<< Home Page | Caxton Index

Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

5.8. Of the serpent and of the labourer
(Perry 697)

The Auctor of this booke reherceth suche another Fable and of suche sentence / as the precydent / that is to wete / that men shold not byleue hym / to whome men hath done euylle / And sayth that somtyme in heruest tyme a labourer wente for to see his goodes in the feldes / the whiche mette on his way a serpent / And with a staf whiche he bare in his hand smote the sayd serpent / and gaf hym suche a stroke vpon the heed / that nyghe he slewe hym / And as the Serpent felte hym self soo sore hurted / he wente fro the man / And entryd in to his hole / And sayd to the labourer / O euylle Frende / thow has bete me / But I warne the / that thow neuer byleue not hym / to the whiche thow hast done ony euylle / Of the whiche wordes the labourer made lytyl extyme and went forthe on his waye / It befelle thenne in the same yere / that this labourer wente ageyne by that waye / for to goo laboure and ere his ground / To whome the sayd Serpent sayd / Ha my frend / whyther goost thow / And the labourer answerd to hym / I goo ere and plowe my ground / And the Serpent sayd to hym / sowe not to moche / For this yere shalle be raynfull and grete habondaunce of waters shalle falle / But byleue not to hym / to whome thow hast somtyme done ony euylle / And withoute ony wordes the labourer wente forthe on his waye / and byleued not the serpent / but made alle his ground to be cultyued and ered / and sowed as moche corne as he myghte / In that same yere felle grete haboundaunce of water / wherfore the sayd labourer had but lytyl of his corne / For the mooste parte of the corne that he had sowen perysshed that same yere by cause of the grete rayne that felle that same yere / And the next yere after folowynge / as this labourer passyd before the repayre or dwellynge place of the sayd Serpent and went for to sowe his ground / the Serpente demaunded thenne of hym / My Frend whyther gost thow / And the labourer answerd / I goo for to sowe my ground wyth corn and with other graynes suche as I hope that shalle ben necessary for me in tyme comynge / And thenne the Serpent saide to hym / My frend sowe but lytyl corne / For the Somer next comynge shalle be soo grete and soo hote / that by the dryenes and hete / that alle the goodes sowen on the erthe shalle perysshe But byleue not hym / to whome thow hast done ony euylle / And withoute sayenge ony word / the labourer wente / and thought on the wordes of the Serpent / And wenynge / that the Serpent hadde soo sayd for to deceyue hym / he sowed as moche corne and other graynes / as he myght / And it happed that the Somer next folowynge was suche / as aboue is sayd / Therfor the man was begyled / For he gadred that same yere nothynge / And the next yere after folowynge / the sayd season as the poure labourer wente ageyne for to ere and cultyue his ground the serpet sawe hym come fro ferre / And as he came and passed before his repayre he asked of the labourer in suche maner / My Frend whyther goost thow / And the labourer ansuerd / I goo cultyue and ere my ground / And thenne the serpent seyd to hym / My Frend sowe not to moche ne to lytyl of corne and of other graynes / but sowe bytwene bothe / Neuertheles byleue not hym / to the whiche thow hast done euyl And I telle the that this yere shalle be the most temperate and the moost fertyle of all maner of corne / that euer thow sawest / And whanne the labourer hadde herd these wordes / he wente his waye / and dyd as the Serpent had sayd / And that yere he gadred moche good / by cause of the good disposycion of the season and tyme / And on a daye of the same yere / the serpent sawe the sayd labourer comynge fro the heruest / to whome he came ageynste / and sayd / Now saye me my good Frend / Hast thow not fond now grete plente of goodes / as I had told to the byfore And the labourer ansuerd and sayd ye certaynly / wherof I thanke the / And thenne the Serpent demaunded of hym Remuneracion or reward / And the labourer thenne demaunded what he wold haue of hym / And the Serpent sayd I ne demaunde of the nothynge / but only that to morowe on the mornyng thow wylt sende me a dyssh ful of mylk by som of thy children / And thenne the serpent shewed to the labourer the hole of his dwellyng / & sayd to hym / telle thy sone that he brynge the mylke hyther / but take good heede to that that other whyle I told to the / that thow byleuest not hym / to whome thow hast done euylle / And anone after whanne these thynges were sayd / the labourer wente homeward / And in the mornynge next folowynge / he betoke to his sone a dysshe full of mylke whiche he brought to the serpent / and sette the dysshe before the hool / And anone the serpent came oute and slewe the child thurgh his venym / And when the labourer cam fro the feld / and that he came before the repayre or dwellynge of the serpent / he fond his sonne whiche laye doune deed on the erthe / Thenne beganne the sayd labourer to crye with a hyghe voys / as he that was ful of sorowe and of heuynesse sayenge such wordes / Ha cursyd & euylle serpent / vermyn and fals traytour / thow hast deceyued me / Ha wycked and deceytfull beest / ful of all contagyous euyll thow hast sorowfully slayne my sone And thenne the serpente sayd to hym / I wylle well / that thow knowe / that I haue not slayne hym sorowfully / ne with oute cause / but for to auenge me of that / that thow hurtest me on that other daye withoute cause / and hast not amended hit / Hast thow now memorye / how ofte I sayd to the / that thow sholdest not byleue hym / to whome thow hast done euyll / haue now thenne in thy memorye / that I am auengyd of the /
And thus this fable sheweth how men ought not to byleue ne bere feythe to them / to whome men hath done somme harme / or euylle


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.