“Les Animaux malades de la peste”

Jean de La Fontaine, né en 1621 et mort le 13 avril 1695, est un célèbre fabuliste et poète français.
“Les Animaux malades de la peste” (la première fable du livre VII situé dans le deuxième recueil des Fables de La Fontaine) est una fable sur l’hypocrisie et le scandale d’une justice contrôlée par les puissants.

Les_Animaux_malades_de_la_Peste
 Gustave Doré (1868)

 

LES ANIMAUX MALADES DE LA PESTE

Un mal qui répand la terreur,
Mal que le Ciel en sa fureur
Inventa pour punir les crimes de la terre,
La Peste (puisqu’il faut l’appeler par son nom)
Capable d’enrichir en un jour l’Achéron,
Faisait aux animaux la guerre.
Ils ne mouraient pas tous, mais tous étaient frappés:
On n’en voyait point d’occupés
A chercher le soutien d’une mourante vie;
Nul mets n’excitait leur envie ;
Ni Loups ni Renards n’épiaient
La douce et l’innocente proie.
Les Tourterelles se fuyaient :
Plus d’amour, partant plus de joie.
Le Lion tint conseil, et dit: Mes chers amis,
Je crois que le Ciel a permis
Pour nos péchés cette infortune;
Que le plus coupable de nous
Se sacrifie aux traits du céleste courroux,
Peut-être il obtiendra la guérison commune.
L’histoire nous apprend qu’en de tels accidents
On fait de pareils dévouements :
Ne nous flattons donc point ; voyons sans indulgence
L’état de notre conscience.
Pour moi, satisfaisant mes appétits gloutons
J’ai dévoré force moutons.
Que m’avaient-ils fait? Nulle offense:
Même il m’est arrivé quelquefois de manger
Le Berger.
Je me dévouerai donc, s’il le faut ; mais je pense
Qu’il est bon que chacun s’accuse ainsi que moi:
Car on doit souhaiter selon toute justice
Que le plus coupable périsse.
– Sire, dit le Renard, vous êtes trop bon Roi;
Vos scrupules font voir trop de délicatesse;
Eh bien, manger moutons, canaille, sotte espèce,
Est-ce un péché ? Non, non. Vous leur fîtes Seigneur
En les croquant beaucoup d’honneur.
Et quant au Berger l’on peut dire
Qu’il était digne de tous maux,
Etant de ces gens-là qui sur les animaux
Se font un chimérique empire.
Ainsi dit le Renard, et flatteurs d’applaudir.
On n’osa trop approfondir
Du Tigre, ni de l’Ours, ni des autres puissances,
Les moins pardonnables offenses.
Tous les gens querelleurs, jusqu’aux simples mâtins,
Au dire de chacun, étaient de petits saints.
L’Ane vint à son tour et dit: J’ai souvenance
Qu’en un pré de Moines passant,
La faim, l’occasion, l’herbe tendre, et je pense
Quelque diable aussi me poussant,
Je tondis de ce pré la largeur de ma langue.
Je n’en avais nul droit, puisqu’il faut parler net.
A ces mots on cria haro sur le baudet.
Un Loup quelque peu clerc prouva par sa harangue
Qu’il fallait dévouer ce maudit animal,
Ce pelé, ce galeux, d’où venait tout leur mal.
Sa peccadille fut jugée un cas pendable.
Manger l’herbe d’autrui ! quel crime abominable !
Rien que la mort n’était capable
D’expier son forfait: on le lui fit bien voir.
Selon que vous serez puissant ou misérable,
Les jugements de cour vous rendront blanc ou noir.

🐮 🦁 🦊 🐴 🐻 🐷

GLI ANIMALI MALATI DI PESTE

Un male
terribile, fatale,
che il Ciel forse inventò
per castigar le colpe della terra,
un mal pien di spavento
capace, se va bene,
d’empire i cimiteri in un momento,
la Peste insomma – dirla pur conviene –
faceva agli animali tanta guerra,
che morivan colpiti a cento a cento.

Nessuno ormai volea
curarsi d’una vita orrida troppo;
ogni cibo facea fastidio e groppo,
e lupi e volpi ciaschedun vivea
le mani e i piedi in mano;
fuggian le tortorelle per dispetto,
fuggia l’Amor lontano
e fuggia coll’Amor ogni diletto.

Allor tenne il Leone un gran consiglio,
e disse: – Amici miei,
poiché davanti al Ciel tutti siam rei
di colpe, ed è perciò che ne castiga,
per toglierci di briga, ecco, direi
che quei che ha più peccato
nella sua vita, sia sacrificato.

Il suo sangue (e la storia ci dimostra
che più volte giovò l’espedïente)
forse otterrà la guarigione nostra.
Facciamo orsù l’esame di coscienza
fratelli, e confessiam senza indulgenza
i fatti nostri. Già per parte mia
confesso che provai ghiottoneria
di molti agnelli, poveri innocenti,
e che mi venne fatto per errore
di mangiar qualche volta anche il pastore.

Io son pronto a scontar colle mie vene
le colpe mie, se farlo oggi conviene,
ma prima ciaschedun con altrettanta
sincerità confessi, onde il più reo
colla sua vita paghi il giubileo.

– Sire, – disse la Volpe, – un sì buon re
al mondo come voi forse non c’è.
Che scrupoli son questi, Maestà,
per quattro canagliucce di montoni?
Non vedo che vi possa esser peccato
a mangiar questa razza di minchioni.

No, no, signor, anzi fu un grande onore
a ognun d’essi il sentirsi rosicchiato
dai vostri denti. In quanto a quel pastore,
meritava di peggio in verità,
visto ch’egli osa il titolo di re
vantar sopra le bestie, e non gli va -.

A questo dir scoppiâr grandi gli applausi
tra i cortigiani. In quanto ai Tigri, agli Orsi
e agli altri illustri poi non si cercò
il pel nell’ovo e i minimi trascorsi,
dal più ringhioso all’ultimo dei cani
per poco non sembrarono al capitolo
dei santi a cui si può baciar le mani.

S’avanza in fine a confessarsi l’Asino
contrito in cor, e confessando il vero,
narra che un giorno, andando
nel fresco praticel d’un monistero,
o fosse tentazione del demonio,
o fame o gola di quell’erba tenera,
brucò dell’erba (e fu cosa rubata
per essere sincero),
ma ne prese soltanto una boccata.

Udito ciò, gridarono anatèma
quei santi padri al povero Asinello.
Un Lupo, intinto di teologia,
sorto a parlar sul tema,
mostrò che la cagion della moria
venìa da questo tristo spelacchiato,
che per il suo malfare
bisognava che almen fosse impiccato.

Mangiar dell’erba altrui…! ma si può dare
azione più nefanda?
La morte era una pena troppo blanda
per espiar sì orribile misfatto.
E come disse il giudice fu fatto.

Della giustizia quando siede al banco,
sempre il potente come giglio è bianco,
ma se a seder si pone
il poveraccio, è un sacco di carbone.

(Traduzione di Emilio De Marchi)

🐮 🦁 🦊 🐴 🐻 🐷

THE ANIMALS SICK OF THE PLAGUE

ONE of those dread evils which spread terror far and wide, and which Heaven, in its anger, ordains for the punishment of wickedness upon earth—a plague in fact; and so dire a one as to make rich in one day that grim ferryman who takes a coin from all who cross the river Acheron to the land of the dead—such a plague was once waging war against the animals. All were attacked, although all did not die. So hopeless was the case that not one of them attempted to sustain their sinking lives. Even the sight of food did not rouse them. Wolves and foxes no longer turned eager and calculating eyes upon their gentle and guileless prey. The turtle-doves went no more in cooing pairs, but were content to avoid each other. Love and the joy that comes of love were both at an end.
At length the lion called a council of all the beasts and addressed them in these words: “My dear friends, it seems to me that it is for our sins that Heaven has permitted this misfortune to fall upon us. Would it not be well if the most blameworthy among us allowed himself to be offered as a sacrifice to appease the celestial wrath? By so doing he might secure our recovery. History tells us that this course is usually pursued in such cases as ours. Let us look into our consciences without self-deception or condoning. For my own part, I freely admit that in order to satisfy my gluttony I have devoured an appalling number of sheep; and yet what had they done to me to deserve such a fate? Nothing that could be called an offence. Sometimes, indeed, I have gone so far as to eat the shepherd too! On the whole, I think I had better render myself for this act of sacrifice; that is, if we agree that it is a thing necessary to the general good. And yet I think it would be only fair that every one should declare his sins as well as I; for I could wish that, in justice, it were the most culpable that should perish.”
“Sire,” said the fox, “you are really too yielding for a king, and your scruples show too much delicacy of feeling. Eating sheep indeed! What of that? —a foolish and rascally tribe! Is that a crime? No! a hundred times no! On the contrary your noble jaws did but do them great honour. As for the shepherd, it may be fairly said that all the harm he got he merited, since he was one of those who fancy they have dominion over the animal kingdom.’ Thus spake the fox and every other flatterer in the assembly applauded him. Nor did any seek to inquire deeply into the least pardonable offences of the tiger, the bear, and the other mighty ones. All those of an aggressive nature, right down to the simple watch-dog, were something like saints in their own opinions. When the ass stood forth in his turn he struck a different note: nothing of fangs and talons and blood, “I remember,” he said, “that once in passing a field belonging to a monastery I was urged by hunger, by opportunity, by the tenderness of the grass, and perhaps by the evil one egging me on, to enter and crop just a taste, about as much as the length of my tongue. I know that I did wrong, having really no right there.”
At these words all the assembly turned upon him. The wolf took upon himself to make a speech proving without doubt that the ass was an accursed wretch, a mangy brute, who certainly ought to be told off for sacrifice, since through his wickedness all their misfortunes had come about. His peccadillo was judged to be a hanging matter. “What! eat the grass belonging to another? How abominable a crime! Nothing but death could expiate such an outrage!” And forthwith they proved as much to the poor ass.
Accordingly, as your power is great or small, the judgments of a court will whiten or blacken your reputation.

(translated by F. C. Tilney)

 

15 thoughts on ““Les Animaux malades de la peste”

  1. Interesting story. Of course, from my perspective I was waiting for a lamb that had done absolutely nothing wrong to step forward and sacrifice himself, since only a pure sacrifice can atone for sin. And only the purest, greatest Lamb can (and did) atone for us all. (II Corinthians 5:21)

    Liked by 1 person

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