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Democritus and the Abderanians

Democritus and the Abderanians is a literary work by Jean de La Fontaine that uses the Greek philosopher, Democritus, as a central figure to explore the concept of human folly. Drawing from ancient Greek culture, the book depicts Democritus as an observer of human foolishness, while also illustrating the backlash he receives from the public - the Abderanians - for his peculiar behavior and views. This story serves as a critique of society's narrow perspective and intolerance towards different opinions or ideas.

Genre: Fable

How I the base and vulgar hate: Profane, unjust, and obstinate! So ever prone, with lip and eye, To turn the truth to calumny! The master of great Epicurus Suffered from this rabble once; Which shows e'en learning can't secure us From the malice of the dunce. By all the people of his town Was cried, "Democritus is mad!" But in his own land, well 'tis known, No prophet credit ever had. The truth within a nutshell lies: His friends were fools,--and he was wise. The error spread to such extent, That, at length, a deputation, With letters from Abdera's nation, To famed Hippocrates was sent, With humble, earnest hope that he For madness might find remedy. "Our fellow-townsman," weeping said The deputation, "lost his head Through too much reading. Would that he Had only read as much as we! To know how truly he insane is, He says, for instance, nought more plain is, Than that this earth is only one Of million others round the sun; And all these shining worlds are full Of people, wise as well as dull. And, not content with dreaming thus, With theories strange he puzzles us; Asserting that his brain consists Of some queer kind of airy mists. And, more than this, he says, that though He measures stars from earth below, What he himself is he don't know! Long since, in friendly conversation, He was the wit of all the nation; But now alone he'll talk and mumble: So, great physician, if you can, Pray come and cure this poor old man." Hippocrates, by all this jumble, Was not deceived, but still he went;-- And here we see how accident Can bring such meetings 'tween ourselves As scarce could managed be by elves. Hippocrates arrived, to find That he whom all men called a fool Was sage, and wise, and calm, and cool,-- Still searching for the innate mind In heart and brain of beast and man. Retired beneath a leafy grove, Through which a murmuring brooklet ran, The sage, with patient ardour, strove The labyrinths of a skull to scan. Beside him lay full many a scroll By ancients written; and his soul Was wrapt in learned thought so wholly, That scarce he saw his friend advance: Their greeting was but just a glance;-- For sages right well know the folly Of idle compliment and word. So, throwing off all forms absurd, They spoke, in language large and free, Of man, his soul and destiny; And then discussed the secret springs Which move all bad or holy things. But 'tis not meet that I rehearse Such weighty words in humble verse. From this short story we may see How much at fault the mob may be; And this being so, pray tell me why Some venture to proclaim aloud That in the clamour of the crowd We hear the voice of Deity?
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Jean de La Fontaine

Jean de La Fontaine was a renowned French fabulist and one of the most famous poets during the French classical period. He was born on July 8, 1621, and died on April 13, 1695. Known for his literary style, he is best known for his "Fables", which are considered classics of French literature. His works were marked by his sophisticated style and moral substance, and his fables provided a scathing critique of French society during his time. more…

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