Tuesday, November 16, 2010

La Fontaine: The Coach and the Fly

Upon a sandy, uphill road,
Which naked in the sunshine glow'd,
Six lusty horses drew a coach.
Dames, monks, and invalids, its load,
On foot, outside, at leisure trode.
The team, all weary, stopp'd and blow'd:
Whereon there did a fly approach,
And, with a vastly business air.
Cheer'd up the horses with his buzz,--
Now pricked them here, now prick'd them there,
As neatly as a jockey does,--
And thought the while--he knew 'twas so--
He made the team and carriage go,--
On carriage-pole sometimes alighting--
Or driver's nose--and biting.
And when the whole did get in motion,
Confirm'd and settled in the notion,
He took, himself, the total glory,--
Flew back and forth in wondrous hurry,
And, as he buzz'd about the cattle,
Seem'd like a sergeant in a battle,
The files and squadrons leading on
To where the victory is won.
Thus charged with all the commonweal,
This single fly began to feel
Responsibility too great,
And cares, a grievous crushing weight;
And made complaint that none would aid
The horses up the tedious hill--
The monk his prayers at leisure said--
Fine time to pray!--the dames, at will,
Were singing songs--not greatly needed!
Thus in their ears he sharply sang,
And notes of indignation ran,--
Notes, after all, not greatly heeded.
Erelong the coach was on the top:
'Now,' said the fly, 'my hearties, stop
And breathe;--I've got you up the hill;
And Messrs. Horses, let me say,
I need not ask you if you will
A proper compensation pay.'

Thus certain ever-bustling noddies
Are seen in every great affair;
Important, swelling, busy-bodies,
And bores 'tis easier to bear
Than chase them from their needless care.

Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 7.9.
0709 Musca et Quadriga

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