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The Cat, the Weasel, and the Young Rabbit

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 17)



John Rabbit's palace under ground

Was once by Goody Weasel found.

She, sly of heart, resolved to seize

The place, and did so at her ease.

She took possession while its lord

Was absent on the dewy sward,

Intent on his usual sport,

A courtier at Aurora's court.

When he had browsed his fill of clover

And cut his pranks all nicely over,

Home Johnny came to take his drowse,

All snug within his cellar-house.

The weasel's nose he came to see,

Outsticking through the open door.

"You gods of hospitality!"

Exclaimed the creature, vexed sore,

"Must I give up my father's lodge?

Ho! Madam Weasel, please to budge,

Or, quicker than a weasel's dodge,

I'll call the rats to pay their grudge!"

The sharp-nosed lady made reply,

That she was first to occupy.

The cause of war was surely small

A house where one could only crawl!

And though it were a vast domain,

Said she, "I had like to know what will

Could grant to John perpetual reign,

The son of Peter or of Bill,

More than to Paul, or even me."

John Rabbit spoke-great lawyer he

Of custom, usage, as the law,

Whereby the house, from sire to son,

As well as all its store of straw,

From Peter came at length to John.

Who could present a claim, so good

As he, the first possessor, could?

"Now," said the dame, "let's drop dispute,

And go before Raminagrobis,

Who'll judge, not only in this suit,

But tell us truly whose the globe is."

This person was a hermit cat,

A cat that played the hypocrite,

A saintly mouser, sleek and fat,

An arbiter of keenest wit.

John Rabbit in the judge concurred,

And off went both their case to broach

Before his majesty, the furred.

Said Clapperclaw, "My kits, approach,

And put your noses to my ears:

I'm deaf, almost, by weight of years."

And so they did, not fearing anything.

The good apostle, Clapperclaw,

Then laid on each a well-armed paw,

And both to an agreement brought,

By virtue of his tusked jaw.

This brings to mind the fate

Of little kings before the great.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 17



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