Saturday, December 21, 2013

An Ensample that the Fox Told to the King

"MY worthy and dear Lord the King," said the Fox, "I am well agreed and paid therewith. But when I came first into your Court there were many that were fell and envious to me, which never had hurt ne cause of scathe by me. But they thought that they might best over me, and all they crieden with mine enemies against me and would fain have destroyed me, because they thought that the Wolf was better withholden and greater with you than I was, which am your humble subject. They knew none other thing, why ne wherefore. They thought not as the wise be wont to do, that is what the end may happen.

"My lord these ben like a great heap of hounds which I once saw stand at a lord’s place upon a dunghill, whereas they awaited that men should bring them meat. Then saw they an hound come out of the kitchen and had taken there a fair rib of beef ere it was given him. And he ran fast away withal; but the cook had espied or he went away, and took a great bowl full of scalding water and cast it on his hips behind; whereof he thanked nothing the cook, for the hair behind was scalded off and his skin seemed as it had be through sodden. Nevertheless he escaped away and kept that he had won.

"And when his fellows the other hounds saw him come with this fair rib, they called him all and said to him, 'Oh how good a friend is the cook to thee, which hath given to thee so good a bone, whereon is so much flesh.'

"The hound said, 'Ye know nothing thereof. Ye praise me like as ye see me tofore with the bone. But ye have not seen me behind. Take heed, and behold me afterward on mine buttocks, and then ye shall know how I deserved it.'

"And when they had seen him behind on his hips how that his skin and his flesh was all raw and through sodden, tho growled they all and were afraid of that syedyng water; and would not of his fellowship, but fled and ran away from him, and let him there alone.

"See, my Lord, this right have these false beasts. When they be made lords, and may get their desire, and when they be mighty and doubted, then ben they extortioners and scatte and pylle the people and eaten them like as they were forhungred hounds. These ben they that bear the bone in their mouth. No man dare have to do with them, but preyse all that they bedrive. No man dare say otherwise but such as shall please them, because they would not be shorn. And some help them forth in their unrighteous deeds because they would not have part, and lick their fingers, and strengthe them in their evil life and works. O, dear Lord, how little seen they that do thus after behind them, what the end shall be at last. They fall from high to low in great shame and sorrow, and then their works come to knowledge and be open in such wise that no man hath pity ne compassion on them in their mischief and trouble, and every man curse them and say evil by them to their shame and villainy. Many of such have been blamed and shorn full nigh, that they had no worship ne profit but lose their hair as the hound did, that is their friends which have help them to cover their misdeeds and extortions like as the hair covereth the skin. And when they have sorrow and shame for their old trespasses, then each body plucketh his hand from him, and flee, like as the hounds did from him that was scalded with the syedyng water, and let him these extortions in their sorrow and need.

"My dear Lord King, I beseech you to remember this example of me; it shall not be against your worship ne wisdom. What ween ye how many ben there such false extortioners now in these days,—yea much worse than an hound that beareth such a bone in his mouth—in towns, in great lords’ courts, which with great facing and bracing oppress the poor people with great wrong, and sell their freedom and privileges, and bear them on hand of things that they never knew ne thought, and  all for to get good for their singular profit. God give them all shame, and soon destroy them, whosomever they be that so do!

"But God be thanked," said the Fox, "there may no man indite me, ne lineage, ne kin, of such works, but that we shall acquit us, and comen in the light. I am not afraid of any that can say on me any thing
that I have done otherwise than a true man ought to do. Alway the Fox shall abide the Fox, though all his enemies had sworn the contrary. My dear Lord the King, I love you with my heart above all lords, and never for no man would I turn from you, but abide by you to the utterest. How well it hath been otherwise informed your highness, I have nevertheless alway do the best, and forth so will do, all my life that I can or may."

  - From William Caxton's History of Reynard the Fox, ch. 42. This is a 19th-century translation of the Middle English original into an artificially archaic form of Modern English.

No comments:

Post a Comment