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.

She was crying because she was not a wolf

The Wolf and the Dog From La Fontaine’s Fables (1.5). But Rousseau’s mention of this one in Emile is worth including first:

From the fable of the sleek dog and the starving wolf he learns a lesson of licence rather than the lesson of moderation which you profess to teach him. I shall never forget seeing a little girl weeping bitterly over this tale, which had been told her as a lesson in obedience. The poor child hated to be chained up; she felt the chain chafing her neck; she was crying because she was not a wolf.

Dans la fable du loup maigre et du chien gras, au lieu d’une leçon de modération qu’on prétend lui donner, il en prend une de licence. Je n’oublierai jamais d’avoir vu beaucoup pleurer une petite fille qu’on avait désolée avec cette fable, tout en lui prêchant toujours la docilité. On eut peine à savoir la cause de ses pleurs; on la sut enfin. La pauvre enfant s’ennuyait d’être à la chaîne, elle se sentait le cou pelé; elle pleurait de n ‘être pas loup.

THE WOLF AND THE DOG
A wolf was skin and bone; the dogs on guard
performed their duties well, and times were hard.
He chanced to meet a dog one day
who’d carelessly allowed himself to stray.
This dog was large, well-covered, trim,
and handsome; if Sir Wolf had had his way
he’d happily have torn him limb from limb;
but first there’d have to be a fight,
and since the mastiff, from the look of him,
was likely to defend himself with vigour,
the wolf decides it’s best to be polite,
approaches meekly, starts a conversation,
and compliments the dog; so fine a figure,
he says, deserves his admiration.
‘Fair Sir, the choice is yours,’ the dog responds;
‘you too could be well-fed like me. You should
abandon living in the wood;
your fellows there are paupers, vagabonds,
poor devils in a wretched state;
to starve to death will surely be their fate.
There nobody will serve you dinners free;
you get your food by violence and strife;
there’s no security. Come back with me;
you’ll have a much more comfortable life.’
‘What must I do, then?’ asked the wolf. ‘Not much,’
answered the dog; ‘just chase away
beggars and tramps who have a stick or crutch.
Upon the staff you fawn; the master you obey.
They give you in return a lot to eat:
all sorts of scraps, left-over meat,
with pigeon-bones and chicken-bones to chew.
They often stroke you and caress you too.’
The wolf reflects upon this life of ease,
and weeps to think it could be his to share.
They walk along together; then he sees,
around the other’s neck, a strip rubbed bare.
‘What’s that?’ he asks him. ‘Nothing.’ ‘What d’you mean,
it’s nothing?’ ‘Nothing much,’ the dog replied.
‘There’s something, all the same.’ ‘Perhaps you’ve seen
the mark my collar makes when I am tied.’
‘You’re tied?’ the wolf exclaimed. ‘You cannot go
wherever you might want?’ ‘Not always, no.
It’s not a thing I mind about.’
‘But I would mind; and so much so,’
the wolf said, ‘that I’ll do without
the meals you’re given. Eat your fill;
to make me want them at that price
no kind of treasure would suffice.’
With that, the wolf ran off; he’s running still.


LE LOUP ET LE CHIEN
Un Loup n’avait que les os et la peau ;
Tant les Chiens faisaient bonne garde.
Ce Loup rencontre un Dogue aussi puissant que beau,
Gras, poli, qui s’était fourvoyé par mégarde.
L’attaquer, le mettre en quartiers,
Sire Loup l’eût fait volontiers.
Mais il fallait livrer bataille
Et le Mâtin était de taille
A se défendre hardiment.
Le Loup donc l’aborde humblement,
Entre en propos, et lui fait compliment
Sur son embonpoint, qu’il admire.
Il ne tiendra qu’à vous, beau sire,
D’être aussi gras que moi, lui repartit le Chien.
Quittez les bois, vous ferez bien :
Vos pareils y sont misérables,
Cancres, haires, et pauvres diables,
Dont la condition est de mourir de faim.
Car quoi ? Rien d’assuré, point de franche lippée.
Tout à la pointe de l’épée.
Suivez-moi ; vous aurez un bien meilleur destin.
Le Loup reprit : Que me faudra-t-il faire ?
Presque rien, dit le Chien : donner la chasse aux gens
Portants bâtons, et mendiants;
Flatter ceux du logis, à son maître complaire ;
Moyennant quoi votre salaire
Sera force reliefs de toutes les façons:
Os de poulets, os de pigeons,
……..Sans parler de mainte caresse.
Le loup déjà se forge une félicité
Qui le fait pleurer de tendresse.
Chemin faisant il vit le col du Chien, pelé :
Qu’est-ce là ? lui dit-il. Rien. Quoi ? rien ? Peu de chose.
Mais encor ? Le collier dont je suis attaché
De ce que vous voyez est peut-être la cause.
Attaché ? dit le Loup : vous ne courez donc pas
Où vous voulez ? Pas toujours, mais qu’importe ?
Il importe si bien, que de tous vos repas
Je ne veux en aucune sorte,
Et ne voudrais pas même à ce prix un trésor.
Cela dit, maître Loup s’enfuit, et court encor.

Sir Wolf, here, won’t refuse to give his hide to cure you, as I live

A follow-up of sorts to The wolf, the fox, and the ailing lion – Jean de La Fontaine’s reworking (in an old-fashioned but serviceable translation from Gutenberg):

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox

A lion, old, and impotent with gout,
Would have some cure for age found out.
Impossibilities, on all occasions,
With kings, are rank abominations.
This king, from every species,–
For each abounds in every sort,–
Call’d to his aid the leeches.
They came in throngs to court,
From doctors of the highest fee
To nostrum-quacks without degree,–
Advised, prescribed, talk’d learnedly;
But with the rest
Came not Sir Cunning Fox, M.D.
Sir Wolf the royal couch attended,
And his suspicions there express’d.
Forthwith his majesty, offended,
Resolved Sir Cunning Fox should come,
And sent to smoke him from his home.
He came, was duly usher’d in,
And, knowing where Sir Wolf had been,
Said, ‘Sire, your royal ear
Has been abused, I fear,
By rumours false and insincere;
To wit, that I’ve been self-exempt
From coming here, through sheer contempt.
But, sire, I’ve been on pilgrimage,
By vow expressly made,
Your royal health to aid,
And, on my way, met doctors sage,
In skill the wonder of the age,
Whom carefully I did consult
About that great debility
Term’d in the books senility,
Of which you fear, with reason, the result.
You lack, they say, the vital heat,
By age extreme become effete.
Drawn from a living wolf, the hide
Should warm and smoking be applied.
The secret’s good, beyond a doubt,
For nature’s weak, and wearing out.
Sir Wolf, here, won’t refuse to give
His hide to cure you, as I live.’
The king was pleased with this advice.
Flay’d, jointed, served up in a trice,
Sir Wolf first wrapp’d the monarch up,
Then furnish’d him whereon to sup.
Beware, ye courtiers, lest ye gain,
By slander’s arts, less power than pain;
For in the world where ye are living,
A pardon no one thinks of giving.

Le Lion, le Loup, et le Renard

Un Lion décrépit, goutteux, n’en pouvant plus,
Voulait que l’on trouvât remède à la vieillesse :
Alléguer l’impossible aux Rois, c’est un abus.
Celui-ci parmi chaque espèce
Manda des Médecins ; il en est de tous arts :
Médecins au Lion viennent de toutes parts ;
De tous côtés lui vient des donneurs de recettes.
Dans les visites qui sont faites,
Le Renard se dispense, et se tient clos et coi.
Le Loup en fait sa cour, daube au coucher du Roi
Son camarade absent ; le Prince tout à l’heure
Veut qu’on aille enfumer Renard dans sa demeure,
Qu’on le fasse venir. Il vient, est présenté ;
Et, sachant que le Loup lui faisait cette affaire :
Je crains, Sire, dit-il, qu’un rapport peu sincère,
Ne m’ait à mépris imputé
D’avoir différé cet hommage ;
Mais j’étais en pèlerinage ;
Et m’acquittais d’un voeu fait pour votre santé.
Même j’ai vu dans mon voyage
Gens experts et savants ; leur ai dit la langueur
Dont votre Majesté craint à bon droit la suite.
Vous ne manquez que de chaleur :
Le long âge en vous l’a détruite :
D’un Loup écorché vif appliquez-vous la peau
Toute chaude et toute fumante ;
Le secret sans doute en est beau
Pour la nature défaillante.
Messire Loup vous servira,
S’il vous plaît, de robe de chambre.
Le Roi goûte cet avis-là :
On écorche, on taille, on démembre
Messire Loup. Le Monarque en soupa,
Et de sa peau s’enveloppa ;
Messieurs les courtisans, cessez de vous détruire :
Faites si vous pouvez votre cour sans vous nuire.
Le mal se rend chez vous au quadruple du bien.
Les daubeurs ont leur tour d’une ou d’autre manière :
Vous êtes dans une carrière
Où l’on ne se pardonne rien.

Is there no hope? Alas! –then bring the jowl

From Alexander Pope’s An Epistle to Cobham, 234-239 in the Twickenham edition:

A salmon’s belly, Helluo, was thy fate:
The doctor call’d, declares all help too late.
Mercy! cries Helluo, mercy on my soul!
Is there no hope? Alas! –then bring the jowl.

Helluo is a very rare Latin word for glutton. The image, whatever the possible contemporary target, has a real background source in a tale from Athenaeus (8.341) of a little known poet named Philoxenus:

The comic poet Macho (64–86 Gow) writes the following about the dithyrambic poet Philoxenus of Cythera:

They say that the dithyrambic poet
Philoxenus was an extraordinary
glutton. So once when he was in Syracuse,
he bought an octopus that was three feet long,
and prepared it and ate almost the entire thing
except for the head. He got a stomach-ache
and was in terrible shape. A doctor
came to visit him, saw that he was doing
very badly, and said: “If you’ve got
any business that needs to be taken care of, do it
right away,
Philoxenus; because you’ll be dead by mid-afternoon.”
He responded: “My affairs are all in order,
doctor,” he said, “and have been settled for a while
now.
With the gods’ help, the dithyrambs I’m leaving
behind
have all grown up and been awarded garlands,
and I’m entrusting them to the care of the Muses I
grew
up with. That Aphrodite and Dionysus are my
executors,
my will makes clear. But since
Timotheus’ Charon, the one from his Niobe,
is not allowing me to linger, but is shouting for me to
proceed to the ferry,
and my night-dark fate, which I must heed, is
calling—
so that I can run off to the Underworld with
everything that’s mine:
give me the rest of that octopus!”


Bateson, the editor, believes that Pope more likely got his inspiration from John Hales’ Golden Remains:

When Philoxenus the Epicure had fallen desperately sick upon glutting himself on a delicate and costly fish, perceiving he was to die, he calls for the remainder of his fish, and eats it up, and dies a true Martyr to his belly.”

He also – with some qualifying skepticism – offers La Fontaine’s Le Glouton as another possibility. That one feels closer to Pope’s choppy rhythm to me but either way here’s my hasty translation:

À son souper un glouton
Commande que l’on appreste
Pour luy seul un Esturgeon.
Sans en laisser que la teste,
Il soupe ; il creve, on y court :
On luy donne maints clisteres.
On luy dit, pour faire court,
Qu’il mette ordre à ses affaires.
Mes amis, dit le goulu,
M’y voila tout resolu ;
Et puis qu’il faut que le meure,
Sans faire tant de façon,
Qu’on m’apporte tout à l’heure
Le reste de mon poisson.

At his dinner a glutton
orders that there be readied
for himself alone a sturgeon.
Leaving aside only the head,
he dines; Now he’s bursting, help comes running:
They give him several enemas.
They tell him – to cut it short –
That he should put his affairs in order.
My friends, says the glutton,
I’m ready, fully resolute;
And since I must die
don’t make a deal of it
but have someone bring right away
the rest of my fish.