Three Fables of Jean de La Fontaine

Song Cycle by André Caplet (1879 - 1925)

Original language: Trois Fables de Jean de la Fontaine

1. Le corbeau et le renard [sung text checked 1 time]
Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché, 
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard, par l'odeur alléché, 
Lui tint à peu près ce langage:
Hé!  Bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli! Que vous me semblez beau!
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le phénix des hôtes de ces bois.
A ces mots le corbeau ne se sent pas de joie;
Et, pour montrer sa belle voix, 
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tombe sa proie.
Le renard s'en saisit, et dit: Mon bon monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute:
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute.
Le corbeau, honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu'on ne l'y prendrait plus.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (David Jonathan Justman) , "The Raven and the Fox", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

See also Le renard et le corbeau.


Researcher for this text: Geoffrey Wieting
by Jean de La Fontaine (1621 - 1695)
1. The Raven and the Fox
Mister Raven, perched on a tree,
Held a cheese in his beak.
Mister Fox, enticed by the smell,
Addressed him in language like this:
Oh!  Good morning, Mr. Raven.
How pretty you are!  How beautiful you seem to me!
In truth, if your song 
is like your plumage,
You are the phoenix of the hosts of this wood.
At these words the raven becomes overjoyed;
And, to show off his beautiful voice,
He opens his beak wide and lets his prey fall.
The fox grabs it and says: My dear man,
Learn that every flatterer
Lives at the expense of the one who listens to him.
No doubt, that lesson is easily worth a cheese.
The raven, ashamed and confused,
Swore, though somewhat belatedly, that he would never be taken again.

Authorship:

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © by David Jonathan Justman, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.
    Contact: 

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This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 18
Word count: 131

Translation © by David Jonathan Justman
2. La cigale et la fourmi [sung text checked 1 time]
La cigale, ayant chanté
Tout l'été,
Se trouva fort dépourvue
Quand la bise fut venue.
Pas un seul petit morceau
De mouche ou de vermisseau.
Elle alla crier famine
Chez la Fourmi sa voisine,
La priant de lui prêter
Quelque grain pour subsister
Jusqu'à la saison nouvelle.
«Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle,
Avant l'août, foi d'animal,
Intérêt et principal.»
La Fourmi n'est pas prêteuse;
C'est là son moindre défaut.
«Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud?
Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse.
-- Nuit et jour à tout venant
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise.
-- Vous chantiez? j'en suis fort aise.
Et bien! dansez maintenant.»

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Emily Ezust) , "The grasshopper and the ant", copyright © 2016

See also La cigale vengée.


Researcher for this text: Ted Perry
by Jean de La Fontaine (1621 - 1695)
2. The grasshopper and the ant
The Grasshopper, having sung
All summer,
Found herself extremely deprived
When the cold winds began to blow:
Not even one small morsel
Of a fly or a worm.
She cried famine
At the home of her neighbour the Ant,
And entreated her to lend her
Some grain on which to subsist
Until the next season.
"I shall pay you", she told her,
"Before august, upon my word as an animal,
Both interest and principal."
The Ant is not a money-lender -
That's the least of her problems!
"How did you spend the warm days?"
She asked this borrower.
"Night and day, to all who came,
I sang, if you don't mind."
"You sang? I am glad.
Well! now you can go dance."

Authorship:

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © 2016 by Emily Ezust

    Emily Ezust permits her translations to be reproduced without prior permission for printed (not online) programs to free-admission concerts only, provided the following credit is given:

    Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
    from the LiederNet Archive -- https://www.lieder.net/

    For any other purpose, please write to the e-mail address below to request permission and discuss possible fees.


Based on:

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This text was added to the website: 2016-11-12
Line count: 22
Word count: 122

Translation © by Emily Ezust
3. Le loup et l'agneau [sung text checked 1 time]
La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure :
        Nous l'allons montrer tout à l'heure.

        Un agneau se désaltérait
        Dans le courant d'une onde pure.
Un loup survint à jeun, qui cherchait aventure,
    Et que la faim en ces lieux attirait.
Qui te rend si hardi de troubler mon breuvage ?
        Dit cet animal plein de rage :
Tu seras châtié de ta témérité.
Sire, répond l'agneau, que Votre Majesté
        Ne se mette pas en colère ;
        Mais plutôt qu'elle considère
        Que je me vas désaltérant
                Dans le courant,
        Plus de vingt pas au-dessous d'elle ;
Et que, par conséquent, en aucune façon
        Je ne puis troubler sa boisson.
Tu la troubles ! reprit cette bête cruelle ;
Et je sais que de moi tu médis l'an passé.
Comment l'aurais-je fait, si je n'étais pas né ?
    Reprit l'agneau : je tette encore ma mère. --
        Si ce n'est toi, c'est donc ton frère. --
    Je n'en ai point. -- C'est donc quelqu'un des tiens ;
        Car vous ne m'épargnez guère,
        Vous, vos bergers et vos chiens.
    On me l'a dit : il faut que je me venge.
        Là-dessus, au fond des forêts
        Le loup l'emporte, et puis le mange,
        Sans autre forme de procès.

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (David Jonathan Justman) , "The wolf and the lamb", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
by Jean de La Fontaine (1621 - 1695)
3. The wolf and the lamb
The right of the stronger... is always better:
We will prove it right now.

A lamb was quenching its thirst
In the current of a pure flow.
A wolf looking for adventure, and whom hunger has 
Attracted to these parts, suddenly appears on an empty stomach.
"Who is so hardy as to muddy my waters?"
Says this animal full of rage.
You will be punished for your temerity.
"Sire," the lamb responds, "May Your Majesty
not get angry:
But may he instead consider
That I am quenching my thirst 
in the current,
More than twenty paces below him;
And that, therefore, 
in no way can I muddy his drink."
"You are muddying it!"  that cruel beast continued;
"And I know that you spoke ill of me last year."
"How could I have done so if I wasn't born yet?"
Continued the lamb;  I am still nursing."
"If it wasn't you, then it was your brother."
"I haven't any brother." --  "Then it's one of yours;
For you hardly spare me,
You, your shepherds, and your dogs.
Others have been telling me that I must avenge myself."
Up there, in the heart of the forest
The wolf drags him off and then eats him,
With no other form of process.

Authorship:

  • Translation from French (Français) to English copyright © by David Jonathan Justman, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.
    Contact: 

Based on:


This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 29
Word count: 208

Translation © by David Jonathan Justman
Total word count: 461