Over the past month, a poem entitled "The Animals and the Constitution," in the style of Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), has been circulating in France. Translated below, the poem wittily sums up the story of the European Constitution, which, with the latest polls showing 55% of French voters opposed, seems poised for a historic rejection in a French referendum to be held on Sunday, May 29....
[Translated from Le Mouton noir]
THE ANIMALS AND THE CONSTITUTION
By William Abitbol
Le Mouton noir
April 15, 2005
Fifteen grand dukes were bored. Seeing nothing amiss,
They invited ten others to unite like the Swiss.
The new guests as well were inclined to conspire;
They wanted at once their piece of Empire.
Alas! Pieces, empires there wasn't much left,
What was thriving, however, quite well, was theft.
Jobs were departing from fields and from towns,
Poverty was spreading, and so were the frowns.
The Empire was growing quite thin in the rump,
Chinese and Americans, though, were all plump.
No one could understand.
Had they not but one currency throughout the land?
Had the euro, which had shone from Tagus to Baltic,
Not done its good work on shores Adriatic?
And to have on hand
A fine Areopagus our profits to command
Would this not be good?
Why let everyone do whatever they would?
There was a great consultation.
They came e'en from Istanbul from every nation.
They chose, to preside, an aged Baboon,
For twenty-five years in boredom marooned.
An Eagle of course found the thing that caused flips:
'Twas a word as of magic that passed through his lips.
"Constitution," he said. At once were erased
The myriad worries they'd endlessly cased.
"Constitution, of course! Didn't I always say so?"
Crowed the Cock. Even the Lion was set all aglow.
Delighted were they to select such an emblem,
With everything planned, including the anthem.
Then each returned home to spread the good news.
All the nobles went 'round dispelling the blues,
They danced on the stages, discoursed in the papers,
Invited the workers to execute capers.
"My word," said the Rabbit, "my alfalfa is where?
You'd best on this point reassure me, I swear!"
"Constitution? Yuk, yuk,"
Commented the Duck.
They chuckled on high at so much ignorance
"These Boobies," they said, "think that they're still in France!
What we're talking about is a true Constitution,
Not for their real problems the slightest solution."
They brought in the Lamb, supposèd more meek,
Who, instead of the Wolves, took the side of the weak;
The Frogs swore that they would have no more of Cranes,
And the Crow wondered: Didn't they think they had brains?
The question belongs to the ones who propose;
The answer, quite often, to those who oppose.
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Home page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/