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The Farmer, the Dog, and the Fox

(Recueil 2, Livre 11, Fable 3)

 

 

The wolf and fox are neighbours strange:

I would not build within their range.

The fox once eyed with strict regard

From day to day, a poultry yard;

But though a most accomplished cheat,

He could not get a fowl to eat.

Between the risk and appetite,

His rogueship's trouble was not slight.

"Alas!" said he, "this stupid rabble

But mock me with their constant gabble;

I go and come, and rack my brains,

And get my labour for my pains.

Your rustic owner, safe at home,

Takes all the profits as they come:

He sells his capons and his chicks,

Or keeps them hanging on his hook,

All dressed and ready for his cook;

But I, adept in art and tricks,

Should I but catch the toughest crower,

Should be brimful of joy, and more.

O Jove supreme! why was I made

A master of the fox's trade?

By all the higher powers, and lower,

I swear to rob this chicken grower!"

Revolving such revenge within,

When night had stilled the various din,

And poppies seemed to bear full sway

Over man and dog, as locked they lay

Alike secure in slumber deep,

And cocks and hens were fast asleep,

On the populous roost he stole.

By negligence, a common sin,

The farmer left unclosed the hole,

And, stooping down, the fox went in.

The blood of every fowl was spilled,

The citadel with murder filled.

The dawn disclosed sad sights, I believe,

When heaps on slaughtered heaps were seen,

All weltering in their mingled gore.

With horror stricken, as of yore,

The sun well nigh shrunk back again,

To hide beneath the liquid main.

Such sight once saw the Trojan plain,

When on the fierce Atrides head

Apollo's awful anger fell,

And strewed the crimson field with dead:

Of Greeks, scarce one was left to tell

The carnage of that night so dread.

Such slaughter, too, around his tent,

The furious Ajax made, one night,

Of sheep and goats, in easy fight;

In anger blindly confident

That by his well directed blows

Ulysses fell, or some of those

By whose iniquity and lies

That wily rival took the prize.

The fox, thus having Ajax played,

Bore off the nicest of the brood,

As many pullets as he could,

And left the rest, all prostrate laid.

The owner found his sole resource

His servants and his dog to curse.

"You useless puppy, better drowned!

Why did you not your "larum sound?"

"Why did you not the evil shun,"

Said Towser, "as you might have done?

If you, whose interest was more,

Could sleep and leave an open door,

Think you that I, a dog at best,

Would watch, and lose my precious rest?"

This pithy speech had been, in truth,

Good logic in a master's mouth;

But, coming from a menial's lip,

It even lacked the lawyership

To save poor Towser from the whip.

O you who head'st a family,

(An honour never grudged by me,)

You art a patriarch unwise,

To sleep, and trust another's eyes.

Yourself should go to bed the last,

Your doors all seen to, shut and fast.

I charge you never let a fox see

Your special business done by proxy.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 11, Fable 3

 

 

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