Robert Henryson ( )


The Fox, the Wolf, and the Cadger


Quhylum thair wynnit in ane wildernes
(As myne authour expreslie can declair)
Ane revand wolff that levit upon purches
On bestiall and maid him weill to fair.
Wes nane sa big about him he wald spair,
And he war hungrie, outher for favour or feid,
Bot in his breith he weryit thame to deid.

Swa happinnit him in waithing as he went
To meit ane foxe in middis of the way.
He him foirsaw and fenyeit to be schent
And with ane bek he bad the wolff gude day.
Welcum to me, quod he, thow Russell gray.
Syne loutit doun and tuke him be the hand,
Ryse up, Lowrence, I leif thee for to stand.

Quhair hes thow bene this sesoun fra my sicht?
Thow sall beir office and my stewart be,
For thow can knap doun caponis on the nicht
And lourand law thow can gar hennis de.
Schir, said the foxe, that ganis not for me
And I am rad gif thay me se on far
That at my figure beist and bird will skar.

Na, quod the wolff, thow can in covert creip
Upon thy wame and hint thame be the heid
And mak ane suddand schow upon ane scheip,
Syne with thy wappinnis wirrie him to deid.
Schir, said the foxe, ye knaw my roib is reid
And thairfoir thair will na beist abyde me
Thocht I wald be sa fals as for to hyde me.

Yis, quod the wolff, throw buskis and throw brais
Law can thow lour to come to thy intent.
Schir, said the foxe, ye wait weill how it gais.
Ane lang space fra thame, thay will feill my sent,
Than will thay eschaip suppois thay suld be schent
And I am schamefull for to **** behind thame
Into the feild thocht I suld sleipand find thame.

Na, quod the wolff, thow can **** on the wind.
For everie wrink forsuith thow hes ane wyle.
Schir, said the foxe, that beist ye mycht call blind
That micht not eschaip than fra me ane myle.
How micht I ane of thame that wyis begyle?
My tippit twa eiris and my twa gray ene
Garris me be kend quhair I wes never sene.

Than said the wolff, Lowrence, I heir thee le
And castys for perrellis thy ginnes to defend,
Bot all thy sonyeis sall not availl thee
About the busk with wayis thocht thow wend.
Falset will failye ay at the latter end.
To bow at bidding and byde not quhill thow brest
Thairfoir I giff thee counsall for the best.

Schir, said the foxe, it is Lentring, ye se;
I can nocht fische, for weiting of my feit,
To tak ane banestikill, thocht we baith suld de.
I have nane uther craft to win my meit.
Bot wer it Pasche, that men suld pultrie eit,
As kiddis, lambis, or caponis into ply,
To beir your office than wald I not set by.

Than said the wolff in wraith, Wenis thou with wylis
And with thy mony mowis me to mat?
It is ane auld dog doutles that thow begylis;
Thow wenis to draw the stra befoir the cat.
Schir, said the foxe, God wait, I mene not that;
For and I did it wer weill worth that ye
In ane rude raip had tyit me till ane tre.

Bot now I se he is ane fule perfay
That with his maister fallis in ressoning.
I did bot till assay quhat ye wald say.
God wait, my mynd wes on ane uther thing.
I sall fulfill in all thing your bidding
Quhat-ever ye charge on nichtis or on dayis.
Weill, quod the wolf, I heir weill quhat thou sayis

Bot yit I will thow mak to me ane aith
For to be leill attour all levand leid.
Schir, said the foxe, that ane word maks me wraith,
For now I se ye have me at ane dreid;
Yit sall I sweir, suppois it be nocht neid,
Be Juppiter and on pane of my heid,
I sall be trew to you quhill I be deid.

With that ane cadgear with capill and with creillis
Come caryand furth. Than Lowrence culd him spy;
The foxe the flewer off the fresche hering feillis
And to the wolff he roundis prively,
Schir, yone ar hering the cadgear caryis by;
Thairfoir I reid that we se for sum wayis
To get sum fische aganis thir fasting dayis.

Sen I am stewart, I wald we had sum stuff;
And ye ar silver-seik, I wait richt weill.
Thocht we wald thig yone verray churlische chuff,
He will not giff us ane hering off his creill,
Befoir yone churle on kneis thocht we wald kneill.
Bot yit I trow alsone that ye sall se
Gif I can craft to bleir yone carlis ee.

Schir, ane thing is and we get of yone pelff,
Ye man tak travell and mak us sum supple
For he that will not laubour and help himselff
Into thir dayis he is not worth ane fle.
I think to work als besie as ane be
And ye sall follow ane lytill efterwart
And gadder hering for that sall be your part.

With that he kest ane cumpas far about
And straucht him doun in middis of the way.
As he wer deid he fenyeit him but dout
And than upon lenth unliklie lay:
The quhyte he turnit up of his ene tway,
His toung out hang ane handbreid of his heid,
And still he lay als straucht as he wer deid.

The cadgear fand the foxe and he wes fane
And till himself thus softlie can he say,
At the nixt bait, in faith, ye sall be flane,
And off your skyn I sall mak mittenis tway.
He lap full lichtlie about him quhair he lay
And all the trace he trippit on his tais;
As he had hard ane pyper play he gais.

Heir lyis the Devyll, quod he, deid in ane dyke;
Sic ane selcouth saw I not this sevin yeir.
I trow ye have bene tussillit with sum tyke
That garris you ly sa still withoutin steir.
Schir Foxe, in faith ye ar deir welcum heir.
It is sum wyfis malisone, I trow,
For pultrie pyking, that lychtit hes on yow.

Thair sall na pedder, for purs nor yit for glufis
Nor yit for poyntis, pyke your pellet fra me.
I sall of it mak mittenis to my lufis
Till hald my handis hait quhairever I be.
Till Flanderis sall it never saill the se.
With that in hy he hint him be the heillis
And with ane swak he swang him on the creillis

Syne be the heid the hors in hy hes hint.
The fraudfull foxe thairto gude tent hes tane
And with his teith the stoppell or he stint
Pullit out and syne the hering ane and ane
Out of the creillis he swakkit doun gude wane.
The wolff wes war and gadderit spedilie.
The cadgear sang, Huntis up, up, upon hie.

Yit at ane burne the cadgear lukit about.
With that the foxe lap quyte the creillis fray.
The cadgear wald have raucht the foxe ane rout
Bot all for nocht; he wan his hoill that day.
Than with ane schout thus can the cadgear say,
Abyde, and thou ane nekhering sall haif
Is worth my capill, creillis, and all the laif.

Now, quod the foxe, I schrew me and we meit.
I hard quhat thou hecht to do with my skyn.
Thy handis sall never in thay mittinnis tak heit
And thou wer hangit, carll, and all thy kyn.
Do furth thy mercat, at me thou sall nocht wyn
And sell thy hering thou hes thair till hie price,
Ellis thow sall wyn nocht on thy merchandice.

The cadgear trimmillit for teyne quhair that he stude.
It is weill worthie, quod he, I want yone tyke
That had nocht in my hand sa mekill gude
As staff or sting yone truker for to stryke.
With that lychtlie he lap out over ane dyke
And hakkit doun ane staff, for he wes tene,
That hevie wes and of the holyne grene.

With that the foxe unto the wolff could wend
And fand him be the hering quhair he lyis.
Schir, said he than,maid I not fair defend?
Ane wicht man wantit never, and he wer wyis.
Ane hardie hart is hard for to suppryis.
Than said the wolff, Thow art ane berne full bald
And wyse at will, in gude tyme be it tald.

Bot quhat wes yone the carll cryit on hie
And schuke his hand, quod he, Hes thou no feill?
Schir, said the foxe, that I can tell trewlie.
He said the nekhering wes intill the creill.
Kennis thou that hering? Ye, schir, I ken it weill
And at the creill mouth I had it thryis but dout.
The wecht of it neir tit my tuskis out.

Now suithlie schir, micht we that hering fang,
It wald be fische to us thir fourtie dayis.
Than said the wolf, Now God nor that I hang
Bot to be thair I wald gif all my clays
To se gif that my wappinnis mycht it rais.
Schir, said the foxe, God wait I wischit you oft
Quhen that my pith micht not beir it on loft.

It is ane syde of salmond as it wair
And callour, pypand lyke ane pertrik ee.
It is worth all the hering ye have thair,
Ye and we had it swa, is it worth sic thre.
Than said the wolff, Quhat counsell gevis thou me?
Schir, said the foxe, wirk efter my devyis
And ye sall have it and tak you na suppryis.

First, ye man cast ane cumpas far about,
Syne straucht you doun in middis of the way.
Baith heid and feit and taill ye man streik out,
Hing furth your toung, and clois weill your ene tway,
Syne se your heid on ane hard place ye lay
And dout not for na perrell may appeir
Bot hald you clois quhen that carll cummis neir.

And thocht ye se ane staf, have ye na dout,
Bot hald you wonder still into that steid
And luke your ene be clois as thay wer out
And se that ye schrink nouther fute nor heid.
Than will the cadgear carll trow ye be deid
And intill haist will hint you be the heillis
As he did me and swak you on his creillis.

Now, quod the wolff, I sweir thee be my thrift,
I trow yone cadgear carll dow not me beir.
Schir, said the foxe, on loft he will you lift
Upon his creillis and do him lytill deir.
Bot ane thing dar I suithlie to you sweir.
Get ye that hering sicker in sum place,
Ye sall not fair in fisching mair quhill Pasche.

I sall say In principio upon yow
And crose your corps from the top to tay.
Wend quhen ye will, I dar be warrand now
That ye sall de na suddand deith this day.
With that the wolff gird up sone and to gay
And caist ane cumpas about the cadgear far,
Syne raucht him in the gait or he come nar.

He laid his halfheid sicker, hard, and sad,
Syne straucht his four feit fra him and his heid
And hang his toung furth as the foxe him bad.
Als styll he lay as he wer verray deid,
Rakkand nathing of the carlis favour nor feid
Bot ever upon the nekhering he thinkis
And quyte foryettis the foxe and all his wrinkis.

With that the cadgear, als wraith as ony wind
Come rydand on the laid, for it wes licht,
Thinkand ay on the foxe that wes behind
Upon quhat wyse revenge him best he micht
And at the last of the wolff gat ane sicht
Quhair he in lenth lay streikit in the gait,
Bot gif he lichtit doun or nocht, God wait!

Softlie he said, I wes begylit anis;
Be I begylit twyis, I schrew us baith,
That evill bat it sall licht upon thy banis
He suld have had that hes done me the skaith.
On hicht he hovit the staf for he wes wraith
And hit him with sic will upon the heid
Quhill neir he swonit and swelt into that steid.

Thre battis he bure or he his feit micht find
Bot yit the wolff wes wicht and wan away.
He mycht not se, he wes sa verray blind,
Nor wit reddilie quhether it wes nicht or day.
The foxe beheld that service quhair he lay
And leuch on loft quhen he the wolf sa seis,
Baith deif and dosinnit, fall swonand on his kneis.

He that of ressoun cannot be content
Bot covetis all, is abill all to tyne.
The foxe, quhen that he saw the wolff wes schent,
Said to himself, Thir hering sall be myne.
(I le or ellis he wes a stewart fyne
That fand sic wayis his maister for to greif!)
With all the fische thus Lowrence tuke his leif.

The wolff wes neir weill dungin to the deid
That uneith with his lyfe away he wan
For with the bastoun weill brokin wes his heid.
The foxe into his den sone drew him than
That had betraisit his maister and the man.
The ane wantit the hering of his creillis;
The utheris blude wes rynnand over his heillis.

Moralitas
This taill is myngit with moralitie
As I sall schaw sumquhat or that I ceis.
The foxe unto the warld may likkinnit be,
The revand wolf unto ane man but leis,
The cadgear deith quhome under all man preis;
That ever tuke lyfe throw cours of kynd man dee
As man and beist and fische into the see.

The warld, ye wait, is stewart to the man
Quhilk makis man to haif na mynd of deid
Bot settis for winning all the craftis thay can.
The hering I likkin unto the gold sa reid,
Quhilk gart the wolf in perrell put his heid;
Richt swa the gold garris landis and cieteis
With weir be waistit daylie, as men seis.

And as the foxe with dissimulance and gyle
Gart the wolf wene to haif worschip forever,
Richt swa this warld with vane glore for ane quhyle
Flatteris with folk as thay suld failye never;
Yit suddandlie men seis it oft dissever
With thame that trowis oft to fill the sek.
Deith cummis behind and nippis thame be the nek.

The micht of gold makis mony men sa blind
That settis on avarice thair felicitie
That thay forget the cadgear cummis behind
To stryke thame, of quhat stait sa ever thay be.
Quhat is mair dirk than blind prosperitie?
Quhairfoir I counsell mychtie men to haif mynd
Of the nekhering interpreit in this kynd.



Robert Henryson's other poems:
  1. Ane Prayer for the Pest
  2. The Preaching of the Swallow
  3. The Wolf and the Wether
  4. The Testament of Cressida
  5. The Lion and the Mouse


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