Friday Fable. LaFontaine’s “THE LION AND THE ASS HUNTING”*

Posted by jlubans on July 15, 2016

Caption: Illustration by W. Aractingy 1994

“The king of animals, with royal grace,
Would celebrate his birthday in the chase.
‘Twas not with bow and arrows,
To slay some wretched sparrows;
The lion hunts the wild boar of the wood,
The antlered deer and stags, the fat and good.
This time, the king, t’ insure success,
Took for his aide-de-camp an ass,
A creature of stentorian voice,
That felt much honour’d by the choice.
The lion hid him in a proper station,
And order’d him to bray, for his vocation,
Assured that his tempestuous cry
The boldest beasts would terrify,
And cause them from their lairs to fly.

And, sooth, the horrid noise the creature made
Did strike the tenants of the wood with dread;
And, as they headlong fled,
All fell within the lion’s ambuscade.
“Has not my service glorious
Made both of us victorious?”
Cried out the much-elated ass.
“Yes,” said the lion; “bravely bray’d!
Had I not known yourself and race,
I should have been myself afraid!”

The donkey, had he dared,
With anger would have flared
At this retort, though justly made;
For who could suffer boasts to pass
So ill-befitting to an ass?”

I’ve been known to do my share of “braying” - in the organization, not the forest. We were hunting for a different kind of game; ways to improve what we were doing, ways to eliminate the obstacles to necessary changes. And so, I got to play the silly ass by asking “dumb” questions and by not accepting the conventional wisdom that was throttling change for the better. Like the donkey’s braying, it was not always fully appreciated. While in my case the “king” understood, some of my colleagues did not. One, a beneficiary of my “braying” indeed turned on me and became a vocal critic; “once an ass always an ass” may have been her "ill-befitting" assessment.

*Source: From the second edition of A Hundred Fables of La Fontaine, illustrated by Percy Billinghurst 1900 ca. Un-named, the translator is Elizur Wright: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New Edition, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882. Available at Gutenberg

© Copyright John Lubans 2016

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