La Fontaine's Fables #13: The Lion and the Rat & The Dove and the Ant. The Life of Aesop, part 10

The Lion and the Rat & The Dove and the Ant

We have two fables today, as they are related.

The first one, The Lion and the Rat, is well known. In it, there are two sayings that many French people know by heart:

On a souvent besoin d'un plus petit que soi.
We often need someone smaller than ourselves.

Patience et longueur de temps
Font plus que force ni que rage.
Patience and length of time
Do more than strength or rage.

The second fable, The Dove and the Ant, is much less famous.


Le Lion et le Rat

Il faut, autant qu’on peut, obliger tout le monde :
On a souvent besoin d’un plus petit que soi.
De cette vérité deux fables feront foi ;
Tant la chose en preuves abonde.

Entre les pattes d’un lion
Un rat sortit de terre assez à l’étourdie.
Le roi des animaux, en cette occasion,
Montra ce qu’il était, et lui donna la vie.
Ce bienfait ne fut pas perdu.
Quelqu’un aurait-il jamais cru
Qu’un lion d’un rat eût affaire ?

Cependant il advint qu’au
           sortir des forêts
Ce lion fut pris dans des rets,
Dont ses rugissements ne le purent défaire.
Sire rat accourut, et fit tant par ses dents
Qu’une maille rongée emporta
           tout l’ouvrage.

Patience et longueur de temps
Font plus que force ni que rage.

La Colombe et la Fourmi

L’autre exemple est tiré d’animaux plus petits.

Le long d’un clair ruisseau buvait une colombe,
Quand sur l’eau se penchant une fourmis
           y tombe ;

Et dans cet océan on eût vu la fourmis
S’efforcer, mais en vain, de regagner la rive.
La colombe aussitôt usa de charité :
Un brin d’herbe dans l’eau par elle étant jeté,
Ce fut un promontoire où la fourmis arrive.
Elle se sauve. Et là-dessus
Passe un certain croquant1
           qui marchait les pieds nus :
Ce croquant, par hasard, avait une arbalète.
Dès qu’il voit l’oiseau de Vénus,
Il le croit en son pot, et déjà
           lui fait fête.
Tandis qu’à le tuer mon villageois s’apprête,
La fourmi le pique au talon.
Le vilain retourne la tête :
La colombe l’entend, part, et tire de long.
Le souper du croquant avec elle s’envole :
Point de pigeon pour une obole.

The Lion and the Rat

We must, as much as we can, oblige everyone:
We often need someone smaller than ourselves.
Of this truth two fables will bear witness;
So much evidence abounds.

Between the paws of a lion
A rat came out of the ground quite dazed.
The king of beasts, on this occasion,
Showed what he was, and spared his life.
This benefit was not lost.
Would anyone ever believe
That a lion of a rat had business?

However, it happened that upon emerging
           from the forests
This lion was caught in a net,
Which his roars could not undo.
Lord rat ran up and did so much with his teeth
That a gnawed stitch carried away
           the whole work.

Patience and length of time
Do more than strength or rage.

The Dove and the Ant

The other example is from smaller animals.

Along a clear stream, a dove drank,
When on the water leaning an ant
           falls there;

And in this ocean, we would have seen the ant
Trying, but in vain, to get back to shore.
The dove immediately used charity:
A blade of grass in the water she throws,
It was a promontory where the ants arrive.
She runs away. As it happens
Passes some guy who
           walked barefoot:
This individual, by chance, had a crossbow.
As soon as he sees the bird of Venus,
He believes him in his pot, and already
As my villager prepares to kill him,
The ant pricks him in the heel.
The villain turns his head:
The dove hears him, leaves, and flies away.
The guy's supper with her flies away:
No pigeon for an obol.

First Fable: The Circada and the Ant

Previous fable: The Lion and the Gnat

Next fable: The Crow who wants to imitate the Eagle

The Life of Aesop, by Jean de La Fontaine - part 10

Croesus moved to attack them. The ambassador told him that, as long as they had Aesop with them, he would find it difficult to reduce them to his will, given the confidence they had in the good sense of the character. Croesus sent to ask them, with a promise to leave them their freedom, if they delivered him to him. The principals of the city found these conditions advantageous and did not believe that their rest would cost them too much if they bought it at the expense of Aesop. The Phrygian made them change their minds by telling them that, the wolves and the sheep having made a treaty of peace, the latter gave their dogs as hostages. When they had no more defenders, the wolves strangled them with less trouble than before. This apologue had its effect: the Samians took a deliberation quite contrary to the one which they had already taken. Aesop, however, wanted to go to Croesus and said that he would serve them more usefully being near the king than if he remained in Samos.

When Croesus saw him, he wondered how such a puny creature had been such a great obstacle to him. What! this is the one who causes my will to be opposed! he cried. Aesop bowed down at his feet. A man was taking grasshoppers, he said; a cicada also fell within his grasp. He was going to kill her as he had done the locusts. What have I done to you? said she to this man: I do not gnaw your wheat; I cause you no harm; you will find in me only the voice, which I use quite innocently. Great king, I look like that cicada: I have only the voice and have not used it to offend you. Croesus, touched with admiration and pity, not only forgave him, but he left the Samians in peace because of Aesop.

Next part: The Life of Aesop, part 11

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