La Cigale et la Fourmi

with Gill Storey

Autumn is over, winter is now well underway.  The grapes have been gathered and the villages are redolent with the smell of crushed grapes – not always the greatest perfume.

The careful gardeners and housewives are building up stores for the winter.

Hams are hung to smoke, potatoes and carrots are piled up in clamps and summer fruits are bottled, turned to jam or jelly or steeped in alcohol to make liqueurs such as slow gin or walnut brandy.

This burst of activity turns the mind again to Lafontaine’s Fables.  The annoying chirp of the crickets has died down and the bird song is changing to a winter note, but the more provident insects, such as the ants and the bees, are still hard at work gathering the last seeds and the last drops of nectar before winter closes activities down

Lafontaine dealt with this in his version of the fable which we know as The Ant and the Grasshopper.

La Cigale et la Fourmi

The Cricket and the Ant

 La cigale, ayant chanté  The cricket, having spent the summer
 Tout l’été,  Singing
 Se trouva fort dépourvue  Found herself short of supplies
 Quand la bise fut venue :  When the east wind began to blow.
 Pas un seul petit morceau  Not a single scrap
 De mouche ou de vermisseau :  Of fly or wriggly grub.
 Elle alla crier famine  She went to plead famine
 Chez la fourmi sa voisine,  With her neighbour the ant,
 La priant de lui prêter  Begging her to lend her
 Quelque grain pour subsister  A few grains to keep her alive
 Jusqu’à la saison nouvelle :  Until the coming spring.
 Je vous paierai, lui dit-elle,  I will pay you back, she said,
 Avant l’août, foi d’animal,  Before August, on my word as an animal,
 Intérêt et principal.  Interest and Principal.
 La fourmi n’est pas prêteuse ;  The ant does not like to lend,
 C’est la son moindre défaut :  That is the least of her weaknesses:
 Que faisiez-vous au temps chaud ?  What did you do in the warm weather?
 Dit-elle a cette emprunteuse,  Said she to the would-be borrower.
 Nuit et jour à tout venant Night and day, to every passerby,
Je chantais, ne vous déplaise. I sang, may it please you.
Vous chantiez ! j’en suis fort aise. You sang, I am glad to hear it.
 Et bien, dansez maintenant.  Very well, now you may dance.

The cricket got what she deserved.

The language is quite colloquial and I have tried to achieve the same effect.


  1. NB la cigale is a cicada in English. Cicadas sing in the day time heat.
    Crickets (les grillons) on the other hand can only be heard at night!

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