Friday Fable. La Fontaine’s “THE THIEVES AND THE ASS.”*

Posted by jlubans on June 06, 2013

20130607-thieves & ass med.jpg
Caption: No less than the illustrious impressionist, Paul Cézanne! His “Thieves and the Ass” (I ladri e l'asino), 1869. Findable at Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Milano - Italy

“Two thieves, pursuing their profession,
Had of a donkey got possession,
Whereon a strife arose,
Which went from words to blows.
The question was, to sell, or not to sell;
But while our sturdy champions fought it well,
Another thief, who chanced to pass,
With ready wit rode off the ass.

This ass is, by interpretation,
Some province poor, or prostrate nation.
The thieves are princes this and that,
On spoils and plunder prone to fat,--
As those of Austria, Turkey, Hungary.
(Instead of two, I've quoted three--
Enough of such commodity.)
These powers engaged in war all,
Some fourth thief stops the quarrel,
According all to one key,
By riding off the donkey.”

One can think of political examples much like La Fontaine did. As I write this from Riga, Latvia - a Baltic country not long free of communist rule – the 1945 Yalta conference comes to mind.
And so it might go at work. In my realm of libraries, I did see struggles between the print and the digital partisans in the library that raised a more than casual interest in a third party. I refer to IT (Information Technology) departments that were looking to consolidate their empires. Some (like La Fontaine’s “third thief” riding off with the donkey) orchestrated mergers with libraries and the resultant mis-match resulted in a lose/lose for the print and the digital groups.
Many of the mergers backfired, with IT blaming the fuddy-duddy librarians and the librarians blaming ITs poor customer service culture. Whatever the cause, library users were not well served.

*Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New
, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882.

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