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The Spider and the Swallow

(Recueil 2, Livre 10, Fable 6)



"O Jupiter, whose fruitful brain,

By odd obstetrics freed from pain,

Bore Pallas, erst my mortal foe,

Pray listen to my tale of woe.

This Progne takes my lawful prey.

As through the air she cuts her way,

And skims the waves in seeming play.

My flies she catches from my door,

"Yes, mine I emphasize the word,

And, but for this accursed bird,

My net would hold an ample store:

For I have woven it of stuff

To hold the strongest strong enough."

It was thus, in terms of insolence,

Complained the fretful spider, once

Of palace tapestry a weaver,

But then a spinster and deceiver,

That hoped within her toils to bring

Of insects all that ply the wing.

The sister swift of Philomel,

Intent on business, prospered well;

In spite of the complaining pest,

The insects carried to her nest

Nest pitiless to suffering flies

Mouths gaping aye, to gormandize,

Of young ones clamouring,

And stammering,

With unintelligible cries.

The spider, with but head and feet.

And powerless to compete

With wings so fleet,

Soon saw herself a prey.

The swallow, passing swiftly by,

Bore web and all away,

The spinster dangling in the sky!

Two tables has our Maker set

For all that in this world are met.

To seats around the first

The skilful, vigilant, and strong are beckoned:

Their hunger and their thirst

The rest must quell with leavings at the second.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 10, Fable 6



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