King Gaster and the Members book cover

King Gaster and the Members

"King Gaster and the Members" is an allegorical tale by Jean de La Fontaine aimed to demonstrate the interdependence of diverse elements in a society. It personifies different organs and functions of the human body to symbolize different social strata, their roles, and their significance. The narrative revolves around the body going on strike against the belly (King Gaster) as they believe it doesn’t contribute while consuming all their hard work. However, they soon learn that the belly indeed plays a crucial part: distributing the energy they provide. La Fontaine uses this metaphor to emphasize the need for cooperation and harmony in society.

Genre: Fable

Had I but shown a proper loyalty, I had begun my book with royalty. The Belly is a king, it's true, And in a certain point of view His wants the other members share. Well, once to work for him they weary were; Each one discussed a better plan,-- To live an idle gentleman, Like Monsieur Gaster, Their lord and master. "Without us he must feed on air; We sweat and toil, and groan with care, For whom? for him alone; we get no good, And all our thought's to find him food: We'll strike, and try his idle trade." 'Twas done as soon as said. The hands refused to grasp, the legs to walk, The eyes to open, and the tongue to talk; Gaster might do whate'er he could.-- 'Twas a mistake they soon repent With one consent. The heart made no more blood, and so The other members ceased to glow; All wanted strength, And thus the working men at length Saw that their idle monarch, in his way, Toiled for the common weal as well as they. And this applies to royalty, It takes and gives with fair equality; All draw from it their nourishment: It feeds the artisan, and pays the magistrate, Gives labourers food, and soldiers subsidies, Distributes in a thousand places Its sovereign graces; In fact, supports the State. Menenius told the story well, When discord in the senate fell, And discontented Commons taunted it For having power and treasure, honour, dignity, While all the care and pain was theirs, Taxes and imposts, all the toils of war, The blood, the sorrow, brand and scar. Without the walls already do they band, Resolved to seek another land. Menenius was able, By this most precious fable, To bring them safely back To the old, honest track.
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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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