- Peevish but intimate as if we had raised you in the house, you stick your snout everywhere, and use it as much as your feet to walk with.
- You conceal your tiny black-currant eyes under beet-leaf ears.
- You’re pot-bellied as a gooseberry.
- You have the same long hairs, the same light skin, and a short, tight-curled tail.
- And the nasty-minded call you “piggish.”
- They say that if nothing disgusts you, you disgust everyone else, and that the only thing you like is dishwater — dirty dishwater at that.
- But it’s a libel.
- Properly cleaned up, you’d look pretty enough.
- It’s their fault if you neglect yourself.
- Since they make your bed, you lie in it, and slovenliness is only second nature to you.
The Swine and the Pearls
- As soon as we let him into the pasture, the hog begins eating, and his snout never leaves the ground.
- He doesn’t seek out the best grass. He attacks whatever comes first and pushes his indefatigable nose in front of him like a ploughshare or a blind
- The only thing that concerns him is to fill out a belly that already looks like a salting-tub, and he never bothers about the weather.
- What does it matter if his bristles almost catch fire in the noonday sun, or if a heavy hail-swollen cloud is spreading over the pasture now, about to
- The magpie, of course, escapes, with her bursts of automatic flight; the turkey-hens hide in the hedge, and the boyish colt takes shelter under an oak.
- But the hog stays where he eats.
- He doesn’t miss a mouthful.
- He doesn’t move even his tail.
- Riddled with hailstones, he barely has time to grunt:
- “More of their damn pearls.”
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec asked Renard if he might illustrate this bestiary, Histoires Naturelles. The descriptive poems, Renard hoped, “would please the animals themselves.” The 22 lithographs are some of Lautrec’s finest illustrations and the book itself is the prototype of nearly all modern bestiaries.
Pierre Bonnard was a personal friend of Lautrec. Both artists were featured in Renard’s 1904 edition of Histoires Naturelles Paris: Hemmerlé, Petit & Co. for Ernest Flammario, 1904.
About the Poet
Pierre-Jules Renard or Jules Renard, (1864-1910), French. Renard was an author, poet, and member of the Académie Goncourt where he held the 2nd Seat from 1907 to 1910.
Renard’s Histoires naturelles, a bestiary of humorous animal poems was his miniature of the famed Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (1749-1778) by the naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788).
The 17-volume journal Renard kept from 1857 to 1910 (published 1925-7) is considered an important record of French literary life and literary figures. In it Renard recorded events, epigrams, dialogue, descriptions of people and places, all with introspection, irony, humor and nostalgia. [DES-1/07]