Jean de La Fontaine

July 8, 1621 - April 13, 1695


To Monseigneur The Dauphin

by Jean de La Fontaine

I sing the heroes of old Aesop's line,
Whose tale, though false when strictly we define,
Containeth truths it were not ill to teach.
With me all natures use the gift of speech;
Yea, in my work, the very fishes preach,
And to our human selves their sermons suit.
'T is thus, to come at man, I use the brute.

Son of a Prince the favourite of the skies,
On whom the world entire hath fixed its eyes,
A louder voice than mine must tell in song
What virtues to thy kingly line belong.
I seek thine ear to gain by lighter themes,
Slight pictures, decked in magic nature's beams;
And if to please thee shall not be my pride,
I'll gain at least the praise of having tried.
Who hence shall count his conquests by his days,
And gather from the proudest lips his praise.

This dedication prefaced La Fontaine's first collection of his Fables, which comprised Books I to VI., published in 1668. The Dauphin was Louis, the only son of Louis XIV. and Marie-Therese of Austria. He was born at Fontainebleau in 166I, and died at Meudon in I712, before his father, the Grand Monarque, had ceased to reign. The Dauphin being but a child between six and seven years old at the time of this dedication, La Fontaine's act may be viewed rather as an offering to the king, than to the child himself. See the Translator's Preface.


The Fables of La Fontaine
Copyright 1881
Translator: Elizur Wright, Jr.
H. M. Caldwell Co., Publishers
New York and Boston