Charles VIRION (1865-1946)
Les animaux malades de la peste (Animals seized with the plague)
Circular patinated bronze medal, signed.
Diameter: 5,7 cm (2-1/4 in.)
Jean de LA FONTAINE (1621-1695)
Animals seized with the plague
An evil that spreads terror round,
An evil heaven in fury found,
To scourge the crimes of nations lost to shame ;
The plague—since we must call it by its name,
That in a day can glut the throat of hell,
Made war on animals, and sick they fell.
All did not die, but all were struck with death,
And no one cared to hold the parting breath.
Careless, and ready to expire,
No dish excited their desire ;
The wolf and fox no longer stray,
To seize the mild and harmless prey ;
The turtles fled each other, coy.;
No more love was then, nor joy.
"Dear friends," the lion, holding council, cries,
" This scourge, I fear, must from our crimes arise ;
Let then the blackest of us all in vice
Self-offered, straight to heavenly vengeance fall,
Which may bring health again to all.
We learn from history, some nobly great,
Thus freely died to save a falling state :
Then let us all, without disguise, begin
To view the state our consciences are in.
To satisfy my gluttony, I own
Many a sheep I've gobbled down :
They, weak and harmless, never injured me ;
Nay, I have ate sometimes—in murder deeper—
Their honest keeper.
If need, I'll therefore now the victim be ;
But let me say that all, as well as I,
Should spread their crimes before the councils eye,
Because the guiltiest only ought to die."
" Sire," cried the fox, " you are too good a king,
Your doubts from too much delicacy spring.
Eating mere mutton, worthless silly sheep,
Is that a sin ? Should that disturb your sleep ?
Far from your majesty these humble tones ;
You did them honour when you cracked their bones.
As to the shepherd, were he here, I'd tell him
He well deserved the evil that befell him ;
As one of those who hold a fancied sway
Over the beasts that are a common prey."
Thus spoke the fox, while flattering peers stood round.
They did not therefore dare to sound
The lesser crimes of chiefs assembled there,
Such as the tiger, wolf, and bear ;
The wrangling race, to curs of common kind,
All passed for saints, as each explained his mind.
The ass came in his turn, and thus did say :
" I have some slight remembrance, that one day,
Passing some meadows that to monks belong,
Hunger was urgent, and the grass was new,
Pushed on, I fancy, by some demon too,
I cropped therein the bigness of my tongue ;
Since I must speak, I own that I was wrong."
" Stop thief ! " they cried, and all the ass impeach.
A lawyer-sort of wolf proved by a speech
That they that cursed animal must kill,
A scabbed wretch, the cause of all their ill.
What dreadful crime ! eat other people's grass !
So for a hanging case they made it pass ;
Nothing but death could for the deed atone,
Which to the ass was quickly shown.
According as you're feeble, or have might,
High courts condemn you to be black or white.