Friday, August 17, 2007

Weekend verse

A fable as someone described it, is a fictitious story picturing a truth. Meant primarily for children, they often contain lessons that even adults can live or learn by... I had a lot of fun reading the translations of Jean de La Fontaine versified fables into English verse by Norman R. Shapiro and wanted to quote two of his poems here - the first one deals with flattery while the second is a ditty that could be applied to our current state of governance.

In the same vein as the axiom that 'if you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it', for some reason, we can never seem to learn important lessons that fables teach us even if they had been inculcated in us from our child-years.
Mr. Norman Shapiro relies a lot on rhyme rather than blank verse and in this case, it is both amusing as well as effective in delivering the message that was originally versified by La Fontaine.

The Fox And The Crow
Perched on a treetop, Master Crow
Was clutching in his bill a cheese,
When Master Fox, sniffing the fragrant breeze,
Came by and, more or less, addressed him so:
“Good day to you, Your Ravenhood!
How beautiful you are! How fine! How fair!
Ah! Truly, if your song could but compare
To all the rest, I’m sure you should
Be dubbed the rara avis of the wood!”
The crow beside himself with joy and pride,
Begins to caw. He opens wide
His gawking beak; lets go the cheese; it
Falls to the ground. The fox is there to seize it,
Saying: “You see? Be edified:
Flatterers thrive on fools’ credulity.
The lesson’s worth a cheese, don’t you agree?
The crow, shamefaced and flustered, swore –
Too late, however: “Nevermore!”

For some strange reason, I ran into images of King Lear getting the sweetness from his children after reading the above.

A Tell Tail
The snake has two extremities –
Her head and tail – and both of these
Are enemies of Man. On high,
The Fates view both with happy eye,
Content to see the harm they do,
Well, once upon a time, these two
Disputed over who, indeed,
Should lead.
Since time began it always was the head
That led;
And thus the tail discussed her case
Before the gods: “Must it be so?”

Governments that act likewise, likewise fail:
Tails can’t lead heads. And thereby hangs the tail.

For equally strange reasons, I had images of ‘Even Dick Don’t Know Dick’ at the end of reading the above. Hmmm.

Well, there is no better way to end this week other than with a piece of visual art.

Hinke Schreuders ‘Little Girls 2’, 2005, borduurgaren op katoen en vilt, 50.5 x 41 x 4.5 cm

No comments: