Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Heifer, the She Goat and the Ewe in Partnership with the Lion

Jean LaFontaine, the noted French fabulist and poet, wrote the following poem several hundred years ago in 1668. It has never been more applicable than now, and so I offer it here in two translations from the French for your enjoyment, as well as your enlightenment. The poem adds credence to the adage of being wary of  whom one would lie down with. You might feel secure relinquishing a few rights here and there; but the point is, will you survive the change?

The best critique concerning La Fontaine's "Fables" was penned by Silvestre de Sacy, who believed that the stories were capable of three interpretations. Children enjoy them for their sheer delight and imagination; and students see the beauty of their composition; while the more mature appreciate the moral lessons to be learned, and are also able to see the relevance of these fables to human nature. As usual, great insights can be found in the classics.


The Heifer, Goat, Sheep, and Lion.
A partnership with men in power
We cannot build upon an hour.
This Fable proves the fact too true:
An Heifer, Goat, and harmless Ewe,
Were with the Lion as allies,
To raise in desert woods supplies.
There, when they jointly had the luck
To take a most enormous buck,
The Lion first the parts disposed,
And then his royal will disclosed.
"The first, as Lion hight, I crave;
The next you yield to me, as brave;
The third is my peculiar due,
As being stronger far than you;
The fourth you likewise will renounce,
For him that touches, I shall trounce."
Thus rank unrighteousness and force
Seized all the prey without remorse.

and still, another translation.

The heifer, the goat, and their sister the sheep,
Compacted their earnings in common to keep,
'Tis said, in time past, with a lion, who sway'd
Full lordship o'er neighbours, of whatever grade.
The goat, as it happen'd, a stag having snared,
Sent off to the rest, that the beast might be shared.
All gather'd; the lion first counts on his claws,
And says, 'We'll proceed to divide with our paws
The stag into pieces, as fix'd by our laws.'
This done, he announces part first as his own;
'Tis mine,' he says, 'truly, as lion alone.'
To such a decision there's nought to be said,
As he who has made it is doubtless the head.
'Well, also, the second to me should belong;
'Tis mine, be it known, by the right of the strong.
Again, as the bravest, the third must be mine.
To touch but the fourth whoso maketh a sign,
I'll choke him to death
In the space of a breath!'

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