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The Wolf, the Mother, And Her Child

(Recueil 1, Livre 4, Fable 16)



This wolf another brings to mind,

Who found dame Fortune more unkind,

In that the greedy, pirate sinner,

Was balked of life as well as dinner.

As says our tale, a villager

Dwelt in a by, unguarded place;

There, hungry, watched our pillager

For luck and chance to mend his case.

For there his thievish eyes had seen

All sorts of game go out and in

Nice sucking calves, and lambs and sheep;

And turkeys by the regiment,

With steps so proud, and necks so bent,

Theyed make a daintier glutton weep.

The thief at length began to tire

Of being gnawed by vain desire.

Just then a child set up a cry:

"Be still," the mother said, "or I

Will throw you to the wolf, you brat!"

"Ha, ha!" thought he, "what talk is that!

The gods be thanked for luck so good!"

And ready at the door he stood,

When soothingly the mother said,

"Now cry no more, my little dear;

That naughty wolf, if he comes here,

Your dear papa shall kill him dead."

"Humph!" cried the veteran mutton-eater.

"Now this, now that! Now hot, now cool!

Is this the way they change their metre?

And do they take me for a fool?

Some day, a nutting in the wood,

That young one yet shall be my food."

But little time has he to dote

On such a feast; the dogs rush out

And seize the caitiff by the throat;

And country ditchers, thick and stout,

With rustic spears and forks of iron,

The hapless animal environ.

"What brought you here, old head?" cried one.

He told it all, as I have done.

"Why, bless my soul!" the frantic mother said,

"You, villain, eat my little son!

And did I nurse the darling boy,

Your fiendish appetite to cloy?"

With that they knocked him on the head.

His feet and scalp they bore to town,

To grace the seigneur's hall,

Where, pinned against the wall,

This verse completed his renown:

"You honest wolves, believe not all

That mothers say, when children squall!"

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 4, Fable 16



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