(Recueil 2, Livre 9, Fable 14)
The cat and fox, when saints were all the rage,
Together went on pilgrimage.
Arch hypocrites and swindlers, they,
By sleight of face and sleight of paw,
Regardless both of right and law,
Contrived expenses to repay,
By eating many a fowl and cheese,
And other tricks as bad as these.
Disputing served them to beguile
The road of many a weary mile.
Disputing! but for this resort,
The world would go to sleep, in short.
Our pilgrims, as a thing of course,
Disputed till their throats were hoarse.
Then, dropping to a lower tone,
They talked of this, and talked of that,
Till Renard whispered to the cat,
"You think yourself a knowing one:
How many cunning tricks have you?
For I have a hundred, old and new,
All ready in my haversack."
The cat replied, "I do not lack,
Though with but one provided;
And, truth to honour, for that matter,
I hold it than a thousand better."
In fresh dispute they sided;
And loudly were they at it, when
Approached a mob of dogs and men.
"Now," said the cat, "your tricks ransack,
And put your cunning brains to rack,
One life to save; I'll show you mine
A trick, you see, for saving nine."
With that, she climbed a lofty pine.
The fox his hundred ruses tried,
And yet no safety found.
A hundred times he falsified
The nose of every hound.
Was here, and there, and everywhere,
Above, and under ground;
But yet to stop he did not dare,
Pent in a hole, it was no joke,
To meet the terriers or the smoke.
So, leaping into upper air,
He met two dogs, that choked him there.
Expedients may be too many,
Consuming time to choose and try.
On one, but that as good as any,
It's best in danger to rely.
Jean de La Fontaine