The Battle of the Rats and Weasels

La Fontaine January 17, 2015
2 min read
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    The weasels live, no more than cats,
    On terms of friendship with the rats;
    And, were it not that these
    Through doors contrive to squeeze
    Too narrow for their foes,
    The animals long-snouted
    Would long ago have routed,
    And from the planet scouted
    Their race, as I suppose.
    One year it did betide,
    When they were multiplied,
    An army took the field
    Of rats, with spear and shield,
    Whose crowded ranks led on
    A king named Ratapon.
    The weasels, too, their banner
    Unfurl’d in warlike manner.
    As Fame her trumpet sounds,
    The victory balanced well;
    Enrich’d were fallow grounds
    Where slaughter’d legions fell;
    But by said trollop’s tattle,
    The loss of life in battle
    Thinn’d most the rattish race
    In almost every place;
    And finally their rout
    Was total, spite of stout
    Artarpax and Psicarpax,
    And valiant Meridarpax,
    Who, cover’d o’er with dust,
    Long time sustain’d their host
    Down sinking on the plain.
    Their efforts were in vain;
    Fate ruled that final hour,
    (Inexorable power!)
    And so the captains fled
    As well as those they led;
    The princes perish’d all.
    The undistinguish’d small
    In certain holes found shelter;
    In crowding, helter-skelter;
    But the nobility
    Could not go in so free,
    Who proudly had assumed
    Each one a helmet plumed;
    We know not, truly, whether
    For honour’s sake the feather,
    Or foes to strike with terror;
    But, truly, ’twas their error.
    Nor hole, nor crack, nor crevice
    Will let their head-gear in;
    While meaner rats in bevies
    An easy passage win;—
    So that the shafts of fate
    Do chiefly hit the great.
    A feather in the cap
    Is oft a great mishap.
    An equipage too grand
    Comes often to a stand
    Within a narrow place.
    The small, whate’er the case,
    With ease slip through a strait,
    Where larger folks must wait.

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