Friday Fable: LaFontaine’s “THE FOX AND THE GRAPES”*

Posted by jlubans on July 11, 2013

Caption: Linocut by Christopher Brown for the Fox & Grapes pub on Wimbledon Common, 2011.

"A fox, almost with hunger dying,
Some grapes upon a trellis spying,
To all appearance ripe, clad in
Their tempting russet skin,
Most gladly would have eat them;
But since he could not get them,
So far above his reach the vine--
'They're sour,' he said; 'such grapes as these,
The dogs may eat them if they please!'

Did he not better than to whine?"

As Aesop well knew, and LaFontaine put to verse, it’s highly human to grouse about something we desire but cannot attain. But, sometimes, the appearance of “sour grapes” can prevent a wronged individual from making a complaint. A good friend was passed over for a University Librarian job in favor of an Internal Candidate. The Internal sat in on all the UL interviews and heard all the questions and answers, thereby gaining an unethical advantage, not to mention inhibiting staff candour about what needed fixing. Still, the Internal did not do all that well in his interview and it took a last ditch effort by the Internal’s strongest advocate for him to get the job. I am convinced my friend would have done a better job – he had already proven himself to be a builder, a person who would improve the role and budgetary standing of the library, and someone with a strong ethical understanding about leadership. I thought he had a case for a discrimination action. He considered it but chose not to pursue the matter; it’d have looked like “sour grapes.” My friend continued his successful career elsewhere and the Internal did a ho-hum job, as expected. That university and library staff lost out on someone who would have changed a good, albeit constipated, library into an outstanding one.

*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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