THE FUNERAL OF THE LIONESS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE FUNERAL OF THE LIONESS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

The Lion lost his wife, one day;
And everybody made his way
To bring the prince that consolation
Which makes us feel our desolation.
The King announced the funeral
On such a day, to one and all.
They regulate the obsequy,
And marshal the vast company:
As you may guess, each one was there;
The prince′s groanings filled the air;
And the den shook, above, below—
Lions have got great lungs, you know.
As the King does, all the others do;
So the best courtiers blubbered too.

Let me define a court: a place
Sad—gay; where every changeful face,
Careless of joy, is ready still
To change again at the King′s will;
And if some cannot change, they try
To watch the change in the King′s eye:
Chameleons, apes, in every feature;
Plastic and pliant in their nature.
One soul by turns fills many bodies:
These knaves are soulless, which more odd is.

But to return. The Stag alone
Uttered no single sigh or groan.
It could not well be otherwise;
This death avenged old injuries.
The Queen had cruel, mischief done;
Strangled his wife, and slain his son:
Therefore he shed no single tear.
A flatterer noticed, hovering near;
Moreover, the spy saw him smile.
The anger of a King, meanwhile
(I may observe, with Solomon,
The wisest man beneath the sun),
Is terrible; but to our friend
No book could much instruction lend.
"Base creature of the woods!" with scorn
The Lion cried, "you do not mourn!
What should prevent our sacred claws
Teaching you friendship′s holy laws?
Come, Wolves, avenge that Queen of mine:
Offer this victim on her shrine!"
The Stag replied, "The time for grief
Is passed; tears now are useless, Chief.
Your wife, whose features well I know,
Appeared to me an hour ago,
Half hid in flowers. ′My friend,′ she said,
′For me your tears are vainly shed.
Weep not: in the Elysian fields
I′ve every pleasure that life yields,
Conversing with my holy friends;
But for a time the King descends
To a despair that charms me so.′"
Scarce had he spoken thus, when, lo!
"A miracle!" the courtiers cry.
The Stags rewarded, instantly;
And safely, without punishment,
Back to his native woods is sent.

With dreams amuse a listening king,
With falsehoods sweet and flattering;
Whatever rage within may burn,
He′ll gorge the bait, and friendly turn.

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