mistake,

That he will very soon awake;

Till then, scud off with all your might;

And should he snap you in your flight,

This ugly wolf, why, let him feel

The greeting of your well shod heel.

I do not doubt, at all, but that

Will be enough to lay him flat."

But before he ceased it was too late;

The ass had met his cruel fate.

Thus selfishness we reprobate.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 8, Fable 17

 

 

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