34 THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE. Less suffering would your life have known, Defended from the tempest's power. Unhappily you oftenest show In open air your slender form, Along the marshes wet and low, That fringe the kingdom of the storm. To you, declare I must, Dame Nature seems unjust/ Then modestly replied the reed ; 'Your pity, sir, is kind indeed, But wholly needless for my sake. The wildest wind that ever blew Is safe to me compared with you. I bend, indeed, but never break. Thus far, I own, the hurricane Has beat your sturdy back in vain ; But wait the end.' Just at the word, The tempest's hollow voice was heard. The North sent forth her fiercest child, Dark, jagged, pitiless, and wild. The oak, erect, endured the blow ; The reed bowed gracefully and low. But, gathering up its strength once more, In greater fury than before. The savage blast O'erthrew, at last. That proud old sky-encircled head, Whose feet entwined the empire of the dead !®°
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