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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

3.19. Of the herte and of the oxe
(Perry 492)

Onely for to flee none is assured to scape the daunger wherfore he fleeth / As thow shalt mowe see by this fable / Of a herte whiche ranne byfore the dogges / and to thende that he shold not be take / he fledde in to the fyrst toun that he found / & entryd in to a stable where as many oxen were / to whom he sayd the cause why he was come there / prayeng them swetely that they wold saue hym / And the oxen sayd thus to hym / Allas poure herte thow arte amonge vs euylle adressyd / thow sholdest be more surely in the feldes / For yf thow be perceyued or sene of the oxeherd or els of the mayster / Certaynly thow arte but dede / Helas for god & for pyte I praye yow that ye wylle hyde me within your racke / and that ye deceyue me not / and at nyght next comynge / I shalle goo hens / and shalle putte my self in to a sure place / And whanne the seruaunts was come for to gyue heye to the oxen / they dyd cast heye before the oxen / and wente ageyne theyre waye and sawe not the hert / wherof the herte was gretely reioysshed wenynge to haue scaped the perylle of dethe / He thenne rendred thanke and graces to the oxen / and one of the oxen sayd to hym / It is facyle to scape out of the handes of the blynd but hit is not facyle to scape fro the handes of hym that seeth wel / For yf oure mayster come hyther whiche hath more than an honderd eyen / Certaynly thow arte deed yf he perceyue the / And yf he see the not / certaynly thow arte saued / and shalt goo for the on thy waye surely / The mayster withyn a short whyle after entryd in to the stable And after he commaunded to vysyte and see the hey / whiche was before his oxen / And hym self went and tasted / yf they had ynough of hit / And as he tasted thus the heye / he felt the hornes of the herte with his hand / and to hym self sayd / what is that that I fele here / and beynge dredeful called alle his seruauntes / and demaunded of the manere how the herte came thyder / And they sayd to hym / My lord I knowe nothynge therof / And the lord was full gladde and made the herte to be taken and slayne / and maade a grete feest for to haue ete hym /
Therfore it happeth oftyme / that he whiche supposeth to flee is taken and hold within the lace or nette / For he that fleeth awey is in grete perylle / wherfore men ought wel to kepe them self to doo suche dede / that they must nedes flee therfore

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.