The wise, sometimes, as lobsters do,
To gain their ends back foremost go.
It is the rower’s art; and those
Commanders who mislead their foes,
Do often seem to aim their sight
Just where they don’t intend to smite.
My theme, so low, may yet apply
To one whose fame is very high,
Who finds it not the hardest matter
A hundred−headed league to scatter.
What he will do, what leave undone,
Are secrets with unbroken seals,
Till victory the truth reveals.
Whatever he would have unknown
Is sought in vain. Decrees of Fate
Forbid to check, at first, the course
Which sweeps at last the torrent force.
One Jove, as ancient fables state,
Exceeds a hundred gods in weight.
So Fate and Louis would seem able
The universe to draw,
Bound captive to their law.—
But come we to our fable.
A mother lobster did her daughter chide:
“For shame, my daughter! can’t you go ahead?”
“And how go you yourself?” the child replied;
“Can I be but by your example led?
Head foremost should I, singularly, wend,
While all my race pursue the other end.”
She spoke with sense: for better or for worse,
Example has a universal force.
To some it opens wisdom’s door,
But leads to folly many more.
Yet, as for backing to one’s aim,
When properly pursued
The art is doubtless good,
At least in grim Bellona’s game.
The Lobster and her Daughter by Jean de La Fontaine