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BATTLE BETWEEN THE RATS AND WEASELS. Jean de La Fontaine

BATTLE BETWEEN THE RATS AND WEASELS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

BATTLE BETWEEN THE RATS AND WEASELS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

The Weasel nation, like the Cats,
Are always fighting with the Rats;
And did the Rats not squeeze their way
Through doors so narrow, I must say,
The long-backed creatures would slip in,
And swallow all their kith and kin.
One certain year it did betide,
When Rats were greatly multiplied,
Their king, illustrious Ratapon,
His army to the field led on.
The Weasels, too, were soon arrayed,
And the old flag again displayed.
If Fame reported just and true,
Victory paused between the two;
Till fallows were enriched and red
With blood the rival armies shed;
But soon in every place
Misfortune met the Rattish race.
The rout was so complete, the foe
More dreadful grew at every blow;
And what avails brave Artapax,
Meridarpax, Psicarpax?
Who, covered both with dust and gore,
Drove back the Weasels thrice and more,
Till driven slowly from the plain,
E′en their great courage proved in vain!
′Twas Fate that ruled that dreadful hour:
Then each one ran who had the power;
Soldier and captain, jostling fled,
But all the princes were struck dead;
The private, nimble in his feet,
Unto his hole made snug retreat.
The noble, with his lofty plume,
Found that he had by no means room.
To strike with terror—yes, or whether
A mark of honour—rose the feather,
That led to much calamity,
As very soon the nobles see;
Neither in cranny, hole, or crack,
Was space found for the plumed pack.
In the meantime, the populace
Found access to each lurking-place,
So that the largest heap of slain
From the Rat noblemen is ta′en.

A nodding feather in the cap
Is oftentimes a great mishap;
A big and over-gilded coach
Will sometimes stop up an approach;
The smaller people, in most cases,
Escape by unregarded places:
Men soon are on great people′s traces.

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