Monday, November 15, 2010

La Fontaine: The Cat, the Weasel and the Young Rabbit

John Rabbit's palace under ground
Was once by Goody Weasel found.
She, sly of heart, resolved to seize
The place, and did so at her ease.
She took possession while its lord
Was absent on the dewy sward,
Intent upon his usual sport,
A courtier at Aurora's court.
When he had browsed his fill of clover
And cut his pranks all nicely over,
Home Johnny came to take his drowse,
All snug within his cellar-house.
The weasel's nose he came to see,
Outsticking through the open door.
'Ye gods of hospitality!'
Exclaim'd the creature, vexèd sore,
'Must I give up my father's lodge?
Ho! Madam Weasel, please to budge,
Or, quicker than a weasel's dodge,
I'll call the rats to pay their grudge!'
The sharp-nosed lady made reply,
That she was first to occupy.
The cause of war was surely small--
A house where one could only crawl!
And though it were a vast domain,
Said she, 'I'd like to know what will
Could grant to John perpetual reign,--
The son of Peter or of Bill,--
More than to Paul, or even me.'
John Rabbit spoke--great lawyer he--
Of custom, usage, as the law,
Whereby the house, from sire to son,
As well as all its store of straw,
From Peter came at length to John.
Who could present a claim, so good
As he, the first possessor, could?
'Now,' said the dame, 'let's drop dispute,
And go before Raminagrobis,
Who'll judge, not only in this suit,
But tell us truly whose the globe is.'
This person was a hermit cat,
A cat that play'd the hypocrite,
A saintly mouser, sleek and fat,
An arbiter of keenest wit.
John Rabbit in the judge concurr'd,
And off went both their case to broach
Before his majesty, the furr'd.
Said Clapperclaw, 'My kits, approach,
And put your noses to my ears:
I'm deaf, almost, by weight of years.'
And so they did, not fearing aught.
The good apostle, Clapperclaw,
Then laid on each a well-arm'd paw,
And both to an agreement brought,
By virtue of his tuskèd jaw.

This brings to mind the fate
Of little kings before the great.

Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 7.16.
Mustela, Cuniculus et Feles

Click here for a SLIDESHOW of all the Grandville images. The rabbit and the weasel are so small and the cat is so big: watch out!

M0391 (not in Perry)

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