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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Oak and the Reed
By Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)
 
Translation of George McLean Harper

THE OAK one day said to the Reed:—
“You have good cause to rail at partial fate.
You groan beneath a hedge-wren’s trifling weight;
    A puff of air, a breath indeed,
  Which softly wrinkles the water’s face,        5
  Makes you sink down in piteous case;
Whereas my brow, like Alp or Apennine,
Reflects the sunset’s radiance divine,
        And braves the tempest’s hate.
What I call zephyrs seem north winds to you.        10
Moreover, in my shelter if you grew,
  Under the leaves I generously scatter,
      My patronage you would not rue,
  When storms do blow and rains do batter.
      But you spring up on the frontier        15
Bordering the showery kingdoms of the wind.
Against you unjust nature sure has sinned.”
 
“Your pity,” quoth the bulrush in reply,
  “Comes from a noble heart. But have no fear:
To dread the winds you have more cause than I,        20
Who bend, but break not. Many a year and age
        To their terrific rage
        You’ve turned a stalwart back;
But not yet is the end.” Scarce had he spoke
    When from the north, with flying rack,        25
Hurried the wildest storm that ever broke
        From winter’s icy fields.
    The tree stands firm, the bulrush yields.
    The wind with fury takes fresh head,
      And casts the monarch roots on high,        30
  Whose lofty brow was neighbor to the sky
And whose feet touched the empire of the dead.
 
 
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