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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

3.18. Of the Marchaunt and of the asse
(Perry 164)

Many one ben trauaylled after theyr dethe / wherfor men ought not to desyre the dethe / As reherceth Esope by this fable / Of a marchaunt whiche ladde an Asse laden vnto the market / And for to be the sooner at the market / he bete his asse / and sore prycked hym / wherfor the poure asse wysshed & desyred his owne deth / wenyng to hym that after his dethe he shold be in reste / And after that he had be wel bete & chaced he deyde / And his mayster made hym to be flayne / and of his skynne he dyd doo make tambours whiche ben euer bete /
And thus for what payne that men may haue durynge his lyf / he ought not to desyre and wysshe his dethe / For many one ben / whiche haue grete payne in this world that shall haue a gretter in the other world / For the man hath no reste for the dethe but for his merytes

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.