A fable by Voltaire and its English translation by SC

Voltaire was, arguably the greatest French thinker who ever lived. He was a leading figure of the Enlightenment. A philosopher, dramatist, polemicist, scientist, novelist, campaigner, a Renaissance man, he also wrote poetry. He was born François-Marie Arouet, in 1694, and took the name Voltaire.

His erudition and wisdom were known and admired throughout Europe. He was invited to live in Frederick of Prussia’s Rheinsberg Palace, where the monarch became his pupil. He was a crusader against injustice and tyranny. He wrote about civil liberties, against religious dogma. His drama Candide is still performed all over the world, with an opera by Bernstein. One of the most quoted lines: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it, comes from Voltaire.

““Life is too short, time too precious to say useless things”

Un loup, à ce que dit l’histoire,

Voulut donner un jour des leçons à son fils,

Et lui graver dans la mémoire,

Pour être honnête loup, de beaux et bons avis.

« Mon fils, lui disait-il, dans ce désert sauvage,

A l’ombre des forêts vous passez vos jours ;

Vous pourrez cependant avec de petits ours

Goûter les doux plaisirs qu’on permet à votre âge.

Contentez-vous du peu que j’amasse pour vous,

Point de larcin : menez une innocente vie ;

Point de mauvaise compagnie ;

Choisissez pour amis les plus honnêtes loups ;

Ne vous démentez point, soyez toujours le même ;

Ne satisfaites point vos appétits gloutons :

Mon fils, jeûnez plutôt l’avent et le carême,

Que de sucer le sang des malheureux moutons ;

Car enfin, quelle barbarie,

Quels crimes ont commis ces innocents agneaux ?

Au reste, vous savez qu’il y va de la vie :

D’énormes chiens défendent les troupeaux.

Hélas ! Je m’en souviens, un jour votre grand-père

Pour apaiser sa faim entra dans un hameau.

Dès qu’on s’en aperçut : O bête carnassière !

Au loup ! s’écria-t-on ; l’un s’arme d’un hoyau,

L’autre prend une fourche ; et mon père eût beau faire,

Hélas ! Il y laissa sa peau :

De sa témérité ce fut le salaire.

Sois sage à ses dépens, ne suis que la vertu,

Et ne sois point battant, de peur d’être battu.

Si tu m’aimes, déteste un crime que j’abhorre. »

Le petit vit alors dans la gueule du loup

De la laine, et du sang qui dégouttait encore :

Il se mit à rire à ce coup.

« Comment, petit fripon, dit le loup en colère,

Comment, vous riez des avis

Que vous donne ici votre père ?

Tu seras un vaurien, va, je te le prédis :

Quoi ! Se moquer déjà d’un conseil salutaire ! »

L’autre répondit en riant :

« Votre exemple est un bon garant ;

Mon père, je ferai ce que je vous vois faire. »

Tel un prédicateur sortant d’un bon repas

Monte dévotement en chaire,

Et vient, bien fourré, gros et gras,

Prêcher contre la bonne chère.

(Translated by S.C)

A certain wolf according to history

Wanted to preach a lesson

To his son

That would be engraved in his memory

On how to be an honest and worthy lupine

“Son,” he said, in this, pitiless clime

In this dark forest where you spend your time

It’s right to share with the little bears

The simple pleasures fit for those of your years.

Be satisfied

With what little I can provide

Commit not larceny,

Lead a life sinless

Avoid bad company

Pick your friends among cubs

From the clubs

Of the blameless

Act sanely, whatever you do,

To yourself be true

Do not be needy

Rein in your instincts greedy

It’s better to fast Advent

And Lent

Rather than suck the blood of unhappy ovines

What barbarity what cruelty

Of what are those little lambs guilty?

Beware of putting your life on the line

These flocks are protected by fierce and massive canines.

Remember what happened to your grandsire

Who to feed his greed once slipped into a hamlet

After a juicy lamb cutlet

Causing great commotion and greater ire

Everybody was crying wolf, one grabbed a hoe

Another a fork, and my dear old dad , Oh woe!

Fought like hell

But alas to his death he fell

That was the price he paid for his temerity.

In his mem’ry, be good, with virtue your lodestar

Beat not lest thou art beaten

Or eat no lest thou art eaten

If you honour me, hate the crimes I abhor.

The cub saw

In his dad’s maw

Wool dripping with sheep’s gore

He burst out laughing

And cackled some more

“You little rascal,” the wolf said angrily

How dare you make fun of the homily

That your father is preaching?

I fear,

You’ll end up a good-for-nothing

I swear.

How dare you mock such sensible advising?”

The little one answered with more laughing;

“Your words, sire, I’ll set aside

Your example will be an excellent guide

Dear father, I will do what I need to do.”

Like a preacher climbing in his pulpit

With a clear remit

From Deuteronomy

After having gorged

Himself and over-indulged

To sermonize against gluttony

Prizewinning playwright. Mathematician. Teacher. Professional Siesta addict.