Jean De La Fontaine
Biography of Jean De La Fontaine
Jean de La Fontaine was born in Chateau-Thierry, Champagne, in central France, the son of a government official. He went to Paris to study medicine and theology, but was drawn to the whirls of social life.
La Fontaine qualified as a lawyer but he returned home in 1647 and assisted his father, a superintendent of forests. He held a number of government posts, but they did not pay much money. In 1647 he married Marie Héricart, an heiress, but the marriage was unhappy and they separated in 1658.
La Fontaine had decided to become a famous writer. In 1658 he left his family and moved to Paris, where he lived his most productive years, devoting himself to writing.
He found many patrons. One of his patrons Nicolas Fouquet, was arrested for embezzlement and treason and sentenced to death. La Fontaine wrote one of his most beautiful poems as an impassioned plea for mercy. He left Paris to avoid arrest and spent soem time in Limousin.
From 1664 to 1672 La Fontaine served as a gentleman-in-waiting to the dowager duchess d'Orleans in Luxemburg, and from 1673 he was a member of the household of Mme de La Sabliere. In 1683 he was elected to the Academie Francaise in recognition of his contribution to French literature.
Among La Fontaine's major works are Contes et Nouvelle en Vers (1664), a collection of tales borrowed from Italian sources, tales of Boccaccio, Rabelais, and other medieval and renaissance masters, these were stories dealt with marital misdemeanors and love affairs and were not written for readers who blushed easily. They went through four editions during La Fontaine's lifetime, but the last edition was banned by the authorities because it was considered too obscene. Later La Fontaine regretted ever having written them.
Another major work is Les Amours de Psyche et de Cupidon(1669).
His Fables Choisies Mises en Vers, usually called La Fontaine Fables, were published over the last 25 years of his life. The first volume appeared when the author was 47. The book includes some 240 poems and timeless stories of countryfolk, heroes from Greek mythology, and familiar beasts from the fables of Aesop, from which La Fontaine unhesitatingly borrowed his material. The last of his tales were published posthumously. Each tale has a moral - an instruction how to behave correctly or how life should be lived. In the second volume La Fontaine based his tales on stories from Asia and other places. They were widely translated and imitated during the 17th and 18th centuries all over Europe, and beyond.
At the age of 71 La Fontaine became ill, and he started to think seriously about his life. He translated the Psalms, wore a hair shirt, and again embraced Catholicism.
La Fontaine died in Paris on April 13, 1695. Before his death La Fontaine was encouraged by his abbé to condemn publicly his indecent stories. La Fontaine obeyed the advice and also burned a comedy he had just composed.
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Jean De La Fontaine Poems
The Country Justice
TWO lawyers to their cause so well adhered, A country justice quite confused appeared, By them the facts were rendered so obscure With which the truth remained he was not sure.
SICK, Alice grown, and fearing dire event, Some friend advised a servant should be sent Her confessor to bring and ease her mind;-- Yes, she replied, to see him I'm inclined;
The Avaricious Wife And Tricking Gallant
WHO knows the world will never feel surprise, When men are duped by artful women's eves; Though death his weapon freely will unfold; Love's pranks, we find, are ever ruled by gold.
Belphegor Addressed To Miss De Chammelay
YOUR name with ev'ry pleasure here I place, The last effusions of my muse to grace. O charming Phillis! may the same extend Through time's dark night: our praise together blend;
St. Julian's Prayer
TO charms and philters, secret spells and prayers, How many round attribute all their cares! In these howe'er I never can believe, And laugh at follies that so much deceive.
King Candaules And The Doctor Of Laws
IN life oft ills from self-imprudence spring; As proof, Candaules' story we will bring; In folly's scenes the king was truly great: His vassal, Gyges, had from him a bait,
IN Lombardy's fair land, in days of yore, Once dwelt a prince, of youthful charms, a store; Each FAIR, with anxious look, his favours sought, And ev'ry heart within his net was caught.
IN ev'ry age, at Naples, we are told, Intrigue and gallantry reign uncontrolled; With beauteous objects in abundance blessed. No country round so many has possessed;
The Amorous Courtesan
DAN CUPID, though the god of soft amour, In ev'ry age works miracles a store; Can Catos change to male coquets at ease; And fools make oracles whene'er he please;
An Imitation Of Anacreon
PAINTER in Paphos and Cythera famed Depict, I pray, the absent Iris' face. Thou hast not seen the lovely nymph I've named; The better for thy peace.--Then will I trace
Friar Philip's Geese
IF these gay tales give pleasure to the FAIR, The honour's great conferred, I'm well aware; Yet, why suppose the sex my pages shun? Enough, if they condemn where follies run;
WE'RE told, that once a cobbler, BLASE by name; A wife had got, whose charms so high in fame; But as it happened, that their cash was spent, The honest couple to a neighbour went,
A Confidant Without Knowing It; Or The S...
NO master sage, nor orator I know, Who can success, like gentle Cupid show; His ways and arguments are pleasing smiles, Engaging looks, soft tears, and winning wiles.
WHEN Sister Jane, who had produced a child, In prayer and penance all her hours beguiled Her sister-nuns around the lattice pressed; On which the abbess thus her flock addressed:
TO serve the shop as 'prentice was the lot;
Of one who had the name of Nicaise got;
A lad quite ignorant beyond his trade,
And what arithmetick might lend him aid;
A perfect novice in the wily art,
That in amours is used to win the heart.
Good tradesmen formerly were late to learn
The tricks that soon in friars we discern;
They ne'er were known those lessons to begin,