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Le Jardinier et son Seigneur
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The Gardener and His Lord

A lover of gardens and tillage,
In town and country sharing his year,
Was proud owner, in a certain village,
Of a garden and adjoining vineyard, quite without peer.
With live, flourishing hedge he’s enclosed this plot.
There grew sorrel aplenty, and likewise lettuce, a lot;
Flowers in profusion, to make Margot a birthday bouquet;
A bit of Spanish jasmine, much thyme in fine array.
But a hare, disturbing this blissful state,
Made our man gripe to the Lord of the place and ask for his aid.
"The damned beast comes and guzzles, soon and late:
At dusk and at dawn," he said. "Of traps he’s unafraid;
Sticks and stones are all powerless, a useless charade.
He’s a sorcerer, I believe." "A sorcerer? One that I defy,"
Answered the Lord. "Even were he a devil, Miraut,
Despite all his tricks, will soon bring him low.
I’ll rid you of him, good fellow, hope to die."
"And when?" "Why, tomorrow, for certain, with no sort of delay."
Agreement thus reached, he came with his party the next day:
"Well, now, let’s all have lunch! Those chickens tender I saw?
The daughter of the house! Here, let’s have a look.
How soon do we marry her off? When do we get us a son-in-law?
It’s time, good fellow, you realize, to open the pocketbook
And dig down for her dowry, that’s clear."
So saying, to make her acquaintance he drew her near,
By his side had her come and sit,
Took her hand, her arm, lifted her kerchief just a bit.
All nonsense that the little dear
Resisted with the utmost respect;
Till at last to the father all this became suspect.
Meanwhile in the kitchen, nibbling, poking about:
"How old are your hams? They do look tasty, not a doubt."
"Sir, they’re yours." "Really," said the Lord, "for my part
I accept them, and with all my heart."
He lunched very well, as did all his retinue then:
Dogs, horses, grooms, folks with lots of teeth set to chew.
He ordered the host about, took liberties as his due,
Drank his wine, fondled the girl again.
Huntsmen’s mess and clutter then succeeded the repast.
All made preparations, ran around.
Horns and trumpets made their racket, such a raucous sound,
The good fellow was left all aghast.
The very worst misfortune was the one that then befell
The poor garden. Flowerbeds and planted squares, adieu;
Chicory and leeks, farewell too;
To greens for soup goodbye as well.
Under a giant cabbage the hare had made its bed.
Quest on, they flushed it out; by way of a gap it fled.
No gap, a breach: a huge, awful wound, its edges frayed,
That in the poor hedge they’d made
By order of the Lord. For what could be worse
Than failure to leave through the garden on horse?
The poor fellow muttered, "So that’s how princes play!"
But they just let him babble on, and the dogs and the men
Did more damage in an hour’s time, there and then,
Than could be contrived in a century again
By all the hares the realm could purvey.

Princelings, end your own disputes and be glad.
To call on kings for help you would truly be mad.
In your wars you must never let them take a hand,
Nor ever invite them onto your land.



English translations reprinted from The Complete Fables of Jean de la Fontaine
by Norman B. Spector, with permission from the Northwestern University Press;
La Fontaine et La Cuisine, Chicago/Northern Illinois Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French
with the Assistance of the Multimedia Learning Center, Northwestern University