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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

5.1. Of the Mulet / of the foxe / and of the wulf
(Perry 693)

Men calle many folke Asses / that ben wel subtyle / And suche wenen to knowe moche / and to be a grete clerke that is but an asse / As hit appiereth by thys fable / Of a mule whiche ete grasse in a medowe nyghe to a grete forest / to whome came a foxe whiche demaunded of hym / what arte thow / And the mule ansuerd I am a beest / And the foxe sayd to hym / I ne demaunde ne aske of the that / but I aske who was thy fader / And the Mule ansuerd / My grete fader was an hors / And the foxe sayd ageyne I ne demaunde to the that / but only that thow tellest me / who thow arte named / And the Mule sayd to the foxe / I ne wote / by cause I was lytyll whanne my fader deyde / Neuertheles to thende that my name shold not be forgeten / my fader made hit to be wreton vnder my lyfte foote behynde / wherfore yf thow wylt knowe my name / goo thow and loke vnder my foote / And whanne the foxe vnderstood the fallace or falshede / he wente ageyne in to the forest / And mette with the wulf / to whome he sayd / Ha myschaunt beest / what dost thow here / Come with me / and in to thy hand I shall put a good proy Loke in to yonder medowe / there shalt thow fynde a fatte beest Of the whiche thow mayst be fylled / And thenne the wulf entryd in to the medowe / and fonde there the mule / Of whom he demaunded / who arte thow / And the mule ansuerd to the wulf / I am a beest / And the wulf sayd to hym / This is not that that I aske to the / but telle how thow arte named / And the mule sayd I wote not / but neuertheles yf thow wylt knowe my name / thow shalt fynde it wreton at my lyfte foote behynde / Thenne sayd the wulf / I praye the / vouchsauf to shewe it to me / And the mule lyft vp his foote / And as the wulf beheld and studyed in the foote of the mule / the Mule gaf hym suche a stroke with his foote before his forhede / that almost the brayne ranne oute of his hede / And the foxe whiche was within a busshe and sawe alle the maner beganne to lawhe and mocque the wulf / to whome he sayd / Foole beeste thow wost wel / that thow canst not rede / wherfore yf euylle is therof come to the / thy self is cause of hit /
For none ought not to entremete hym to doo that / that Impossyble is to hym / And therfor many ben deceyued / that entremeteth them to doo that / that they may not doo /

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.