For shame!—to feed on someone else’s grass?

From La Fontaine’s Fables (7.1). Since some of the delight of these comes from the illustrations I’ve included a few beneath the tale – one straight version by Grandville (illustrator of my childhood edition) followed by two of what I guess would be called applied references – by Bouzou from Charlie Hebdo at some point in the past decade and by Charles Gilbert-Martin about a little known corruption scandal from France in the late 1880s.

THE ANIMALS SICK OF THE PLAGUE
An evil that induces dread,
a scourge that Heaven in its wrath devised
that crimes on earth should not go unchastised,
the plague (would that its name were never said!),
which in a day makes rich the Stygian shore,
attacked the animals as if in war.
Not all were dying; none remained exempt.
They could not make the effort to obtain
the means to nourish and sustain
a life now fading, which no food could tempt.
Nor wolf nor fox would lie in wait to slay
the innocent and gentle prey.
In solitude lived every turtle-dove;
there was no joy because there was no love.
The lion called them to his council. ‘Friends,’
he said, ‘these woes that Heaven has permitted
are due, no doubt, to sins we have committed.
So let us sacrifice, to make amends,
the guiltiest among us. His reward,
perhaps, is that our health will be restored.
From history we learn that immolation
often occurs in such a situation.
So therefore let us all examine here
our consciences; and let us be severe.
Myself, in appetite, I’ve been a glutton:
I have consumed a large amount of mutton,
although, against myself, I knew
those sheep had not committed any crimes.
It’s also happened that I’ve had, at times,
the shepherd too.
I’ll be your sacrifice, then, if I must,
but each, I think, should do the same as I,
and say how he has sinned; for it is just
that he who bears the greatest guilt should die.’
The fox said: ‘Sir, you are too good a king,
Your Majesty; in all that you confess
you take your scruples to excess.
To eat a sheep, a slavish, stupid thing,
is that a sin? Of course not; sheep should feel
much honoured to be taken for your meal.
As for the shepherd, let it be observed
that he received no more than he deserved,
like all his kind, who baselessly declare
that they should rule, while we obey their laws.’
Thus spoke the fox, receiving much applause
from all the flatterers. They did not dare
to scrutinize too deeply any deed,
however bad, committed by some breed
such as the tiger or the bear,
or any of the greater powers there;
the creatures of the more pugnacious sort,
down to the mastiff dogs, were one and all
as pure as saints, they said around the court.
The donkey’s turn arrived. ‘I chanced to pass’,
he said, ‘an abbey meadow; I recall
that with my hunger, and the tender grass,
the opportunity, and, it may be,
some devil also tempting me,
I couldn’t help but take a little bite.
I must admit I didn’t have the right.’
His words at once provoked a hue and cry.
A wolf with claims to learning spoke, and said
this mangy, scurvy brute, from whom had spread
the dire disease, accursed beast, must die.
His peccadillo was, they all agreed,
a capital offence. For shame!—to feed
on someone else’s grass? A wicked deed:
only his death could make it good.
They made quite sure he understood.

At court, if you are weak, you’re in the wrong;
you’re always right, at court, if you are strong.


LES ANIMAUX MALADES DE LA PESTE
Un mal qui répand la terreur,
Mal que le Ciel en sa fureur
Inventa pour punir les crimes de la terre
La Peste (puisqu’il faut l’appeler par son nom)
Capable d’enrichir en un jour l’Achéron,
Faisait aux animaux la guerre.
Ils ne mouraient pas tous, mais tous étaient frappés :
On n’en voyait point d’occupés
A chercher le soutien d’une mourante vie ;
Nul mets n’excitait leur envie ;
Ni Loups ni Renards n’épiaient
La douce et l’innocente proie.
Les Tourterelles se fuyaient ;
Plus d’amour, partant plus de joie.
Le Lion tint conseil, et dit : Mes chers amis,
Je crois que le Ciel a permis
Pour nos péchés cette infortune ;
Que le plus coupable de nous
Se sacrifie aux traits du céleste courroux ;
Peut-être il obtiendra la guérison commune.
L’histoire nous apprend qu’en de tels accidents
On fait de pareils dévouements :
Ne nous flattons donc point ; voyons sans indulgence
L’état de notre conscience.
Pour moi, satisfaisant mes appétits gloutons
J’ai dévoré force moutons ;
Que m’avaient-ils fait ? Nulle offense:
Même il m’est arrivé quelquefois de manger
Le Berger.
Je me dévouerai donc, s’il le faut ; mais je pense
Qu’il est bon que chacun s’accuse ainsi que moi
Car on doit souhaiter selon toute justice
Que le plus coupable périsse.
Sire, dit le Renard, vous êtes trop bon Roi ;
Vos scrupules font voir trop de délicatesse ;
Et bien, manger moutons, canaille, sotte espèce.
Est-ce un péché ? Non non. Vous leur fîtes, Seigneur,
En les croquant beaucoup d’honneur;
Et quant au Berger, l’on peut dire
Qu’il était digne de tous maux,
Etant de ces gens-là qui sur les animaux
Se font un chimérique empire.
Ainsi dit le Renard, et flatteurs d’applaudir.
On n’osa trop approfondir
Du Tigre, ni de l’Ours, ni des autres puissances
Les moins pardonnables offenses.
Tous les gens querelleurs, jusqu’aux simples Mâtins,
Au dire de chacun, étaient de petits saints.
L’Âne vint à son tour, et dit : J’ai souvenance
Qu’en un pré de Moines passant,
La faim, l’occasion, l’herbe tendre, et je pense
Quelque diable aussi me poussant,
Je tondis de ce pré la largeur de ma langue.
Je n’en avais nul droit, puisqu’il faut parler net.
A ces mots on cria haro sur le Baudet.
Un Loup quelque peu clerc prouva par sa harangue
Qu’il fallait dévouer ce maudit Animal,
Ce pelé, ce galeux, d’où venait tout leur mal.
Sa peccadille fut jugée un cas pendable.
Manger l’herbe d’autrui ! quel crime abominable !
Rien que la mort n’était capable
D’expier son forfait : on le lui fit bien voir.
Selon que vous serez puissant ou misérable,
Les jugements de Cour vous rendront blanc ou noir.

Grandville
Bouzou
Charles Gilbert-Martin

And, because I was curious, the best summary of the scandal I can find – from the NYT archive. Aside from Le Figaro (a newspaper), I have no idea the people referenced with the sleeping animals in the top of the image.

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