HomeJean de La FontaineThe Monkey and the Dolphin


The Monkey and the Dolphin. Paul Bransom, 1921

The Monkey and the Dolphin. Paul Bransom, 1921

It was a custom with the Greeks
For travellers by sea to take
Monkeys and fancy dogs, whose tricks
Would pastime in fair weather make.
A vessel with such things on deck,
Not far from Athens, went to wreck;
But for the Dolphins all had drowned.
This animal is friend to man:
The fact in Pliny may be found;
So must be true, say what you can.

A Dolphin half the people saves,
Even a Monkey, by-the-by,
He thought a sailor, from the waves
He kindly helped: the creature sly,
Seated upon the Dolphin′s back,
Looked very grave and wise; good lack!
One would have really almost sworn
T′was old Arion, all forlorn.
The two had nearly reached the land,
When just by chance, and such a pity!
Fish asks, "Are you from Athens grand?"
"Yes; oh, they know me in that city;
If you have any business there,
Employ me; for it is truly where
My kinsfolk hold the highest place.
My second cousin is Lord Mayor."
The Dolphin thanked him with good grace:
"And the Piræus knows your face?
You see it often, I dare say?"
"See him! I see him every day;
An old acquaintance; that is so."
The foolish chatterer did not know
Piræus was a harbour, not a man.
Such people, go where′er you can,
You meet within a mile of home,
Mistaking Vaugirard for Rome,
People who chattering dogmatise
Of what has never met their eyes.
The Dolphin laughed, and turning round
The Monkey saw, and straightway found
He′d saved mere shadow of humanity;
Then plunged again beneath the sea,
And search amid the billows made
For one more worthy of his aid.

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