Jean de La Fontaine, a 17th century French poet, is best known for his 239 fables, published over 26 years as the 12 volume Fables. His earlier works are based mainly on the classical fables by Aesop, Babrius, and Phaedrus. From the beginning, his fables have been familiar to the French reader of literature; they have been learned by generations of French school children.
The first two volumes of selected fables were published in 1668, dedicated to Louis, son of Louis XIV (the Sun King) and Maria Theresa. The six-year-old Dauphin would have been one of the first to enjoy the fable The Crow and the Fox, which is the subject of this post.
LE CORBEAU ET LE RENARD (Livre I, 2)
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 :
Et 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.
À ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie,
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber 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.
The translation below is by Robert Thomson.
THE CROW AND FOX (Book I, Fable 2)
Perched on a tree sat Master Crow
While in his beak he held a cheese ;
Lured by the smell stood Master Fox below,
And hailed him in such words as these :
“ What ! Master Crow ! good day ! how be ye ?
’Pon honour I am glad to see ye !
How beautiful, how handsome ye appear !
How I should like to hear your note !
For if your warbling’s like your coat,
You are the phoenix of the forests here. ”
At this the crow could not enough rejoice,
Opened a large beak to show his pretty voice ;
Down dropt the precious prey . . .
Which Reynard seized, and ran away,
Leaving this short adieu :
“ Learn, my good fellow, that the flattering crew
Live at the cost of those they slyly please ;
I hope my lesson’s worth your cheese. ”
The Crow too late, ashamed, and full of pain
Swore they should never bilk him so again
The City of Paris erected a statue honoring La Fontaine in 1891, located at the intersection of avenues Ingres and Ranelagh in the Square du Ranelagh, near La Muette – Auteuil, in the 16th arrondissement. In 1983, a new bronze statue replaced the original, while the base is still engraved in stone:
This monument erected by public subscription with the support of the State and the City of Paris was inaugurated July 26, 1891.
The monument shows La Fontaine looking down at the crow, who is taunting the fox with a cheese round.
These photos show La Fontaine.
These photos are closeups of the crow and fox. Notice that someone has placed a coin resembling the cheese in the fox’s mouth.
These photos were taken in Paris, France, on 9 October 2015 with an Olympus TG-4 camera.