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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

1.18. Of the lyon and of the rat /
(Perry 150)

The myghty and puyssaunt must pardonne and forgyue to the lytyll and feble / and ought to kepe hym fro al euylle / For oftyme the lytyll may welgyue ayde and help to the grete / wherof Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable Of a lyon whiche slepte in a forest and the rats disported and playd aboute hym / It happed that the rat wente vpon the lyon / wherfore the lyon awoke / and within his clawes or ongles he tooke the rat / And whanne the rat sawe hym thus taken & hold sayd thus to the lyon / My lord pardonne me / For of my deth nought ye shalle wynne / For I supposed not to haue done to yow ony harme ne displaysyre / Thenne thought the lyon in hym self that no worship ne glorye it were to put it to dethe / wherfor he graunted his pardone and lete hym go within a lytell whyle / After this it happed so that the same lyon was take at a grete trappe / And as he sawe hym thus caught and taken / he beganne to crye and make sorowe / And thenne whan the rat herd hym crye / he approched hym & demaunded of hym wherfor he cryed / And the lyon ansuerd to hym / Seest thow not how I am take and bound with this gynne / Thenne sayd the ratte to hym / My lord I wylle not be vnkynde / but euer I shal remembre the grace whiche thou hast done to me / And yf I can I shall now helpe the / The ratte beganne to byte the lace or cord / and so long he knawed it that the lace brake / And thus the lyon escaped /
Therfore this fable techeth vs how that a man myghty and puyssaunt ought to disprayse the lytyll / For somtyme he that can no body hurte ne lette may at a nede gyue help and ayde to the grete

Caxton published his edition of Aesop's fables in 1484. There are modern reprints by Joseph Jacobs (D. Nutt: London, 1889) and more recently by Robert Lenaghan (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1967). Lenaghan's edition is available at amazon.com.