The Oak and the Reed, By Jean de La Fontaine
The oak one day says to the reed:
|From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES|
The Oak and the Reed, By Jean de La Fontaine. 1966. Cajolery and force have been two constant ways men have had of getting their point, or making their point successfully. We yield to win and we fight to win. There are strategy and bopping as means to victory. Force and persuasiveness are related to the makeup of the world as matter and something else. The oak in the La Fontaine fable does not know everything about power; and it is possible the reed doesn't either. How resistance and yielding can both be forms of power has not been described yet. This—resistance and yielding as both power—arises from the fact that pride and humility are both strength. Resistance and yielding, pride and humility (or their likes) can work for evil or good. There is a slight implication in the fable that the reed is good and the oak evil—but it doesn't have to be this way. If we look at the word acquiescent, we don't know what to feel. There may be a large-hearted, kind person concerned; or there may be a supple knave, or a resilient sharpy. The word affable also has two faces. The answer to all this lies in the structure of the La Fontaine fable, when it is doing well. The fable, being poetry, has the firmness of the oak and the bendingness of the reed. And now it is about time, while praising this fable, to write another.
From Hail, American Development (Definition Press)
© 1968 by Eli Siegel