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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

3.9. Of the knyght and of the wydowe
(Perry 543)

The woman whiche lyueth in this world without reproche or blame is worthely to be gretely preysed / Wherof Esope reherceth suche a fable of a man and of a woman / whiche loued moche eche other / It happed thenne by the effors of Atropos or dethe / the whiche we al must suffre / that the sayd man deyde / And as men wold haue borne hym in to his graue / whiche was withoute the toune there to be buryed / his wyf made grete sorowe and wepte pyteously / And whanne he was buryed / she wold abyde stylle vpon the graue / and lete do make a lytyll lodge or hows therupon / and oute of this lodge she wold neuer departe for no prayer ne fayr word / neyther for ony yeftes ne for menaces of her parentes Now it befell in the toun that a mysdoer was condampned to be hanged / And to thende that he shold not be taken fro the galhows / hit was thenne commaunded that a knyght shold kepe hym / And as the knyght kepte hym / grete thurste took hym / And as he perceyued the lodge of the sayd woman he wente to her / and prayd her to gyue hym somme drynke / And she with good herte gaf hym to drynke / And the knyght dranke with grete appetyte / as he that had grete thurste / & whan he had dronke / he torned ageyne to the galhows ward / This knyght came another tyme to the woman for to comforte her / And thre tymes he dyd soo / And as he was thus goyng and comynge / doubtynge hym of no body / his hanged man was taken and had fro the galhows / And whanne the knyght was come ageyne to the galhows & sawe that he had loste his dede man / he was gretely abasshed & not without cause For hit was charged to hym vpon peyne to be hanged / yf he were take awey / This knyght thenne seynge his Iugement / tourned and went ageyne to the sayd woman / & cast hym at her feete / and laye before her as he had be dede / And she demaunded of hym / My frend / what wylt thow that I doo for the / Allas sayd he / I praye the that thow socoure and counceylle me now at my grete nede / For by cause I haue not kept wel my theef / whiche men haue rauysshed fro me / the kynge shalle make me to be put to dethe / And the woman sayd / Haue no drede my frend / For well I shalle fynde the manere wherby thow shalt be delyuerd / For we shall take my husbond / and shalle hange hym in stede of thy theef / Thenne beganne she to delue / and tooke oute of the erthe her husbond / and at nyght she hanged hym at the galhows in stede of the other / & sayd to the knyght / My ryght dere frend I pray the that this be kept wel secrete / For we doo hit theefly /
And thus the dede men haue somme / whiche make sorowe for them / but that sorowe is sone gone and passyd / And they whiche ben on lyue haue some whiche drede them / but theyr drede wantith and faylleth whan they ben dede

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.