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Jean de la Fontaine

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OiseauLe Chêne et le Roseau Oiseau

Le chêne un jour dit au roseau :
« Vous avez bien sujet d’accuser la nature :
Un roitelet pour vous est un pesant fardeau ;
Le moindre vent qui d’aventure
Fait rider la face de l’eau,
Vous oblige à baisser la tête ;
Cependant que mon front, au Caucase pareil,
Non content d’arrêter les rayons du soleil,
Brave l’effort de la tempête.
Tout vous est aquilon, tout me semble zéphir.
Encor si vous naissiez à l’abri du feuillage
Dont je couvre le voisinage,
Vous n’auriez pas tant à souffrir :
Je vous défendrais de l’orage ;
Mais vous naissez le plus souvent
Sur les humides bords des royaumes du vent.
La nature envers vous me semble bien injuste.
- Votre compassion, lui répondit l’arbuste,
Part d’un bon naturel ; mais quittez ce souci ;
Les vents me sont moins qu’à vous redoutables ;
Je plie, et ne romps pas. Vous avez jusqu’ici
Contre leurs coups épouvantables
Résisté sans courber le dos ;
Mais attendons la fin. » Comme il disait ces mots,
Du bout de l’horizon accourt avec furie.
Le plus terrible des enfants
Que le Nord eût portés jusque-là dans ses flancs.
L’arbre tient bon ; le roseau plie.
Le vent redouble ses efforts,
Et fait si bien qu’il déracine
Celui de qui la tête au ciel était voisine,
Et dont les pieds touchaient à l’empire des morts.

Birdie

The Oak and the Reed
Christiane's Translation © 1999

One day the oak said to the reed:
“You have good reasons to accuse Mother Nature
Even a little wren is for you a burden;
And the lightest wind that by chance
Wrinkles the surface of the stream
Forces you to bend your fragile head,
While I, standing high as a Caucasus Mountain,
Not only happy to block the brightest sunbeams,
I also brave the wildest storms.
What is Aquilon
If at least you were born under my green foliage
That covers the whole neighbourhood,
For sure, you would suffer much less:
I would protect you from the squalls
But most of the time, you are born
On the humid borders of the fierce wind’s kingdoms.
Mother Nature is truly unfair toward you.
- Your compassion, replied the shrub
Springs from a good heart; but have no fear about me:
The winds are less dangerous to me than to you;
I bend but do not break. You have until this time,
Valiantly resisted against their dreadful blows
Without even bending your back;
But let us wait the end.” And as he said these words,
Far from the horizon speeding in great fury
Appears the most fearful offspring
That the Great North had ever borne within his flanks.
The tree stands firm and the reed bends.
The wind redoubles his efforts,
And he does it so well that he deracinates
The one who for so long touched heaven with his head
And who with his feet reached the empire of the dead.

Oiseaux
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