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The Lion's Court

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 8)



His lion majesty would know, one day,

What bestial tribes were subject to his sway.

He therefore gave his vassals all,

By deputies a call,

Despatching everywhere

A written circular,

Which bore his seal, and did import

His majesty would hold his court

A month most splendidly;

A feast would open his levee,

Which done, Sir Jocko's sleight

Would give the court delight.

By such sublime magnificence

The king would show his power immense.

Now were they gathered all

Within the royal hall.

And such a hall! The charnel scent

Would make the strongest nerves relent.

The bear put up his paw to close

The double access of his nose.

The act had better been omitted;

His throne at once the monarch quitted,

And sent to Pluto's court the bear,

To show his delicacy there.

The ape approved the cruel deed,

A thorough flatterer by breed.

He praised the prince's wrath and claws,

He praised the odour and its cause.

Judged by the fragrance of that cave,

The amber of the Baltic wave,

The rose, the pink, the hawthorn bank,

Might with the vulgar garlic rank.

The mark his flattery overshot,

And made him share poor Bruin's lot;

This lion playing in his way,

The part of Don Caligula.

The fox approached. "Now," said the king,

"Apply your nostrils to this thing,

And let me hear, without disguise,

The judgment of a beast so wise."

The fox replied, "Your Majesty will please

Excuse" and here he took good care to sneeze;

"Afflicted with a dreadful cold,

Your majesty need not be told:

My sense of smell is mostly gone."

From danger thus withdrawn,

He teaches us the while,

That one, to gain the smile

Of kings, must hold the middle place

"Between blunt rebuke and fulsome praise;

And sometimes use with easy grace,

The language of the Norman race.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 8



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