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The Well Read Poem

Apr 11, 2022

In this eighth season of The Well Read Poem, we are reading six poems about birds. Since antiquity, birds have supplied rich material to poets, being by turns regal, charming, absurd, delicate, dangerous, and philosophical creatures. This season is dedicated to the animal lovers in our audience, particularly to Emily Raible who suggested the subject in the first place. Today's poem is "Le Corbeau et le Renard (The Crow and the Fox)" by Jean de la Fontaine, translated from the French by Norman Spector. Poem begins at timestamp 7:08.

"Le Corbeau et le Renard (The Crow and the Fox)"

by Jean de la Fontaine (trans. by Norman Spector)

At the top of a tree perched Master Crow;
In his beak he was holding a cheese.
Drawn by the smell, Master Fox spoke, below.
The words, more or less, were these:
"Hey, now, Sir Crow! Good day, good day!
How very handsome you do look, how grandly distingué!
No lie, if those songs you sing
Match the plumage of your wing,
You’re the phoenix of these woods, our choice."
Hearing this, the Crow was all rapture and wonder.
To show off his handsome voice,
He opened beak wide and let go of his plunder.
The Fox snapped it up and then said, "My Good Sir,
Learn that each flatterer
Lives at the cost of those who heed.
This lesson is well worth the cheese, indeed."
The Crow, ashamed and sick,
Swore, a bit late, not to fall again for that trick.