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The Horse and the Wolf

(Recueil 1, Livre 5, Fable 8)



A wolf, what time the thawing breeze

Renews the life of plants and trees,

And beasts go forth from winter lair

To seek abroad their various fare,

A wolf, I say, about those days,

In sharp look-out for means and ways,

Espied a horse turned out to graze.

His joy the reader may opine.

"Once got," said he, "this game were fine;

But if a sheep, it were sooner mine.

I can't proceed my usual way;

Some trick must now be put in play."

This said,

He came with measured tread,

As if a healer of disease,

Some pupil of Hippocrates,

And told the horse, with learned verbs,

He knew the power of roots and herbs,

Whatever grew about those borders,

And not at all to flatter

Himself in such a matter,

Could cure of all disorders.

If he, Sir Horse, would not conceal

The symptoms of his case,

He, Doctor Wolf, would gratis heal;

For that to feed in such a place,

And run about untied,

Was proof itself of some disease,

As all the books decide.

"I have, good doctor, if you please,"

Replied the horse, "as I presume,

Beneath my foot, an aposthume."

"My son," replied the learned leech,

"That part, as all our authors teach,

Is strikingly susceptible

Of ills which make acceptable

What you may also have from me

The aid of skilful surgery;

Which noble art, the fact is,

For horses of the blood I practise."

The fellow, with this talk sublime,

Watched for a snap the fitting time.

Meanwhile, suspicious of some trick,

The wary patient nearer draws,

And gives his doctor such a kick,

As makes a chowder of his jaws.

Exclaimed the wolf, in sorry plight,

"I own those heels have served me right.

I erred to quit my trade,

As I will not in future;

Me nature surely made

For nothing but a butcher."

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 5, Fable 8



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