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The Wolf and the Shepherds

(Recueil 2, Livre 10, Fable 5)



A Wolf, replete

With humanity sweet,

(A trait not much suspected,)

On his cruel deeds,

The fruit of his needs,

Profoundly thus reflected.

"I'm hated," said he,

"As joint enemy,

By hunters, dogs, and clowns.

They swear I shall die,

And their hue and cry

The very thunder drowns.

"My brethren have fled,

With price on the head,

From England's merry land.

King Edgar came out,

And put them to rout,

With many a deadly band.

"And there's not a squire

But blows up the fire

By hostile proclamation;

Nor a human brat,

Dares cry, but that

Its mother mocks my nation.

"And all for what?

For a sheep with the rot,

Or scabby, mangy ass,

Or some snarling cur,

With less meat than fur,

On which I have broken fast!

"Well, henceforth I'll strive

That nothing alive

Shall die to quench my thirst;

No lambkin shall fall,

Nor puppy, at all,

To glut my maw accurst.

With grass I'll appease,

Or browse on the trees,

Or die of famine first.

"What of carcass warm?

Is it worth the storm

Of universal hate?"

As he spoke these words,

The lords of the herds,

All seated at their bait,

He saw; and observed

The meat which was served

Was nothing but roasted lamb!

"O! O!" said the beast,

"Repent of my feast

All butcher as I am

On these vermin mean,

Whose guardians even

Eat at a rate quadruple!

Themselves and their dogs,

As greedy as hogs,

And I, a wolf, to scruple!"

"Look out for your wool

I'll not be a fool,

The very pet I'll eat;

The lamb the best looking,

Without any cooking,

I'll strangle from the teat;

And swallow the dam,

As well as the lamb,

And stop her foolish bleat.

Old Hornie, too, rot him,

The sire that begot him

Shall be among my meat!"

Well reasoning beast!

Were we sent to feast

On creatures wild and tame?

And shall we reduce

The beasts to the use

Of vegetable game?

Shall animals not

Have flesh-hook or pot,

As in the age of gold?

And we claim the right,

In the pride of our might,

Themselves to have and hold?

O shepherds, that keep

Your folds full of sheep,

The wolf was only wrong,

Because, so to speak,

His jaws were too weak

To break your palings strong.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 10, Fable 5



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