LA CIGALE ET LA FOURMI THE CICADA AND THE ANT
Jean de la Fontaine trans. Harry Guest


La cigale, ayant chanté
.............Tout l'été,
trouva fort dépourvue
Quand la bise fut venue.
Pas un seul petit morceau
De mouche ou de vermisseau.
Elle alla crier famine
Chez la fourmi sa voisine,
La priant de lui prêter
Quelque grain pour subsister
Jusqu'à la saison nouvelle.
"Je vous paierai," lui dit-elle,
"avant l'août, foi d'animal,
Intérêt et principal."
La fourmi n'est pas prêteuse;
C'est là son moindre défaut.
"Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud?"
Dit-elle à cette emprunteuse.
- "Nuit et jour à tout venant
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise."
- "Vous chantiez? j'en suis fort aise.
Eh bien! dansez maintenant."


Cicada having sung in tune
.............since June
Found that her store of food was low
When winter winds began to blow -
No morsel left of worm or fly
to keep an insect blithe and spry.
She called on Neighbour Ant to say
Starvation was not far away
Imploring her to lend some grain
To keep her going till the spring
Brought warmer weather once again.
"And cross my heart," she said, "I'll bring
You back by August all you've lent
With interest at five per cent."
Now Ant's no lender - it's the first
Of all her faults though not the worst.
She asked this borrower that she'd done
During those months of summer sun.
"Both night and day I lost no chance
Of singing to all passers-by."
"You sang? How nice to hear that! I
Suggest it's time you learned to dance."

Click here 3 for another translation of this poem.

Trans. Copyright © Harry Guest 2002 - from "A Puzzling Harvest", Anvil Press.


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