HomeJean de La FontaineThe Cockerel, the Cat, and the Little Rat


The cochet, the cat and the mouse. Claudot Jean Baptiste (1733-1805)

The cochet, the cat and the mouse. Claudot Jean Baptiste (1733-1805)

A Rat, so very young that it had seen
Nothing at all, was at his setting out
Almost snapped up; and what his fears had been
He told his mother. Thus it came about—
"I crossed the mountains bordering our land,
Bold as a Rat that has his way to make;
When two great animals, you understand,
Before my eyes, their way towards me take.
The one was gentle, tender, and so mild;
The other restless, wild, and turbulent;
A screeching voice, some flesh upon its head,
A sort of arm, raised as for punishment.
His tail a plume, a fiery plume displayed
(It was a capon that the creature drew
Like a wild beast new come from Africa);
And with his arms he beat his sides, it′s true,
With such a frightful noise, that in dismay,
E′en I, who pride myself on courage, ran
And fled for fear, cursing the evil creature;
As, but for him, I should have found a plan
To make acquaintance with that gentle nature—
So soft and sweet, and with a skin like ours;
Long tail, and spotted, with a face so meek;
And yet a glittering eye, of such strange powers:
A sympathiser, sure as I can speak,
With us the Rats, for he has just such ears.
I was about to make a little speech,
When, all at once, as if to rouse my fears,
The other creature gave a dreadful screech,
And I took flight." "My child," exclaimed the Rat,
"That gentle hypocrite you liked so well,
Was our malignant enemy—the Cat.
The other, on whose form so foul you fell,
Is simply harmless, and will be our meal,
Perhaps, some day; while, as for that meek beast,
On us he dearly loves to leap and steal,
And crunch and munch us for his cruel feast.
Take care, my child, in any case,
Judge no one by their look or face."

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