Lupus et Agnus
Ad rivum eundem lupus et agnus venerant,
siti compulsi. Superior stabat lupus,
longeque inferior agnus. Tunc fauce improba
latro incitatus iurgii causam intulit;
'Cur' inquit 'turbulentam fecisti mihi 5
aquam bibenti?' Laniger contra timens
'Qui possum, quaeso, facere quod quereris, lupe?
A te decurrit ad meos haustus liquor'.
Repulsus ille veritatis viribus
'Ante hos sex menses male' ait 'dixisti mihi'. 10
Respondit agnus 'Equidem natus non eram'.
'Pater hercle tuus' ille inquit 'male dixit mihi';
atque ita correptum lacerat iniusta nece.
Haec propter illos scripta est homines fabula
qui fictis causis innocentes opprimunt. 15
The Wolf and the Lamb, By Jean de La Fontaine
Translation by Eli Siegel
The reason of those best able to have their way is always the best:
We now show how this is true.
A lamb was quenching its thirst
In the water of a pure stream.
A fasting wolf came by, looking for something;
He was attracted by hunger to this place.
—What makes you so bold as to meddle with my drinking?
Said this animal, very angry.
You will be punished for your boldness.
—Sir, answered the lamb, let Your Majesty
Not put himself into a rage;
But rather, let him consider
That I am taking a drink of water
In the stream
More than twenty steps below him;
And that, consequently, in no way,
Am I troubling his supply.
—You do trouble it, answered the cruel beast.
And I know you said bad things of me last year.
—How could I do that when I wasn't born,
Answered the lamb; I am still at my mother's breast.
—If it wasn't you, then it was your brother.
—I haven't a brother.—It was then someone close to you;
For you have no sympathy for me,
You, your shepherds and your dogs.
I have been told of this.I have to make things even.
Saying this, into the woods
The wolf carries the lamb, and then eats him
Without any other why or wherefore.
The Wolf and the Lamb, By Jean de La Fontaine. 1949. Jean de La Fontaine's The Wolf and the Lamb is
one of the cruellest instances of literature. The poem or fable is doubly cruel, for while it tells of an
unjust occurrence, it also intimates that there is a way or trend in the human mind undeviatingly unkind.
La Fontaine tells us that between having one's way and being just, having one's way is more powerful. It
has been so, ever so many times. The most dangerous and ugly possibility inherent in the individual as
individual is that the desire to have one's way seems strong, while justice seems flat and interrupting.
The wolf wants the lamb and the want itself is justice. This is the way we are. If a want increases, just
because it does, the want may seem the more just, well placed, accurate, right. The unconscious
tendency or likelihood of making our want the same as universal justice is the ugliest adjunct of the
heart of man. It is so easy to find an inclination interesting and necessary; and it is so hard to see and
care for what is proportionate, equitable, ethical—it is no wonder persons are angry with others and can
see themselves with confusion, dimness, scorn, uneasiness, loathing, displeasure. Our desire may seem
so powerful, beckoning; and later so unhandsome. Were the life of La Fontaine's wolf pursued in a
novel, with the wolf, of course, endowed with the self-objecting-to system man has, we should see the
wolf undergoing the doubts of a Julien Sorel or a Raskolnikov. We have the tendencies of the wolf of the
fable, but also the uncertainty this particular wolf has not been able to manifest, or permitted to
1. Scan the poem.
2. Identify the participles and the words they modify.
3. In line 7, what is the use of the infinitive facere?
4. In line 7, what form of lupus is lupe?
5. In line 8, what is the number, case and gender of haustus?
6. In line 14, in what case is homines? What is the use of this case in this instance?
a. Iniusta nex
b. Ille homo
2. Compound verbs: pello, ferro, curro
5. Personal pronouns