The Fables of La Fontaine, by Jean de La Fontaine

To Monseigneur The Dauphin.1

I sing the heroes of old Aesop’s line,

Whose tale, though false when strictly we define,

Containeth truths it were not ill to teach.

With me all natures use the gift of speech;

Yea, in my work, the very fishes preach,

And to our human selves their sermons suit.

’Tis thus, to come at man, I use the brute.

Son of a Prince the favourite of the skies,

On whom the world entire hath fix’d its eyes,

Who hence shall count his conquests by his days,

And gather from the proudest lips his praise,

A louder voice than mine must tell in song

What virtues to thy kingly line belong.

I seek thine ear to gain by lighter themes,

Slight pictures, deck’d in magic nature’s beams;

And if to please thee shall not be my pride,

I’ll gain at least the praise of having tried.

1] This dedication prefaced La Fontaine’s first collection of his Fables, which comprised Books I. to VI., published in 1668. The Dauphin was Louis, the only son of Louis XIV. and Marie-Thérèse of Austria. He was born at Fontainebleau in 1661, and died at Meudon in 1712, before his father, the “Grand Monarque,” had ceased to reign. The Dauphin being but a child, between six and seven years old, at the time of this dedication, La Fontaine’s act may be viewed rather as an offering to the King, than to the child himself. See the Translator’s Preface.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57