Thursday, November 11, 2010

La Fontaine: The Falcon and the Capon

You often hear a sweet seductive call:
If wise, you haste towards it not at all;--
And, if you heed my apologue,
You act like John de Nivelle's dog.

A capon, citizen of Mans,
Was summon'd from a throng
To answer to the village squire,
Before tribunal call'd the fire.
The matter to disguise
The kitchen sheriff wise
Cried, 'Biddy--Biddy--Biddy!--'
But not a moment did he--
This Norman and a half--
The smooth official trust.
'Your bait,' said he, 'is dust,
And I'm too old for chaff.'
Meantime, a falcon, on his perch,
Observed the flight and search.
In man, by instinct or experience,
The capons have so little confidence,
That this was not without much trouble caught,
Though for a splendid supper sought.
To lie, the morrow night,
In brilliant candle-light,
Supinely on a dish
'Midst viands, fowl, and fish,
With all the ease that heart could wish--
This honour, from his master kind,
The fowl would gladly have declined.
Outcried the bird of chase,
As in the weeds he eyed the skulker's face,
'Why, what a stupid, blockhead race!--
Such witless, brainless fools
Might well defy the schools.
For me, I understand
To chase at word
The swiftest bird,
Aloft, o'er sea or land;
At slightest beck,
Returning quick
To perch upon my master's hand.
There, at his window he appears--
He waits thee--hasten--hast no ears?'
'Ah! that I have,' the fowl replied;
'But what from master might betide?
Or cook, with cleaver at his side?
Return you may for such a call,
But let me fly their fatal hall;
And spare your mirth at my expense:
Whate'er I lack, 'tis not the sense
To know that all this sweet-toned breath
Is spent to lure me to my death.
If you had seen upon the spit
As many of the falcons roast
As I have of the capon host,
You would, not thus reproach my wit.'

Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 8.21.

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(not in Mille) (not in Perry)

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