De La Fontaine's Fables
The Grasshopper and The Ant




Based on Aesop's The Ant and the Grasshopper
(Aesop's moral: Be prepared!)

Translated from French by Elizur Wright

The Grasshopper and the Ant by Jean De La Fontaine

A Grasshopper gay
Sang the summer away,
And found herself poor
By the winter's first roar.

Of meat or of bread,
Not a morsel she had!
So a begging she went,
To her neighbour the ant,
For the loan of some wheat,
Which would serve her to eat,
Till the season came round.
'I will pay you,' she saith,
'On an animal's faith,
Double weight in the pound
Ere the harvest be bound.'
The ant is a friend
(And here she might mend)
Little given to lend.
'How spent you the summer?'
Quoth she, looking shame
At the borrowing dame.
'Night and day to each comer
I sang, if you please.'
'You sang! I'm at ease;
For 'tis plain at a glance,
Now, ma'am, you must dance.'

Clarifications: For the word comer, think visitor.

Summary: A hungry grasshopper comes to an ant, begging for food as winter approaches. The ant asks what the grasshopper did all summer while the ant was preparing for winter. The grasshopper admits with shame that she sang the summer away. The ant says, essentially, if you want food from me, you'll not only have to sing for it, you'll have to dance for it.

In other words, "Start humiliating yourself for my pleasure and I'll see if I have any food for you!"

from AESOP'S FABLES: A NEW TRANSLATION BY V.S. VERNON JONES. Illustration (cropped) by Arthur Rackham.

Comment: This is a considerably more modern and less dry telling than Aesop's. Instead of life and death being at stake, humiliation is!

The Grasshopper and the Ant: part of the Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine

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