Thursday, June 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Yamini!



Since yesterday was my daughter Yamini’s birthday and since she is a Francophile sans pareil and furthermore, since she is far away in the City of Light right now, I thought it appropriate to cook up some Choice Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, seasoned with obscurant shadows and a soupcon of W.H. Auden and Pieter Brueghel, all for her!

Observant readers will remember that the above landscape is the very same one in which the HMS Snark sailed through on its way to Snark Island …

A Dog Who Took His Prey for Shadow (VI; 17)

There’s only illusion on offer down here:
all the fools chase their shadows till their
swelling numbers soon appear
to make the wise despair.
Aesop’s dog was of that obscurant race
his prey reflected on the water’s face,
left one for the other to give chase
he nearly drowned with little grace
but returned enlightened to river’s shore
and mistook shadow for prey no more

Le Chien qui lâche sa proie pour l’ombre

Chacun se trompe ici-bas :
On voit courir après l’ombre
Tant de fous qu’on n’en sait pas
La plupart du temps le nombre.
Au chien dont parle Ésope il faut les renvoyer.
Ce chien, voyant sa proie en l’eau représentée,
La quitta pour l’image, et pensa se noyer.
La rivière devint tout d’un coup agitée;
A toute peine il regagna les bords,
Et n’eut ni l’ombre ni le corps.