Why Aesop gave the palm of cunning,
Over flying animals and running,
To Renard Fox, I cannot tell,
Though I have searched the subject well.
Has not Sir Wolf an equal skill
In tricks and artifices shown,
When he would do some life an ill,
Or from his foes defend his own?
I think he has; and, void of disrespect,
I might, perhaps, my master contradict:
Yet here’s a case, in which the burrow lodger
Was palpably, I own, the brightest dodger.
One night he spied within a well,
Wherein the fullest moonlight fell,
What seemed to him an ample cheese.
Two balanced buckets took their turns
When drawers thence would fill their urns.
Our fox went down in one of these,
By hunger greatly pressed to sup,
And drew the other empty up.
Convinced at once of his mistake,
And anxious for his safety’s sake,
He saw his death was near and sure,
Unless some other wretch in need
The same moon’s image should allure
To take a bucket and succeed
To his predicament, indeed.
Two days passed by, and none approached the well;
Unhalting Time, as is his wont,
Was scooping from the moon’s full front,
And as he scooped Sir Renard’s courage fell.
His crony wolf, of clamorous maw,
Poor fox at last above him saw,
And cried, “My comrade, look you here!
See what abundance of good cheer!
A cheese of most delicious zest!
Which Faunus must himself have pressed,
Of milk by heifer Io given.
If Jupiter were sick in heaven,
The taste would bring his appetite.
I have taken, as you see, a bite;
But still for both there is a plenty.
Pray take the bucket that I have sent you;
Come down, and get your share.”
Although, to make the story fair,
The fox had used his utmost care,
The wolf (a fool to give him credit)
Went down because his stomach bid it
And by his weight pulled up
Sir Renard to the top.
We need not mock this simpleton,
For we ourselves such deeds have done.
Our faith is prone to lend its ear
To anything which we desire or fear.
The Wolf and the Fox – Jean de La Fontaine Fables – Book 11
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