Monday, November 1, 2010

La Fontaine: The Fishes and the Shepherd who Played the Flute

Thrysis--who for his Annette dear
Made music with his flute and voice,
Which might have roused the dead to hear,
And in their silent graves rejoice--
Sang once the livelong day,
In the flowery month of May,
Up and down a meadow brook,
While Annette fish'd with line and hook.
But ne'er a fish would bite;
So the shepherdess's bait
Drew not a fish to its fate,
From morning dawn till night.
The shepherd, who, by his charming songs,
Had drawn savage beasts to him in throngs,
And done with them as he pleased to,
Thought that he could serve the fish so.
'O citizens,' he sang, 'of this water,
Leave your Naiad in her grot profound;
Come and see the blue sky's lovely daughter,
Who a thousand times more will charm you;
Fear not that her prison will harm you,
Though there you should chance to get bound.
'Tis only to us men she is cruel:
You she will treat kindly;
A snug little pond she'll find ye,
Clearer than a crystal jewel,
Where you may all live and do well;
Or, if by chance some few
Should find their fate
Conceal'd in the bait,
The happier still are you;
For envied is the death that's met
At the hands of sweet Annette.'
This eloquence not effecting
The object of his wishes,
Since it failed in collecting
The deaf and dumb fishes,--
His sweet preaching wasted,
His honey'd talk untasted,
A net the shepherd seized, and, pouncing
With a fell scoop at the scaly fry,
He caught them; and now, madly flouncing,
At the feet of his Annette they lie!

O ye shepherds, whose sheep men are,
To trust in reason never dare.
The arts of eloquence sublime
Are not within your calling;
Your fish were caught, from oldest time,
By dint of nets and hauling.

Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 10.11.
piscator et tibiae

Click here for a SLIDESHOW of all the colored Steinhowel images. The coloring actually makes this image a bit harder to read: stage one of the story is in the background, and stage two of the story is in the foreground - but it is the same fisherman, so the person who colored the image probably should not have made the hats two different colors!

M0849 Perry011

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