Tuesday, October 5, 2010

La Fontaine: The Eagle and the Beetle

John Rabbit, by Dame Eagle chased,
Was making for his hole in haste,
When, on his way, he met a beetle's burrow.
I leave you all to think
If such a little chink
Could to a rabbit give protection thorough.
But, since no better could be got,
John Rabbit there was fain to squat.
Of course, in an asylum so absurd,
John felt ere long the talons of the bird.
But first, the beetle, interceding, cried,
'Great queen of birds, it cannot be denied,
That, maugre my protection, you can bear
My trembling guest, John Rabbit, through the air.
But do not give me such affront, I pray;
And since he craves your grace,
In pity of his case,
Grant him his life, or take us both away;
For he's my gossip, friend, and neighbour.'
In vain the beetle's friendly labour;
The eagle clutch'd her prey without reply,
And as she flapp'd her vasty wings to fly,
Struck down our orator and still'd him;
The wonder is she hadn't kill'd him.
The beetle soon, of sweet revenge in quest,
Flew to the old, gnarl'd mountain oak,
Which proudly bore that haughty eagle's nest.
And while the bird was gone,
Her eggs, her cherish'd eggs, he broke,
Not sparing one.
Returning from her flight, the eagle's cry,
Of rage and bitter anguish, fill'd the sky.
But, by excess of passion blind,
Her enemy she fail'd to find.
Her wrath in vain, that year it was her fate
To live a mourning mother, desolate.
The next, she built a loftier nest; 'twas vain;
The beetle found and dash'd her eggs again.
John Rabbit's death was thus revenged anew.
The second mourning for her murder'd brood
Was such, that through the giant mountain wood,
For six long months, the sleepless echo flew.
The bird, once Ganymede, now made
Her prayer to Jupiter for aid;
And, laying them within his godship's lap,
She thought her eggs now safe from all mishap;
The god his own could not but make them--
No wretch, would venture there to break them.
And no one did. Their enemy, this time,
Upsoaring to a place sublime,
Let fall upon his royal robes some dirt,
Which Jove just shaking, with a sudden flirt,
Threw out the eggs, no one knows whither.
When Jupiter inform'd her how th' event
Occurr'd by purest accident,
The eagle raved; there was no reasoning with her;
She gave out threats of leaving court,
To make the desert her resort,
And other brav'ries of this sort.
Poor Jupiter in silence heard
The uproar of his favourite bird.
Before his throne the beetle now appear'd,
And by a clear complaint the mystery clear'd.
The god pronounced the eagle in the wrong.
But still, their hatred was so old and strong,
These enemies could not be reconciled;
And, that the general peace might not be spoil'd,--
The best that he could do,--the god arranged,
That thence the eagle's pairing should be changed,
To come when beetle folks are only found
Conceal'd and dormant under ground.

Source: Wright's translation of La Fontaine, Fable 2.8.
Scarabaeus et Aquila

Click here for a SLIDESHOW of all the Milo Winter images. This shows the little beetle pushing those eggs out of the nest!

M0690 Perry003

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