Friday, June 30, 2017

in a time of plague


Los animales y la peste


En los montes, los valles y collados
 de animales poblados,
 se introdujo la peste de tal modo,
 que en un momento lo inficiona todo.
 Allí donde su Corte el león tenía,
 mirando cada día
 las cacerías, luchas y carreras
 de mansos brutos y de bestias fieras,
 se veían los campos ya cubiertos
 de enfermos miserables y de muertos.
 "Mis amados hermanos"
 exclamó el triste Rey, "mis cortesanos:
 ya veis que el justo cielo nos obliga
 a implorar su piedad, pues nos castiga
 con tan horrenda plaga:
 tal vez se aplacará con que se le haga
 sacrificio de aquel más delincuente,
 y muera el pecador, no el inocente.
 Confiese todo el mundo su pecado.
 Yo, cruel, sanguinario, he devorado
 inocentes corderos,
 ya vacas, ya terneros,
 y he sido, a fuerza de delito tanto,
 de la selva terror, del bosque espanto".
 "Señor" dijo la zorra, "en todo eso
 no se halla más exceso
 que el de vuestra bondad, pues que se digna
 de teñir en la sangre ruin, indigna
 de los viles cornudos animales
 los sacros dientes y las uñas reales".
 Trató la corte al Rey de escrupuloso.
 Allí del tigre, de la onza y oso
 se oyeron confesiones
 de robos y de muertes a millones;
 mas entre la grandeza, sin lisonja,
 pasaron por escrúpulos de monja.
 El asno, sin embargo, muy confuso
 prorrumpió: "Yo me acuso
 que al pasar por un trigo este verano,
 yo hambriento y él lozano,
 sin guarda ni testigo,
 caí en la tentación, comí del trigo".
 "¡Del trigo!, ¡y  un jumento!",
 gritó la zorra, "¡horrible atrevimiento!"
 Los cortesanos claman: "Éste, éste
 irrita al cielo, que nos da la peste".
 Pronuncia el Rey de muerte la sentencia
 y ejecutola el lobo a su presencia.
Te juzgarán virtuoso
si eres, aunque perverso, poderoso;
y aunque bueno, por malo detestable,
cuando te miran pobre, miserable.
Esto hallará en la Corte quien la vea,
y aun en el mundo todo. ¡Pobre Astrea!


(Fábulas morales, Book 3 number 2, by Félix Maria de Samaniego. Based on a fable by La Fontaine, apparently.)



Loosely translated:






The animals and the plague





In the mountains, valleys and hills that are inhabited by the animals, there came once such a plague as in a moment struck down all in its path.


The lion was holding his court, where he was wont to watch each day the hunts, combats and tournaments of meek brutes and wild beasts. But even from here you could see the fields already covered with miserable sick and dead creatures.

 
"My beloved brothers," exclaimed the sad King, "my courtiers: you see that a righteous Heaven obliges us to implore His mercy, since He punishes us with such a horrible plague. Maybe He would be placated by a sacrifice of the most guilty of us. Let the wicked die in place of the innocent! So confess, everyone, your sin.  I, cruel, bloodthirsty, I have devoured innocent lambs, yes, and cows, and calves. And from the volume of my crimes I have been named the Terror of the Jungle, and the Dread of the Forest."

 
"Oh Sir," says the fox, "as for all that, it's nothing more than the noble excess of your majesty, that is pleased to tint, with the blood of these vile horned creatures, the sacred teeth and the royal claws."  

The court considered the King far too scrupulous.


Then from the tiger, the ounce and the bear, were heard confessions of rapine and of murder by the thousand. But being such great ones, these testimonies were dismissed (leaving all flattery aside) as nunnish scruples.  

A donkey, however, became very confused and burst out: "I accuse myself that when passing through a cornfield this last summer, I felt so hungry and the wheat looked so luscious, and there being no guard or anyone to see, I fell into temptation, and I ate some of the wheat."
 

"Eat wheat!! A donkey!!" cried the fox, "Oh, hideous crime!"

The courtiers cried out, "This is he, this is he, who incenses a just Heaven and brings the plague upon us!" 
The King pronounced the death sentence, which the wolf carried out in his presence. 

 

You will be judged virtuous if you are, though wicked, powerful; and criminal if you seem, though good,  poor and wretched. Thus it is in the court, and even in the whole world. Oh,  Astraea!

 


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