To win a race, the swiftness of a dart Availeth not without a timely start. The hare and tortoise are my witnesses. Said tortoise to the swiftest thing that is, "I'll bet that you'll not reach, so soon as I The tree on yonder hill we spy." "So soon! Why, madam, are you frantic?" Replied the creature, with an antic; "Pray take, your senses to restore, A grain or two of hellebore."
"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:
availeth not: isn't useful
hellebore: a plant that can cause hallucinations
till the kalends of the Greeks: until the first of the month
zephyr: a slight breeze
Summary: A tortoise, having pretty good sense of a hare's nature, challenges one to a race.
Comment: In Aesop's version, the race is the hare's idea; the tortoise merely accepts the challenge. In De La Fontaine, it's actually the tortoise's idea.
The race also seems considerably shorter in De La Fontaine. 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.