The Oak and the Reed

Three Versions

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The Oak and the Reeds

A very large Oak was uprooted by the wind and thrown across a stream. It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: "I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds." They replied, "You fight and contend with the wind, and consequently you are destroyed; while we on the contrary bend before the least breath of air, and therefore remain unbroken, and escape."

Stoop to conquer. 

Translated by George Fyler Townsend.
Taken from the Internet Classics Archive at M.I.T. (Section 2).
[Also available at Project Gutenberg, Nimble Wisdom, and the Online Literature Library.]

The Tree and the Reed

"Well, little one," said a Tree to a Reed that was growing at its foot, "why do you not plant your feet deeply in the ground, and raise your head boldly in the air as I do?"

"I am contented with my lot," said the Reed. "I may not be so grand, but I think I am safer."

"Safe!" sneered the Tree. "Who shall pluck me up by the roots or bow my head to the ground?" But it soon had to repent of its boasting, for a hurricane arose which tore it up from its roots, and cast it a useless log on the ground, while the little Reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over.

Obscurity often brings safety. 

Translator unknown.  [information on this is invited!].
Text taken from Aesop's Fables at Read Books Online, for Free
made available by Page By Page Books.

The Oak and the Reed

The Oak spoke one day to the Reed
"You have good reason to complain;
A Wren for you is a load indeed;
The smallest wind bends you in twain.
You are forced to bend your head;
While my crown faces the plains
And not content to block the sun
Braves the efforts of the rains.
What for you is a North Wind is for me but a zephyr.
Were you to grow within my shade
Which covers the whole neighbourhood
You'd have no reason to be afraid
For I would keep you from the storm.
Instead you usually grow
In places humid, where the winds doth blow.
Nature to thee hath 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, not break. You have 'til now
Resisted their great force unbowed,
But beware.
As he said these very words
A violent angry storm arose.
The tree held strong; the Reed he bent.
The wind redoubled and did not relent,
Until finally it uprooted the poor Oak
Whose head had been in the heavens
And roots among the dead folk.

Jean de la Fontaine
Translation by Michael Star

le Chêne et le Roseau

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.

Taken from The Fables of Jean de La Fontaine in English and French
at the Aesop's Fables site.
See also the extensive materials available at Project Gutenberg.

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   This page last updated 23 January 2004 .