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The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox

(Recueil 2, Livre 8, Fable 3)



A lion, old, and impotent with gout,

Would have some cure for age found out.

Impossibilities, on all occasions,

With kings, are rank abominations.

This king, from every species,

For each abounds in every sort,

Called to his aid the leeches.

They came in throngs to court,

From doctors of the highest fee

To nostrum-quacks without degree,

Advised, prescribed, talked learnedly;

But with the rest

Came not Sir Cunning Fox, M.D.

Sir Wolf the royal couch attended,

And his suspicions there expressed.

Forthwith his majesty, offended,

Resolved Sir Cunning Fox should come,

And sent to smoke him from his home.

He came, was duly ushered in,

And, knowing where Sir Wolf had been,

Said, "Sire, your royal ear

Has been abused, I fear,

By rumours false and insincere;

To wit, that I have been self-exempt

From coming here, through sheer contempt.

But, sire, I have been on pilgrimage,

By vow expressly made,

Your royal health to aid,

And, on my way, met doctors sage,

In skill the wonder of the age,

Whom carefully I did consult

About that great debility

Termed in the books senility,

Of which you fear, with reason, the result.

You lack, they say, the vital heat,

By age extreme become effete.

Drawn from a living wolf, the hide

Should warm and smoking be applied.

The secret's good, beyond a doubt,

For nature's weak, and wearing out.

Sir Wolf, here, won't refuse to give

His hide to cure you, as I live."

The king was pleased with this advice.

Flayed, jointed, served up in a trice,

Sir Wolf first wrapped the monarch up,

Then furnished him whereon to sup.

Beware, you courtiers, lest you gain,

By slander's arts, less power than pain;

For in the world where you are living,

A pardon no one thinks of giving.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 8, Fable 3



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