The Gods Wishing To Instruct A Son Of Jupiter (Prose Fable)

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

Jupiter had a son, who, sensible of his lofty origin, showed always a god-like spirit. Childhood is not much concerned with loving; yet to the childhood of this young god, loving and wishing to be loved was the chief concern. In him, love and reason which grow with years, outraced Time, that light-winged bearer of the seasons which come, alas! only too quickly.

Flora,[14] with laughing looks and winning airs, was the first to touch the heart of the youthful Olympian. Everything that passion could inspire - delicate sentiments full of tenderness, tears, and sighs - all were there: he forgot nothing. As a son of Jupiter he would by right of birth be dowered with greater gifts than the sons of other gods; and it seemed as though all his behaviour were prompted by the reminiscence that he had indeed already been a lover in some former state, so well did he play the part.

Nevertheless, it was Jupiter's wish that the boy should be taught, and assembling the gods in council he said, "So far, I have never been at fault in the conduct of the universe which I have ruled unaided; but there are various charges which I now have decided to distribute amongst the younger gods. This beloved child of mine I have already counted upon. He is of my own blood and many an altar already flames in his honour. Yet to merit his rank among the immortals it is necessary that he should possess all knowledge."

As the god of the thunders ceased the whole assembly applauded. As for the boy himself, he did not appear to be above the wish to learn everything.

"I undertake," said Mars, the god of war, "to teach him the art by which so many heroes have won the glories of Olympus and extended the empire."

"I will be his master in the art of the lyre," promised the fair and learned Apollo.

"And I," said Hercules with the lion's-skin, "will teach him how to overcome Vice and quell evil passions, those poisonous monsters which like Hydras[15] are ever reborn in the heart. A foe to effeminate pleasures, he shall learn from me those too seldom trodden paths that lead to honour along the tracks of virtue."

When it came to Cupid, the god of love, to speak he simply said, "I can show him everything."

And Cupid was right; for what cannot be achieved with wit and the desire to please?

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