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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Cat, the Weasel, and the Young Rabbit

By Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)

Translation of Elizur Wright

JOHN RABBIT’S palace under ground

Was once by Goody Weasel found.

She, sly of heart, resolved to seize

The place, and did so at her ease.

She took possession while its lord

Was absent on the dewy sward,

Intent upon his usual sport,—

A courtier at Aurora’s court.

When he had browsed his fill of clover,

And cut his pranks all nicely over,

Home Johnny came to take his drowse,

All snug within his cellar-house.

The weasel’s nose he came to see,

Outsticking through the open door.

“Ye gods of hospitality!”

Exclaimed the creature, vexèd sore,

“Must I give up my father’s lodge?

Ho! Madam Weasel, please to budge,

Or, quicker than a weasel’s dodge,

I’ll call the rats to pay their grudge!”

The sharp-nosed lady made reply

That she was first to occupy.

“The cause of war was surely small—

A house where one could only crawl!

And though it were a vast domain,”

Said she, “I’d like to know what will

Could grant to John perpetual reign,—

The son of Peter or of Bill.—

More than to Paul, or even me.”

John Rabbit spoke—great lawyer he—

Of custom, usage, as the law,

Whereby the house, from sire to son,

As well as all its store of straw,

From Peter came at length to John.

Who could present a claim so good

As he, the first possessor, could?

“Now,” said the dame, “let’s drop dispute,

And go before Raminagrobis,

Who’ll judge not only in this suit,

But tell us truly whose the globe is.”

This person was a hermit cat,

A cat that played the hypocrite;

A saintly mouser, sleek and fat,

An arbiter of keenest wit.

John Rabbit in the judge concurred,

And off went both their case to broach

Before his Majesty, the furred.

Said Clapperclaw, “My kits, approach,

And put your noses to my ears:

I’m deaf, almost, by weight of years.”

And so they did, not fearing aught.

The good apostle Clapperclaw

Then laid on each a well-armed paw,

And both to an agreement brought,

By virtue of his tuskèd jaw.

This brings to mind the fate

Of little kings before the great.