Tales and Novels of J. de La Fontaine — Volume 11 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 19 pages of information about Tales and Novels of J. de La Fontaine Volume 11.
accomplishments in a poet.  However that may be, let us consider of our own epigrams wherein all these qualities are combined, perhaps we shall find in them far less point, nay, I would venture to add, far less charm than in those of Marot or Saint-Gelais, although almost all the works of the latter poets are full of the same faults as are attributed to us.  We will be told that these were not faults in their day, whereas they are very great faults in ours.  To this we answer by a similar kind of argument, by saying, as we have already said, that these would undoubtedly be faults in another style of poetry, but not in this.  The late M. de Voiture is a proof in point.  We need only read the works in which he brings to life again the character of Marot.  For our Author does not lay claim to praise for himself, nor to rounds of applause from the public for having put a few tales into rhyme.  Without doubt he has entered on quite a new path, and has pursued it to the utmost of his power, choosing now one road, now another, and always treading with surer step when he has followed the manner of our old poets “quorum in hae re imitari negligentiam exoptat potius quam istorum diligentiam.”

But while saying that we wished to waive this question, we have unconsciously involved ourselves in its discussion.  Perhaps this has not been without advantage; for there is nothing that resembles faults more than these licenses.  Let us now consider the liberty which the Author has assumed in cutting into the property of others as well as his own, without making exception even to the best known stories, none of which he scruples to tamper with.  He curtails, enlarges, and alters incidents and details, at times the main issue and the sequel; in short, the story is no longer the same; it is, in point of fact, quite a new tale; its original author would find it no small difficulty to recognise in it his own work.  “Non sic decet contaminari fabulas,” Critics will say.  Why should they not?  They twitted Terence in just the same way; but Terence sneered at them, and claimed a right to treat the matter as he did.  He has mingled his own ideas with the subjects he drew from Menander, just as Sophocles and Euripides mingled theirs with the subjects they drew from former writers, sparing neither history nor romance, where “decorum” and the rules of the Drama were at issue.  Shall this privilege cease with respect to fictitious stories?  Must we in future have more scrupulous or religious regard, if we may be allowed the expression, for falsehood than the Ancients had for truth?  What people call a good tale never passes from hand to hand without receiving some fresh touch of embellishment.  How comes it then, we may be asked, that in many passages the Author curtails instead of enlarging on the original?  On that point we are agreed:  the Author does so in order to avoid lengthiness and ambiguity,—­two faults which are inadmissible in such matters, especially

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Tales and Novels of J. de La Fontaine — Volume 11 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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