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Fables in Rhyme for Little Folks by La Fontaine


Adapted from the French of La Fontaine.

Written by, W. T. Larned

Illustrated by, John Rae.

E-Book Created by Tyler Anderson, as a birthday present to little Johnny James Webb, on his first Birthday. I've arranged the images so they fit the story.

To All Little Americans With The Hope That They May Become Better Acquainted With Our Friends, The French.

A Preface For Parents

La Fontaine composed the most entertaining Fables ever written in any language, and made them a model of literary perfection; yet our translators and compilers have somehow neglected him. His Fables are lyric poetry of a high order, and this alone has doubtless been a barrier to a better acquaintance with his work when transferred to our own tongue. Done into prose, the Fables are no longer La Fontaine, but take their place with the many respectable, dull translations which English readers try to admire because they are classics--though the soul that made them such has been separated from the dead body.

It has seemed to me that while the full enjoyment of La Fontaine must always be reserved for those who can read him in French, it might be possible at least to convey something of his originality and blithe spirit through the medium of light verse. In making the attempt I am fully aware of my temerity, and the criticism it will invite. To excuse the one and to meet the other I have taken refuge in the term "adaptation"--even though the word applies only in part to my paraphrases. Some of the Fables in this book are translations in a true sense, and keep closely to the text. From others I have erased such political, mythological and literary allusions (in which La Fontaine abounds) as are either obsolete or unintelligible to a child.

But my chief literary sin--if sin it be--is twofold. In the first place I have departed wholly from the metrical arrangements of the originals--substituting therefore a variety of forms in line and stanza that more accord with the modern and American ear. In the second place I have had the hardihood--as in "The Lion and The Gnat"--to modify the elegance of the original with phrases more appropriate to our contemporary beasts. Animal talk, I feel sure, has lost something of its stateliness since the days when our French author overheard it. The Owl is no less pedantic perhaps, but the Lion certainly has declined in majesty--along with our human kings.

For these offenses, La Fontaine--who forgave everyone--is bound to forgive me. The most good-humored Frenchmen, he could condone all faults but dullness. That offense against French fundamental principles invariably put him to sleep--whether the bore who button-holed him was a savant of the Sorbonne or just an ordinary ass.

One thing more. This little collection from his 240 Fables is meant, first of all, for children. In assembling it no Fable was admitted that has not been approved by generations of the young and old. No apologue addressed to the mature intelligence alone, or framed to fit the society of his day, is here included.

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