Based on Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare.
Translated from French by Elizur Wright
The Hare and the Tortoise
To win a race, the swiftness of a dart
"Say," said the tortoise, "what you will;
I dare you to the wager still."
'Twas done; the stakes were paid,
And near the goal tree laid?
Of what, is not a question for this place,
Nor who it was that judged the race.
Our hare had scarce five jumps to make,
Of such as he is wont to take,
When, starting just before their beaks
He leaves the hounds at leisure,
Thence till the kalends of the Greeks,
The sterile heath to measure.
Thus having time to browse and doze,
And list which way the zephyr blows,
He makes himself content to wait,
And let the tortoise go her gait
In solemn, senatorial state.
She starts; she moils on, modestly and lowly,
And with a prudent wisdom hastens slowly;
But he, meanwhile, the victory despises,
Thinks lightly of such prizes,
Believes it for his honour
To take late start and gain upon her.
So, feeding, sitting at his ease,
He meditates of what you please,
Till his antagonist he sees
Approach the goal; then starts,
Away like lightning darts:
But vainly does he run;
The race is by the tortoise won.
Cries she, "My senses do I lack?
What boots your boasted swiftness now?
You're beat! and yet, you must allow,
I bore my house upon my back."
The Hare and the Tortoise Definitions:
Summary: A tortoise, having pretty good sense of a hare's nature, challenges one to a race.
Comment: In Aesop's version, the tortoise challenges the hare as a result of the hare's taunting. In De La Fontaine's version, we assume simply that it's the tortoise's knowledge of the hare's nature that gives him his confidence.
Still, the essentials are the same in both stories. The slower creature's persistence wins out against ego and distractedness. Aesop's moral - Slow and steady wins the race - applies here as well.
More de la Fontaine fables.
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