Jean de La Fontaine

I of animals make choice that men may get instruction from their voice.

Jean de La Fontaine (July 8 1621April 13 1695) is the most famous French fabulist and probably the most widely read French poet of the 17th century.

SourcedEdit

History some truths contains, which well may serve for lessons.
  • People must help one another; it is nature's law.
    • "L'Ane et le Chien", as quoted in On a Darkling Plain (1995) by Richard Lee Byers, p. 94.
  • Everyone calls himself a friend, but only a fool relies on it; nothing is commoner than the name, nothing rarer than the thing.
    • "Parole de Socrate", as quoted in The Wordsworth Book of Humorous Quotations (1998), edited by C. Robertson
  • Everyone believes very easily whatever they fear or desire.
    • As quoted in Subcontact : Slap the Face of Fear and Wake Up Your Subconscious‎ (2001) by Dian Benson, p. 149
    • Variant: Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.
  • To live lightheartedly but not recklessly; to be gay without being boisterous; to be courageous without being bold; to show trust and cheerful resignation without fatalism — this is the art of living.
    • As quoted in From Grandmother with Love (2005) by Becky Kelly and Patrick Regan, p. 53.

Fables (1668–1679)Edit

  • L'histoire, encore que mensongère,
    Contient des vérités qui servent de leçons.
    Tout parle en mon ouvrage, et même les poissons.
    Ce qu'ils disent s'adresse à tout tant que nous sommes;
    Je me sers d'animaux pour instruire les hommes.
    • History some truths contains, which well may serve
      For lessons.
      In my work you will observe
      Ev'ry thing speaks — yea e'en the very fish —
      And what they say, to ev'ry man a dish
      Serves up; and I of animals make choice
      That men may get instruction from their voice.
    • Book I (1668), Dedication "To Monseigneur the Dauphin".


  • Je vais t'entretenir de moindres aventures,
    Te tracer en ces vers de légères peintures;
    Et si de t'agréer je n'emporte le prix,
    J'aurai du moins d'honneur de l'avoir entrepris.
    • For thee I'll trace in verses which I write
      Some sketches, paintings which indeed are light,
      And if the prize of pleasing thee I do not bear away,
      At least, the honour I shall have of having tried I say.
    • Book I (1668), Dedication "To Monseigneur the Dauphin".


  • La fourmi n'est pas prêteuse;
    C'est là son moindre défaut.
    • The ant is no lender; that is the least of her faults.
    • Book I (1668), fable 1.


  • Apprenez que tout flatteur
    Vit aux dépens de celui qui l'écoute.
    • Be advised that all flatterers live at the expense of those who listen to them.
    • Book I (1668), fable 2. Variant translations: Learn now that every flatterer lives at the cost of those who give him credit.
      In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future — Do not trust flatterers.
      Every flatterer lives at the expense of him who listens to him.


The opinion of the strongest is always the best.
  • Nous n'écoutons d'instincts que ceux qui sont les nôtres,
    Et ne croyons le mal que quand il est venu.
    • 'Tis thus we heed no instincts but our own;
      Believe no evil till the evil's done.
    • Book I (1668), fable 8.


  • La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure.
    • The opinion of the strongest is always the best.
    • Variant: The argument of the strongest is always the best.
    • Book I (1668), fable 10 (The Wolf and the Lamb).


  • Plutôt souffrir que mourir,
    C'est la devise des hommes.
    • Better to suffer than to die: that is mankind's motto.
    • Variant: Rather suffer than die is man's motto.
    • Book I (1668), fable 16.


  • A l'oeuvre on connaît l'artisan.
    • By the work one knows the workman.
    • Book I (1668), fable 21 (The Hornets And The Bees)
    • Variant: The artist by his work is known.


  • Je plie, et ne romps pas.
    • I bend but do not break.
    • Book I (1668), fable 22.


  • Les délicats sont malheureux:
    Rien ne saurait les satisfaire.
    • The fastidious are unfortunate; nothing satisfies them.
    • Book II (1668), fable 1.


Patience and time do more than strength or passion.
  • Il faut, autant qu'on peut, obliger tout le monde:
    On a souvent besoin d'un plus petit que soi.
    • One should oblige everyone to the extent of one's ability. One often needs someone smaller than oneself.
    • Variant: One often has need of one inferior to himself.
    • Book II (1668), fable 11.


  • Patience et longueur de temps
    Font plus que force ni que rage.
    • Patience and time do more than strength or passion.
    • Book II (1668), fable 11.


  • C'est double plaisir de tromper le trompeur.
    • It is a double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
    • Book II (1668), fable 15 (The Cock and the Fox).
    • Variant: It is twice the pleasure to deceive the deceiver.


  • [On] est bien fou de cerveau
    Qui prétend contenter tout le monde et son père.
    • It is impossible to please all the world and one's father.
    • Book III (1668), fable 1.


  • En toute chose il faut considérer la fin.
    • In everything one must consider the end.
    • Book III (1668), fable 5 (The Fox and the Gnat).


  • Amour est un étrange maître!
    Heureux qui peut ne le connaître
    Que par récit, lui ni ses coups!
    • Love is a cruel conqueror.
      Happy is he who knows him through stories
      And not by his blows!
    • Book IV (1668), fable 1 (Le lion amoureux).


  • There is nothing useless to men of sense: clever people turn everything to account.
    • Book V (1668), fable 2.


Dressed in the lion's skin, the ass spread terror far and wide.
  • Il ne faut jamais
    Vendre la peau de l'ours qu'on ne l'ait mis par terre.
    • Never sell the bear's skin before one has killed the beast.
    • Book V (1668), fable 20.


  • De la peau du lion l'âne s'étant vêtu,
    Était craint partout à la ronde.
    • Dressed in the lion's skin, the ass spread terror far and wide.
    • Book V (1668), fable 21.


Beware, as long as you live, of judging people by appearances.
  • Garde-toi, tant que tu vivras,
    De juger les gens sur la mine.
    • Beware, as long as you live, of judging people by appearances.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 5.


  • Rien ne sert de courir; il faut partir à point.
    • To win a race, the swiftness of a dart availeth not without a timely start.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 10.


  • Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera.
    • Help thyself and Heaven will help thee.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 17.


  • Sur les ailes du Temps la tristesse s'envole.
    • On the wings of Time grief flies away.
    • Variant: Sadness flies away on the wings of time.
    • Book VI (1668), fable 21.


  • The fly of the coach.
    • Book VII (1678–1679), fable 9.
Kindness effects more than severity.
  • L’enseigne fait la chalandise.
    • The sign brings customers.
    • Book VII (1678–1679), fable 16 (The Fortune-Tellers).


  • Plus fait douceur que violence.
    • Kindness effects more than severity.
    • Book VI (1678-1679), fable 3.


  • La mort ne surprend point le sage:
    Il est toujours prêt à partir.
    • Death never takes the wise man by surprise, he is always ready to go.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 1.


  • Rien ne pèse tant qu'un secret.
    • Nothing weighs on us so heavily as a secret.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 6.


  • Rien n'est si dangereux qu'un ignorant ami;
    Mieux vaudrait un sage ennemi.
    • Nothing is as dangerous as an ignorant friend; a wise enemy is to be preferred.
    • Variant: Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion; even a prudent enemy is preferable.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 10.


  • On rencontre sa destinée
    Souvent par des chemins qu’on prend pour l’éviter.
    • Our destiny is frequently met in the very paths we take to avoid it.
    • Book VIII (1678–1679), fable 16 (The Horoscope)
    • Variant: A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.


  • Laissez dire les sots: le savoir a son prix.
    • Let ignorance talk as it will, learning has its value.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 19 (The Use of Knowledge).
Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.
  • Les gens sans bruit sont dangereux.
    • People who make no noise are dangerous.
    • Book VIII (1678–1679), fable 23.


  • L'homme est ainsi bâti: Quand un sujet l'enflamme
    L'impossibilité disparaît à son âme.
    • Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.
    • Book VIII (1678-1679), fable 25.


  • Il connaît l’univers, et ne se connaît pas.
    • He knows the universe, and himself he does not know.
    • Book VIII (1678–1679), fable 26.


  • Ventre affamé n'a point d'oreilles.
    • A hungry stomach cannot hear.
    • Book IX (1678–1679), fable 18.


  • No path of flowers leads to glory.
    • Book X, fable 14; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • "They are too green", he said, "and only good for fools".
    • The Fox and the Grapes, fable 11; reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).



MisattributedEdit

  • We must laugh before we are happy, for fear we die before we laugh at all.

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 13 April 2014, at 11:37