THE ANIMALS SENDING A TRIBUTE TO ALEXANDER. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE ANIMALS SENDING A TRIBUTE TO ALEXANDER. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

Fable current in the ancient times
Had surely meaning; but none clear to me.
Its moral′s somewhere, reader, in these rhymes,
So here′s the thing itself for you to see.
Fame had loud rumoured in a thousand places
Of Jove′s great son, a certain Alexander,
Who had resolved, however sour men′s faces,
To leave none free; moreover, this commander
Had summoned every living thing beneath the skies
To come and worship at his sovereign feet:
Quadrupeds, bipeds, elephants, and flies;
The bird republic, also, were to meet.
The goddess of the hundred mouths, I say,
Having thus spread a wide dismay,
By publishing the conqueror′s decree,
The animals, and all that do obey
Their appetites alone, began to think that now
They should be kept in slavery,
And to fresh laws and other customs bow.
They met in the wild desert and decide,
After long sittings and conflicting chatter,
To pay a tribute, pocketing their pride.
The Monkey was to manage style and matter
(Chief of all diplomats in every way);
They write down what he has to say.
The tribute only vexed the creatures:
No money! how their cash to pay?
Well from a prince, who chanced to own
Some mines of gold, they got a loan.
To bear the tribute volunteered
The Mule and Ass, and they were cheered;
The Horse and Camel lent their aid.
Then gaily started all the four,
Led by the new ambassador.
The caravan went on till, in a narrow place,
They saw his majesty the Lion′s face;
They did not like his look at all,
Still less when he began to call.
"Well met; and just in time," quoth he;
"Your fellow-traveller I will be;
Your toil I wish to freely share,
My tribute′s light, yet hard to bear;
I′m not accustomed to a load; so, please,
Take each a quarter at your ease,
To you ′tis nothing, that I feel;
If robbers come to pick and steal,
I shall not be the last to fight:
A Lion is not backward in a fray."
They welcome him, and he′s in pleasant plight;
So, spite of Jove-sprung hero, every day
Upon the public purse he battens,
And on good deer he quickly fattens.
They reach at last a meadow land,
With flowers besprinkled, fed by brooks;
The sheep feed there on either hand,
Unguarded by the shepherd′s crooks:
It is the summer zephyr′s home.
No sooner has the Lion come,
Than he of fever much complains;
"Continue, sirs, your embassy,"
Said he; "but burning, darting pains
Torment me now exceedingly.
I seek some herb for speedy cure;
You must not long delay, I′m sure;
Give me my money; quick! I′m hurried."
Then quickly out the gold was scurried.
The Lion, quite delighted, cried,
In tones that showed his joy and pride,
"Ye gods! my gold has hatched its brood;
And, look! the young ones are all grown
Big as the old ones; that is good:
The increase comes to me alone."
He took the whole, although he was not bid;
Or if he didn′t, some one like him did.
The Monkey and his retinue
Half frightened and half angry grew,
But did not dare reply; so left him there.
′Tis said that they complained at court; but where
Was then the use? in vain their loud abuse.
What could he do? Jove′s royal scion!
′Twould have been Lion against Lion.
′Tis said when Corsairs fight Corsairs,
They are not minding their affairs.

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