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Accueil | Les fables | Le Lièvre et la Tortue
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Le Lièvre et la Tortue
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Le Lièvre et la Tortue

Rien ne sert de courir; il faut partir à point.
Le Lièvre et la Tortue en sont un témoignage.
"Gageons, dit celle-ci, que vous n’atteindrez point
Sitôt que moi ce but. — Sitôt? Êtes-vous sage?
Repartit l’animal léger:
Ma commère, il vous faut purger
Avec quatre grains d’ellébore.
— Sage ou non, je parie encore."
Ainsi fut fait; et de tous deux
On mit près du but les enjeux:
Savoir quoi, ce n’est pas l’affaire,
Ni de quel juge l’on convint.
Notre Lièvre n’avait que quatre pas à faire,
J’entends de ceux qu’il fait lorsque, prêt d’être atteint,
Il s’éloigne des chiens, les renvoie aux calendes,
Et leur fait arpenter les landes.
Ayant, dis-je, du temps de reste pour brouter,
Pour dormir, et pour écouter
D’où vient le vent, il laisse la Tortue
Aller son train de sénateur.

Elle part, elle l’évertue,
Elle se hâte avec lenteur.
Lui cependant méprise une telle victoire,
Tient la gageure à peu de gloire,
Croit qu’il y va de son honneur
De partir tard. Il broute, il se repose,
Il s’amuse à toute autre chose
Qu’à la gageure. À la fin, quand il vit
Que l’autre touchait presqu’au bout de la carrière,
Il partit comme un trait; mais les élans qu’il fit
Furent vains: la Tortue arriva la première.
"Eh bien! lui cria-t-elle, avais-je pas raison?
De quoi vous sert votre vitesse?
Moi, l’emporter! et que serait-ce
Si vous portiez une maison?"

The Hare and the Tortoise

Rushing is useless; one has to leave on time. To such
Truth witness is given by the Tortoise and the Hare.
"Let’s make a bet," the former once said, "that you won’t touch
That line as soon as I." "As soon? Are you all there,
Neighbor?" said the rapid beast.
"You need a purge: four grains at least
Of hellebore, you’re now so far gone."
"All there or not, the bet’s still on."
So it was done; the wagers of the two
Were placed at the finish, in view.
It doesn’t matter what was down at stake,
Nor who was the judge that they got.
Our Hare had, at most, four steps or so to take.
I mean the kind he takes when, on the verge of being caught,
He outruns dogs sent to the calends for their pains,
Making them run all over the plains.
Having, I say, time to spare, sleep, browse around,
Listen to where the wind was bound,
He let the Tortoise leave the starting place
In stately steps, wide-spaced.

Straining, she commenced the race:
Going slow was how she made haste.
He, meanwhile, thought such a win derogatory,
Judged the bet to be devoid of glory,
Believed his honor was all based
On leaving late. He browsed, lolled like a king,
Amused himself with everything
But the bet. When at last he took a look,
Saw that she’d almost arrived at the end of the course,
He shot off like a bolt. But all of the leaps he took
Were in vain; the Tortoise was first perforce.
"Well, now!" she cried out to him. "Was I wrong?
What good is all your speed to you?
The winner is me! And how would you do
If you also carried a house along?"

 

 


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