LE CHAT, LA BELETTE, ET LE PETIT
LAPIN - VII.16
THE CAT, THE WEASEL AND THE
RABBIT
Jean de la Fontainetrans. Gordon Pirie
Du palais d'un jeune lapin
Dame belette un beau matin
S’empara: c'est une rusée.
Le maître étant absent, ce lui fut chose aisée.
Elle porta chez lui ses pénates un jour
Qu’il était allé faire à l'Aurore sa cour
Parmi le thym et la rosée.



Après qu'il eut brouté, trotté, fait tous ses tours,
Janot Lapin retourne aux souterrains séjours.
La belette avait mis le nez à la fenêtre.
"O dieux hospitaliers, que vois-je ici paraître?"
Dit l’animal chassé du paternel logis.
O là! Madame la belette,
Que l'on déloge sans trompette,
Ou je vais avertir tous les rats du pays."
La dame au nez pointu répondit que la terre
Était au premier occupant.



C’était un beau sujet de guerre
Qu’un logis où lui-même il n'entrait qu'en rampant!
"Et quand ce serait un royaume,
Je voudrais bien savoir," dit-elle, "quelle loi
En a pour toujours fait l'octroi
À Jean, fils ou neveu de Pierre ou de Guillaume,
Plutôt qu'à Paul, plutôt qu'à moi."
Jean Lapin allégua la coutume et l'usage.
"Ce sont," dit-il, "leurs lois qui m'ont de ce logis
Rendu maître et seigneur, et qui, de père en fils,
L'ont de Pierre à Simon, puis à moi Jean transmis.
Le premier occupant, est-ce une loi plus sage?"



- "Or bien, sans crier davantage,
Rapportons-nous," dit-elle, "à Raminagrobis."
C'était un chat vivant comme un dévot ermite,
Un chat faisant la chattemite,
Un saint homme de chat, bien fourré, gros et gras,
Arbitre expert sur tous les cas.
Jean Lapin pour juge l'agrée.
Les voilà tous deux arrivés
Devant sa majesté fourrée.



Grippeminaud leur dit: "Mes enfants, approchez,
Approchez; je suis sourd; les ans en sont la cause."
L'un et l'autre approcha, ne craignant nulle chose.
Aussitôt qu'à portée il vit les contestants,
Grippeminaud le bon apôtre,
Jetant des deux côtés la griffe en même temps,
Mit les plaideurs d'accord en croquant l'un et l'autre.

Ceci ressemble fort aux débats qu'ont parfois
Les petits souverains se rapportant aux rois.
A rabbit's hole is no hotel,
And some would find it cramped and gloomy;
But a homeless weasel likes it well
Enough - to her it's dry, and roomy,
And given the chance, she'll take possession.
Now that was what my heroine
Had done upon the day in question.
She chose her time for moving in,
And did it early in the morning,
About the hour the day was dawning,
When most of us are still asleep.
But rabbits know better than to keep
Such sluggish and unnatural hours;
And Johnny - for that was his name -
Would have considered it a shame
To miss the taste of dew on flowers
Before the sun has dried it off;
So out he'd gone to break his fast -
To nibble grass, and quaff the dew,
And frisk about, as rabbits will.
But when an hour or two had passed,
Then home he scampered from the hill.
Dame Weasel happened to look out
Just then, and Johnny saw her plain.
Mother of God! Whose ugly snout
Was that against his window pane?
"Hey! Mistress Weasel, what the deuce
Do you think you're doing here? Clear out
This very minute, or I'll loose
The bailiff rats on you!" "Don't shout!"
Replied the dame with pointed nose,
And looked him boldly in the face;
"No need for us to come to blows
About this scruffy little place -
This house, if you can call it so,
Whose door's so low, I have to go
Down on my hands and knees and crawl!
And even if it weren't so small,
What sort of law, I'd like to know,
Grants it in perpetuity
To John, the son of Jim or Joe,
And not to Martin, or to me?"
John Rabbit cited precedent -
For that's the law that fits the case,
The only law that's relevant,
And makes me master of the place,
Transmitting it, father to son,
From Jonathan to James, from James
To Joseph, and thus to me, John!"

"Now don't you fob me off with names!"
Replied the dame, standing her ground.
"Let's put it to authority:
Let's go to master Grin-and-Grab-it."
(Who was this master G-and-G?
Well known in all the country round,
He was a cat of pious habit,
A cat as well-fed as they come,
With double chin and rounded tum,
Who had the highest reputation
For legal work and arbitration.)
John Rabbit having no objection,
The rivals put off their debate,
And went along in the direction
Of this great feline magistrate.

"My friends! come closer - that's the way!
Come close - no reason for alarm!"
The plaintiff hastened to obey,
And came up close, without a qualm.
Then learned master Grin-and-Grab-it,
With two quick movements of his paws,
Seized both the weasel and the rabbit,
And reconciled them in his jaws.

Trans. Copyright © Estate of Gordon Pirie 2002


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