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AN ANIMAL IN THE MOON. Jean de La Fontaine

AN ANIMAL IN THE MOON. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

AN ANIMAL IN THE MOON. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

Some sages argue that all men are dupes,
And that their senses lead the fools in troops;
Other philosophers reverse this quite,
And prove that man is nearly always right.
Philosophy says true, senses mislead,
If we judge only by them without heed;
But if we mark the distance and reflect
On atmosphere and what it will effect,
The senses cheat none of us; Nature′s wise:
I′ll give an instance. With my naked eyes
I see the sun; how large is it, think you?
Three feet at farthest? It appears so, true!
But could I see it from a nearer sky,
′Twould seem of our vast universe the eye:
The distance shows its magnitude, you see;
My hand discovers angles easily.
Fools think the earth is flat; it′s round, I know;
Some think it motionless, it moves so slow.
Thus, in a word, my eyes have wisdom got,
The illusions of the senses cheat me not.
My soul, beneath appearances, sees deep;
My eye′s too quick, a watch on it I keep;
My ear, not slow to carry sounds, betrays;
When water seems to bend a stick ten ways,
My reason helps me out, and if my sight
Lies always, yet it never cheats me quite:
If I would trust my senses, very soon
They′d tell me of the woman in the moon.
What is there really?—No, mistrust your eyes,
For what you see are inequalities.
The surface of the moon has many regions,
Here spread the plains, there mountains rise in legions.

In light and shade strange figures you can trace—-
An elephant, an ox, a human face.
Not long ago, in England men perplexed,
Saw, in a telescope, what savants vexed,
A monster in this planet′s mirror fair;
Wild cries of horror filled the midnight air.
Some change was pending—some mysterious change,
Predicting wars, or a misfortune strange.
The monarch came, he favoured learned men;
The wondrous monster showed itself again:
It was a mouse between the glasses shut—
The source of war—the nibbler of a nut.
The people laughed—oh, nation blessed with ease,
When will the French have time for toils like these?
Mars brings us glory′s harvests; still the foe
Shrinks down before us, dreading every blow;
′Tis we who seek them, sure that victory,
Slave to our Louis, follows ceaselessly
His flag; his laurels render us renowned:
Yet memory has not left this mortal round.
We wish for peace—for peace alone we sigh;
Charles tastes the joys of rest: he would in war
Display his valour, and his flag bear far,
To reach the tranquil joy that now he shares.
Would he could end our quarrels and our cares!
What incense would be his, what endless fame!
Did not Augustus win a glorious name,
Equal to Cæsar′s in its majesty,
And worthy of like reverence, may be?
Oh, happy people, when will Peace come down,
To dower our nation with her olive-crown?

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