“Le Chêne et le Roseau” de Jean de la Fontaine – Audio

This fable tells a great story about a reed (which represent the people) and an all-mighty oak (representing the king). The oak thinks he is indestructible, and says the reed is very unfortunate to be what he is. The oak wishes he could help the reed, but he knows he cannot and pities him. The reed however, says he might not be strong, but he is tough. And that is the true strength. To prove him right, a huge storm arrives and takes the oak down. This was very courageous of La Fontaine to present this fable to the king, since the message is that the king is not as powerful as he thinks he is…

Click on the audio link below to listen to my slow and fast reading of this French poem.

1 – Poem

Le Chêne un jour dit au Roseau :
“Vous avez bien sujet d’accuser la Nature ;
Un Roitelet pour vous est un pesant fardeau.

Le moindre vent, qui d’aventure
Fait rider la face de l’eau,
Vous oblige à baisser la tête :
Cependant que mon front, au Caucase pareil,
Non content d’arrêter les rayons du soleil,
Brave l’effort de la tempête.
Tout vous est Aquilon, tout me semble Zéphyr.
Encor si vous naissiez à l’abri du feuillage
Dont je couvre le voisinage,
Vous n’auriez pas tant à souffrir :
Je vous défendrais de l’orage ;
Mais vous naissez le plus souvent
Sur les humides bords des Royaumes du vent.
La nature envers vous me semble bien injuste.

– Votre compassion, lui répondit l’Arbuste,
Part d’un bon naturel ; mais quittez ce souci.
Les vents me sont moins qu’à vous redoutables.
Je plie, et ne romps pas. Vous avez jusqu’ici
Contre leurs coups épouvantables
Résisté sans courber le dos ;
Mais attendons la fin. “Comme il disait ces mots,
Du bout de l’horizon accourt avec furie
Le plus terrible des enfants
Que le Nord eût portés jusque-là dans ses flancs.
L’Arbre tient bon ; le Roseau plie.
Le vent redouble ses efforts,
Et fait si bien qu’il déracine
Celui de qui la tête au Ciel était voisine
Et dont les pieds touchaient à l’Empire des Morts.

2 – Translation

The Oak and the Reed

The Oak spoke one day to the Reed
“You have good reason to accuse Nature;
A Wren for you is a real load;
[adblock]The smallest wind which by chance
Ripples the water surface
Forces you to bend your head.
While my forehead, similar to the Causasus mountains
Not content to block the sun’s rays
Braves the efforts of the tempest.
What for you is a North Wind is for me but a zephyr.
If at least you grew within my shade
Which covers the whole neighbourhood
You wouldn’t have to suffer as much
For I would protect you from the storm.
Instead you usually grow
On the humid banks of the realms of the wind.
Nature to thee has been unkind.”
“Your compassion”, replied the Reed
“Shows a noble character indeed;
But do not worry: the winds for me
Are much less dangerous than for thee;
I bend, but do not break. You have until now
Against their terrible strikes
Resisted without bowing your head.
But let’s just wait till the end. As he said these words,
From far in the horizons, came running
The worst child the North ever gave birth to.
The tree held strong; the reed bent.
The wind redoubled his efforts
So that finally it uprooted
The oak whose head was reaching heavens
And roots were touching the realms of the deads.