(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 1)
The apologue is from the immortal gods;
Or, if the gift of man it is,
Its author merits apotheosis.
Whoever magic genius lauds
Will do what in him lies
To raise this art's inventor to the skies.
It has the potence of a charm,
On dulness lays a conquering arm,
Subjects the mind to its control,
And works its will on the soul.
O lady, armed with equal power,
If ever within celestial bower,
With messmate gods reclined,
My muse ambrosially has dined,
Lend me the favour of a smile
On this her playful toil.
If you support, the tooth of time will shun,
And let my work the envious years outrun.
If authors would themselves survive,
To gain your suffrage they should strive.
On you my verses wait to get their worth;
To you my beauties all will owe their birth,
For beauties you will recognize
Invisible to other eyes.
Ah! who can boast a taste so true,
Of beauty or of grace,
In either thought or face?
For words and looks are equal charms in you.
On a theme so sweet, the truth to tell,
My muse would gladly dwell:
But this employ to others I must yield;
A greater master claims the field.
For me, fair lady, it were enough
Your name should be my wall and roof.
Protect henceforth the favoured book
Through which for second life I look.
In your auspicious light,
These lines, in envy's spite,
Will gain the glorious meed,
That all the world shall read.
It's not that I deserve such fame;
I only ask in Fable's name,
(You know what credit that should claim;)
And, if successfully I sue,
A fane will be to Fable due,
A thing I would not build—except for you.
Jean de La Fontaine
Book 7, Fable 1