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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

5.9. Of the foxe / of the wulf / and of the Lyon
(Perry 698)

Yf hit be soo that ony hath ben adommaged by other he ought not to take vengeaunce by the tong in gyuyng Iniuryous wordes / and the cause why / is by cause / that suche vengeaunce is dishonest As to vs reherceth this present fable / Somtyme was a foxe / that ete fysshe in a Ryuer / It happed / that the wulf came that waye / And whanne he sawe the foxe / whiche ete with so grete appetyte / He beganne to saye / My broder gyue me somme fysshe / And the foxe ansuerd to hym / Allas my lord / It behoueth not that ye ete the releef of my table / but for the worship of your persone I shall counceylle yow wel / Do soo moche to gete yow a basket / And I shalle teche yow how men shalle take fysshes / to thende / that ye may take somme whan ye shalle be hongry / And the wulf wente in to the strete / and stalle a basket / whiche he brought with hym / the foxe tooke the basket / and bound it with a cord at the wulfs taylle / And whanne he was wel bounden / the foxe sayd to the wulf / goo thow by the Ryuer / and I shalle lede and take hede to the basket / And the wulf dyde as the foxe bad hym do / And as the wulf was goynge within the water / the foxe fylled the basket fulle of stones by his malyce / And whan the basket was full / the foxe sayd to the wulf / Certaynly my lord / I maye no more lyfte ne hold the basket / so full it is of fysshe / And the wulf wenynge that the foxe had sayd trouthe / profered such wordes / sayenge / I rendre graces and thankes to god / that I maye ones see thyn hyghe and excellente wysedome in the arte and crafte of fysshynge / And thenne the foxe sayd to hym / My lord abyde me here / And I shalle fetche some to helpe vs for to haue and take the fysshe oute of the basket / And in sayenge these wordes / the foxe ranne in to the strete / where he fond men / to whome he sayd in this manere / My lordes what doo ye here / why are yow werkles / see yonder the wulf / which ete your sheep / your lambes / and your beestes / and yet now he taketh your fysshes oute of the Ryuer / and ete them / And thenne alle the men came to gyder / somme with slynges / and somme with bowes / and other with staues vnto the Ryuer / where they fond the wulf / whiche they bete outragyously / And whanne the poure wulf sawe hym thus oppressyd / & vexed with strokes beganne with alle his strengthe & myghte to drawe / and supposed to haue caryed the fysshe awey / but so strongly he drewe / that he drewe and pulled his taylle fro his ers / And thus he scaped vnnethe with his lyf / In the mene whyle thenne happed / that the lyon whiche was kynge ouer alle beestes felle in a grete sekeness / for the whiche cause euery beest wente for to see hym / as theyr lord / And when the wulf wold haue gone thyder / he salewed his lord / sayeng thus to hym / My kynge I salewe yow / please it yow to knowe that I haue gone round aboute the countre and prouynce / and in alle places of hit for to serche somme medycynes prouffitable for yow / and to recouere your helthe / but nothyng I haue found good for your sekenesse / but only the skynne of a foxe fyers and prowde and malycious / whiche is to youre body medycynal but he daygneth not to come hyther to see you But ye shalle calle hym to a counceylle / and whanne ye hold hym / lete his skynne be taken from hym / And thenne lete hym renne where he wylle / and that fayr skynne whiche is so holsome / ye shalle make hit to be sette and bound vpon your bely / And within fewe dayes after hit shalle rendre yow in as good helthe / as euer ye were / And whanne he had sayd these wordes / he departed fro the lyon and toke his leue / but neuer he had supposed / that the foxe had herd hym / but he had / For he was within a terryer nyghe by the lodgys of the lyon / where he herd alle the proposycion of the wulf / to the whiche he dyd put remedye and grete prouysyon / For as soone as the wulf was departed fro the lyon / the foxe wente with in the feldes / And in a hyghe way he fond a grete donghyll / within the whiche he put hym self / And as he supposed after his aduys to be defowled and dagged ynough / came thus arayed in to the pytte of the lyon / the whiche he salewed as he oughte to haue done to his lord / sayenge to hym in this manere / Syre kynge god yeue good helthe / And the lyon ansuerd to hym God salewe the swete frend / come nyghe me and kysse me / & after I shalle telle to the somme secrete / whiche I wylle not that euery man knowe / to whome the foxe sayd in this maner Ha a syre kynge be not displeasyd / for I am to fowle arayed and al to dagged / by cause of the grete way / whiche I haue gone / sekynge al aboute somme good medycyne for yow / wherfore it behoueth not to me / for to be so nyghe your persone For the stenche of the donge myght wel greue yow for the grete sekenesse that ye haue / but dere syre / yf hit please to the / or euer I come nerer to thy Royal mageste I shalle goo bathe me and make me fayre and clene / And thenne I shall come ageyne to presente my self byfore thy noble persone / And notwithstondynge al this / also er I goo please the to wete & knowe that I come from alle the contrees here aboute / and from alle the Royalmes adiacent to this prouynce / for to see yf I coude fynde somme good medycyn dusynge and nedeful to thy sekeness / and for to recouere thy helthe / but certaynly I haue found no better counceylle than the counceylle of an auncyent greke with a grete & long berd / a man of grete wysedom / sage & worthy to be praysed / the whiche sayd to me / how in this pouynce is a wulf withoute taylle / the whiche hath lost his taylle by the vertue of the grete medycyn whiche is within hym / For the whiche thynge it is nedeful and expedyent / that ye doo make this wulf to come to yow for the recoueraunce of the helthe of your fayr and noble body / And whan he is come dyssymylle and calle hym to counceylle / sayenge that it shalle be for his grete worship and prouffite / & as he shal be nyghe vnto yow cast on hym your armed feet / and as swetely as ye maye oulle the skynne fro the body of hym & kepe it hoole / sauf only that ye shalle leue the heed and the feet / And thenne lete hym gone his way to seche his auenture / And forthwith whan ye shalle haue that skynne / al hote and warme ye shal doo bynd hit al aboute your bely / And after that or lytyll tyme be passyd / your helthe shalle be restored to yow / and ye shal be as hole as euer in your lyf ye were / And thenne the foxe toke his leue of the kynge / and departed / and wente ageyne in to his terryer / Soone after came there the wulf for to see the lyon / And Incontynent the lyon called hym to counceylle / and castynge softly his feet vpon hym dyspoylled the wulf of his skynne sauf the skynne of his hede and of his feet / And after the lyon bound it al warme about his bely / And the wulf ranne aweye skynles / wherfore he had ynough to doo to defende and put from hym the flyes / whiche grued hym sore / And for the grete distresse that he felte by cause of the flyes / that thus ete his flesshe / he as wood beganne to renne / and passyd vnder an hylle / vpon the whiche the foxe was / And after whanne the foxe sawe hym / he beganne to crye / and calle / lawhyng after the wulf / and mocked / and sayd to hym / who arte thow that passest there before with suche a fayre hood on thy heed and with ryght fayr glouues in thyn handes / Herke herke / what I shalle saye to the / whan thow wente & camest by the kynges hows / thow were blessyd of the lord / & whan thow were at the Court thow herkenest and also sayest many good wordes and good talkynge of al the world / And therfore my godsep be it euyl or good / thow muste al lete passe / and goo / and haue pacyence in thyn aduersyte /
And thus this fable sheweth vnto vs / that yf ony be hurted or dommaged / by somme other he must not auenge hym self by his tonge for to mke ony treson / ne for to say of other ony harme ne open blasphemye For he ought to consydere / that who so euer maketh the pytte redy for his broder / ofte it happeth that he hym self falleth in the same / and is beten with the same rodde that he maketh for other


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.