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Sleep, baby, sleep!

Sleep baby sleep!
Near where the woodbines creep;

Sleep, baby, sleep!
Be always like the lamb so mild,

Sleep, baby, sleep!
A kind and silent, gentle child -

Sleep! (From "Songs for Little Children," by T. W. Stephenson B:A. Published by Henry Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton, London, England)

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A Department for Story Tellers

Children's Stories – La Fontaine


Laura F. Kready

Author of "A Study of Fairy Tales" A FONTAINE was born in 1621 at Chateau-Thierry. science or letters they profited by the occasion. Neither

poetical genius until he was twenty-one. In temper- the ancients, praised some moderns, and gave one another ament he was benevolent almost to foolishness; he had the sincere counsel when any one of them published a book. quality of good humor with all the world; he had little In 1668 La Fontaine published his first collection of six cunning, caution, or veneration; very good perceptive books of fables under the title, “Selected Fables in Verse," faculties but better reflective ones; and a dominant love with illustrations by Chauveau, dedicated to the Dauphin. of the beautiful. He possessed a simplicity of heart and The success of the collection was so great that it was rethe instinct of observation. He sympathized with animals, printed the same year, in a smaller size. Fables became the ways of the wolf, and the fears of the mouse were open established on the top of Parnassus through La Fontaine's to his understanding. It is told of him how one day he volumes. A second collection of fables was published, lost his dinner because he was watching with admiration 1678-9, making twelve books of fables. The king showed a common ant-hill. The little community were engaged unusual favor to the author because “the youth have in what he took to be a funeral and he could not in decency received great advantage in their education from the leave them until it was over.

fables, selected and put into verse.” La Fontaine was His early life was not good nor moral. He was married permitted to present his book in person to the king. at the age of twenty-six, but he later deserted his wife He went to Versailles, and after giving his compliment to and did not regard the obligations of marriage. He was royalty, he discovered that he had forgotten to bring the also improvident and care-free to the extent that some of presentation copy with him. He was received favorably, his friends remonstrated with him for not applying himself however, and was loaded with gifts. On returning, he to his affairs. He responded with “The Epitaph of La absently lost the purse of gold given him, which was later Fontaine,” which has often been appended to his fables: found under the cushion of the carriage in which he rode.

In 1684 he was elected a member of the Royal Academy. John went as he came — ate his farm with its fruits,

He was a general favorite in this distinguished body. Held treasure to be but the cause of disputes; And, as to his time, be it frankly confessed,

Voltaire said of the fables: "I hardly know a book which Divided it daily as suited him best

more abounds with charms adapted to the people, and at Gave a part to his sleep, and to nothing the rest.

the same time to persons of refined taste. I believe that,

of all authors, La Fontaine is the most universally read. La Fontaine had the reputation of being absent-minded, He is for all minds and all ages." he appeared outwardly dull when inwardly his mind would

La Fontaine died in 1695, at the age of seventy-three. be working splendidly. Once a mail-carrier, following him,

Once a mail-carrier, following him, On hearing of his death, Fenelon wrote a eulogy for his pupicked up a bundle, and overtaking him, said: “Have you pil to translate: “La Fontaine is no more! He is no more! lost anything?" "Certainly not,” said La Fontaine, with and with him have gone the playful jokes, the merry laugh, surprise. "Well

, I just picked up these papers," replied the artless graces and the sweet Muses." the man. "Ah, they are mine,” cried La Fontaine; "they In his Fables La Fontaine selected from Æsop, Phædrus, involve my whole estate!”

Horace and Oriental sources. He surpassed his models, He had many friends, both men and women, who never and is himself a model difficult to be imitated. In turning suffered him to want. He was an especial favorite of the Greek and Latin fables into French verse, his original work women who ruled the kings of France. For twenty years was in setting forth his own observations and giving he lived in the home of Madame de la Sablière, perhaps the comments. His fables have artistic finish. In interest best educated woman in France, whose husband was the and variety they are sound, clear and sweet. They criticise king's secretary. She did not want her favorite poet to monarch, churchman and noble in the guise of the beasts, have any care for his external wants. At her death he

that led to a revolution in eloquence. They have a high lived in the home of another friend who invited him.

lyric quality, are concrete, and show French wit. They La Fontaine took life very quietly. He was a poet at are French classics and every French child is considered heart. He was a master of streams and forests, even greater untaught without his "La Fontaine.” A beautiful modern than Isaac Walton, and collected and applied ideas on the edition, with illustrations by Boutet de Monvel, unites comparison of men with plants and animals. His appeal classic illustration to the fables. to the Woodman is famous:

The follɔwing list gives some of the best of the fables.

The edition used is "La Fontaine's Fables,” translated by
Leave axes, hooks and picks,
Instruments of woe;

Elizur Wright; London, George Ball, 1903.
The scythe of Time, with deadlier tricks,
To line the borders of the Styx,

The Grasshopper and the Ant, p. 2 - the first fable in the book.
Too soon will bring thee low.

Death and the Woodman, p. 18
Death and the Unfortunate, p. 18

The Oak and the Reed, p. 24— The most classic, La Fontaine's favorite. He was deeply read in tales of the Middle Ages, satires,

The Council Held of the Rats, p. 28 and animal stories. He knew Horace, Virgil, Terence and The Bird Wounded by an Arrow, p. 39 Quintilian, Plato and Plutarch. His favorites were Mal- The Dove and the Ant, p. 39 herbe, Corneille, Rabelais and Marot. He read Ariosto, The Ass Loaded with Sponges and the Ass Loaded with Salt, p. 37 Boccaccio and Macchiavelli. He became a protege of

The Lark and Her Young Ones with the Owner of a Field, p. 98

The Woodman and Mercury, p. 101 Fouquet, the minister of France, who settled upon him a The Mountain in Labor, p. 111 yearly pension of a thousand francs.

The Ass Dressed in the Lion's Skin, p. 120

Considered his best fable. La Fontaine was the intimate friend of Boileau, Moliére, The Animals Sick of the Plague, p. 144

The Dairywoman and the Pot of Milk, p. 159 — A very popular one. and Racine. They rented a small chamber in Paris, where

The Two Doves, p. 223 — One of the very best, shows tenderness, they all met several times a week. They discussed their The Cat and the Fox, p. 241 amusements, and then if they spoke of any subject of Death and the Dying, p. 176

The Camel and the Floating Sticks, p. 83
The Arbiter, the Almoner, and the Hermit, p. 347 — Perhaps the best

criticism of life.
The Sick Stag, p. 313 — Picturesque
The Fox, Flies, and Hedgehog, p. 325
The Woods and the Woodman, p. 332

Her gains already counted –

Laid out the cash

At single dash,
Which to a hundred eggs amounted.

Three nests she made,

Which, by the aid Of diligence and care were hatch'd. “To raise the chicks,

I'll easy fix," Said she, “beside our cottage thatch'd.

The fox must get

More cunning yet,
Or leave enough to buy a pig.

With little care

And any fare,
He'll grow quite fat and big;

And then the price
Will be so nice,
For which the pork will sell!
'Twill go quite hard

But in our yard
I'll bring a cow and calf to dwell

A calf to frisk among the flock!” The thought made Peggy do the same; And down at once the milk-pot came,

And perish'd with the shock. Calf, cow, and pig, and chicks, adieu! Your mistress' face is sad to view; She gives a tear to fortune spilt; Then with the downcast look of guilt Home to her husband empty goes, Somewhat in danger of his blows.

Of all the fables, “The Oak and the Reed” was said to be his own favorite. It is considered the perfection of classical fable:

The Oak and the Reed
The Oak one day addressed the Reed:
"To you ungenerous indeed
Has nature been, my humble friend,
With weakness aye obliged to bend.
The smallest bird that fits in air
Is quite too much for you to bear;
The slightest wind that wreathes the lake
Your ever-trembling head doth shake,

The while, my towering form
Dares with the mountain top
The solar blaze to stop

And wrestle with the storm.
What seems to you the blast of death,
To me is but a zephyr's breath.
Beneath my branches had you grown,

That spread far round their friendly bower,
Less suffering would your life have known,

Defended from the tempest's power.
Unhappily you oftenest show
air your

slender förm,
Along the marshes wet and low,
That fringe the kingdom of the storm.

To you declare I must,

Dame Nature seems unjust.”
Then modestly replied the Reed:
"Your pity, sir, is kind indeed,
But wholly needless for my sake.
The wildest wind that ever blew
Is safe to me compared with you.
I bend, indeed, but never break.
Thus far, I own, the hurricane
Has beat your sturdy back in vain;
But wait the end." Just at the word,
The tempest's hollow voice was heard.
The North sent forth her fiercest child,
Dark, jagged, pitiless and wild.
The Oak, erect, endured the blow;
The Reed bowed gracefully and low.
But, gathering up its strength once more,
In greater fury than before,

The savage blast

O'erthrew, at last,
That proud, old, sky-encircled head,
Whose feet entwined the empire of the dead!

In open

Who buildeth not, sometimes, in air
His cots, or seats, or castles fair?
From kings to dairywomen -- all --
The wise, the foolish, great and small -
Each thinks his waking dream the best.
Some flattering error fills the breast:
The world with all its wealth is ours,
Its honors, dames, and loveliest bowers.
Instinct with valor, when alone,
I hurl the monarch from his throne;
The people, glad to see him dead,
Elect me monarch in his stead,
And diadems rain on my

head. Some accident then calls me back, And I'm no more than simple Jack.

Perhaps the best fable as a criticism of life is the one which is placed last in the book, "The Arbiter, the Almoner, and the Hermit.”

The child might write a fable developed from a proverb. Benjamin Franklin, who was a great advocate of “Æsop's Fables,” who published many copies of it when it was first being printed in America, and who was stimulated to make his own book of wise sayings in “Poor Richard's Almanac," has given a notable instance of the moral tale developed from a proverb or wise saying, “Don't give too much for the whistle.” This was written in a letter to a lady for the purpose of giving good advice, when Franklin was in France, in 1779.

About one half of La Fontaine's fables are from Indian sources. The following one, which is considered his best fable, because of its exquisite poetry, its good dialogue, and its excellent moral teaching, is the same as the Bidpai, "The Lion and the Camel.”

The Dairy Woman and the Pot of Milk

A pot of milk upon her cushion'd crown,
Good Peggy hasten'd to the town;
Short clad and light, with speed she went,
Not fearing any accident;
Indeed, to be the nimbler tripper,

Her dress that day,

The truth to say,
Was simple petticoat and slipper.

And, thus bedight,
Good Peggy, light-

The Whistle – Benjamin Franklin When I was a child of seven years old, my friends on a holiday filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers and sisters and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I

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had given four times as much for it as it was worth, put “Where there's a will there's a way.” One must remember me in mind what good things I might have bought with that the fable must have these clearly defined characterthe rest of the money; laughed at me so much for my folly istics: that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.

1 It must have brevity. This, however, was afterward of use to me, the impression 2 It must have a point, its didactic intention. continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted 3 It personifies lower forms of life, animals or things. to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, “Don't 4 It may be of two sorts: give too much for the whistle," and I saved my money.

a It may deal with truth, be ethical. As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the

It may deal with practical wisdom. actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, 5 Its meaning must be undeniable. who gave too much for the whistle.

6 It must have directness. When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing 7 It must have simplicity. his time in attendance on levies, his repose, his liberty, 8 It must have picturesqueness. his virtue, and perhaps his friends to attain it, I said to myself, “This man gives too much for his whistle.”

The Little Frog - Laura F. Kready When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own Once upon a time some Frogs left the cool clear water of affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, “He pays, their pond, and wandering on the bank by the roadside, indeed," said I, "too much for his whistle."

fell into two huge cans of milk. If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable

“Oh, we'll drown! we'll drown!" they cried, and one by living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the one, they began sinking to the bottom. esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent But there was one Frog who did not sink. “Will some friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, “Poor one help me?” he cried. But no one came. So he set to man,” said I, “you pay too much for your whistle." work. “I can swim,” he said; and round and round he

When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every began paddling in the milk, faster and faster. But all he laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to

could do was to make a little billowy circle in the strange mere corporeal sensations and ruining his health in their white water. Yet he kept right on. “I must swim," he pursuit, "Mistaken man,” said I, "you are providing pain said. “Will no one help me?” But no one came. And for yourself instead of pleasure; you give too much for round and round he beat the strange white water with his your whistle.”

sturdy little legs. If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, Soon he grew very tired, and all out of breath. His fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for legs ached, and his head hurt with all the hard bumps which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, against the sides of the can. But he kept on swimming, “Alas!” say I, “he has paid dear, very dear, for his

round and round, making bigger circles in the waves of milk. whistle."

By and by he began to feel queer. What could be the When I see a beautiful, sweet-tempered girl married to matter? His legs seemed like sticks and he could hardly an ill-natured husband, "What a pity," say I, "that she

move them. But he never thought of stopping. He just should pay so much for a whistle!”

kept on pushing and pushing and pushing his legs through In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of the strange white water, until, all at once he had made for mankind are brought upon them by the false estimate they himself, a pad of butter. have made of the value of things and by their giving too Then standing lightly on its top, filled with longing for much for their whistles.

the lily-pad of his pond, he made one grand leap out over

the can to freedom and his home among the reeds. The Olive, Fig, Vine and Bramble The Trees went forth once upon a time to anoint a king

There are many instances of the fable in poetry. We over them; and they said unto the Olive Tree, “Reign have the inimitable “Fables of La Fontaine,” which will be thou over us.”

treated separately. The child may attempt to put a fable But the Olive Tree said unto them, “Should I leave my

into rhyme. A modern instance of the fable in rhyme fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and

has appeared quite recently in a description of the home go to be promoted over the Trees?"

of Mr. Coolidge, the Republican nominee for Vice-President, And the Trees said to the Fig Tree, “Come, thou, and

Over the fireplace in the Coolidge home in Northampton reign over us."

is a verse containing a fable: But the Fig Tree said unto them, “Should I forsake my

A wise old Owl lived in an oak; sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over

The more he saw, the less he spoke, the Trees?”

The less he spoke, the more he heard, Then said the Trees unto the Vine, “Come, thou, and

Why can't we be like that old Bird? reign over us."

And the Vine said unto them, “Should I leave my wine, "The Cow and the Ass," by Jane Taylor, has playful which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over grace and comic humor, and its first two lines of the last the Trees?

stanza are even on a level with “La Fontaine." Then said all the Trees unto the Bramble, "Come, thou, and reign over us.

The Cow and the Ass And the Bramble said unto the Trees, “If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust Beside a green meadow a stream used to flow, in my shadow; and if not, let fire come out of the Bramble, So clear one might see the white pebbles below; and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”

To this cooling brook the warm cattle would stray,

To stand in the shade on a hot summer's day. The following original fable illustrates how the child might take a certain emotion and then write a little tale A Cow, quite oppressed by the heat of the sun, of his own to display that dominant emotion. The emotion Came here to refresh, as she often had done, here displayed is perseverance; and the proverb might be

And standing quite still, stooping over the stream, expressed as “God helps those who help themselves," or Was musing perhaps; or perhaps she might dream.

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