A fly and ant, on a sunny bank,
Discussed the question of their rank.
“O Jupiter!” the former said,
“Can love of self so turn the head,
That one so mean and crawling,
And of so low a calling,
To boast equality shall dare
With me, the daughter of the air?
In palaces I am a guest,
And even at your glorious feast.
Whenever the people that adore you
May immolate for you a bullock,
I’m sure to taste the meat before you.
Meanwhile this starveling, in her hillock,
Is living on some bit of straw
Which she has laboured home to draw.
But tell me now, my little thing,
Do you camp ever on a king,
An emperor, or lady?
I do, and have full many a play-day
On fairest bosom of the fair,
And sport myself on her hair.
Come now, my hearty, rack your brain
To make a case about your grain.”
“Well, have you done?” replied the ant.
“You enter palaces, I grant,
And for it get right soundly cursed.
Of sacrifices, rich and fat,
Your taste, quite likely, is the first;—
Are they the better off for that?
You enter with the holy train;
So enters many a wretch profane.
On heads of kings and asses you may squat;
Deny your vaunting I will not;
But well such impudence, I know,
Provokes a sometimes fatal blow.
The name in which your vanity delights
Is owned as well by parasites,
And spies that die by ropes—as you soon will
By famine or by ague-chill,
When Phoebus goes to cheer
The other hemisphere,—
The very time to me most dear.
Not forced abroad to go
Through wind, and rain, and snow,
My summer’s work I then enjoy,
And happily my mind employ,
From care by care exempted.
By which this truth I leave to you,
That by two sorts of glory we are tempted,
The false one and the true.
Work waits, time flies; adieu:
This gabble does not fill
My granary or till.”
The Fly and the Ant – Jean de La Fontaine Fables in Book 4
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