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THE LION. Jean de La Fontaine

THE LION. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE LION. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

Through spoil and plunder, wealthy grown,
A Leopard once claimed as his own,
In meadows broad, and forests deep,
Full many a steer, and stag, and sheep.
At length, upon some luckless morn,
Not far away, a Lion born,
Received, as usual is with great ones,
The compliments well known as state ones.
But this once done, King Leopard said
To Mr. Fox, his vizier keen,

"I know you suffer from the spleen,
Because this Lion-whelp is bred.
But why be fearful, since his father
Is in deaths keeping? Pity, rather,
This orphan child, disconsolate,
For he will have a lucky fate,
If he, instead of seeking strife,
Can but contrive to save his life."
The Fox replied, "For orphans such
My pity is not over much.
In fact, two things alone remain,—
His friendship by some means to gain,
Or else to kill him, ere he grows
Too strong for all the world t′ oppose.
His horoscope I′ve duly cast,
And find that he will ever be
To us the bitterest enemy,
But to allies he will cling fast.
So, now, decide: become his friend,
Or straightway of him make an end."
But argued thus the Fox in vain:
The Leopard slept, with all his train,
Until the Lion′s whelp, full grown,
Spread havoc, and made all his own.
Then Mr. Fox, with careworn brow,
Appealed to, said, "′Tis useless, now,
To think of meeting force by force:
Suppose to friends you had recourse,
They would but eat up all your store,
And Master Lion does no more.
But, sire, remember that the Lion
Has got three friends he can rely on,
Who ask for neither pay nor food,—
Strength, Vigilance, and Fortitude.
So, send him now a sheep or two;
If that won′t answer, lambs a few;
And if he′s not content with that,
A heifer add, both large and fat;
For by this means, perchance, you may
Save something from this beast of prey."
Thus spoke the Fox; but to his master
Th′ advice seemed ill; and thence disaster
Spread over all the country round;
For still, combine as might the states,
Republics, cities, potentates,
They still the Lion master found.
If you would now the moral know,
Just to this brief advice attend:—
If you have let a Lion grow,
Take care that he becomes your friend.

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