The Monkey And The Dolphin.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine


It was the custom of the Greeks
For passengers o'er sea to carry
Both monkeys full of tricks
And funny dogs to make them merry.
A ship, that had such things on deck,
Not far from Athens, went to wreck.
But for the dolphins, all had drown'd.
They are a philanthropic fish,
Which fact in Pliny may be found; -
A better voucher who could wish?
They did their best on this occasion.
A monkey even, on their plan
Well nigh attain'd his own salvation;
A dolphin took him for a man,
And on his dorsal gave him place.
So grave the silly creature's face,
That one might well have set him down
That old musician of renown.[2]
The fish had almost reach'd the land,
When, as it happen'd, - what a pity! -
He ask'd, 'Are you from Athens grand?'
'Yes; well they know me in that city.
If ever you have business there,
I'll help you do it, for my kin
The highest offices are in.
My cousin, sir, is now lord mayor.'
The dolphin thank'd him, with good grace,
Both for himself and all his race,
And ask'd, 'You doubtless know Piraeus,
Where, should we come to town, you'll see us.'
'Piraeus? yes, indeed I know;
He was my crony long ago.'
The dunce knew not the harbour's name,
And for a man's mistook the same.
The people are by no means few,
Who never went ten miles from home,
Nor know their market-town from Rome,
Yet cackle just as if they knew.
The dolphin laugh'd, and then began
His rider's form and face to scan,
And found himself about to save
From fishy feasts, beneath the wave,
A mere resemblance of a man.
So, plunging down, he turn'd to find
Some drowning wight of human kind.

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