Robert Henryson ( )


The Lion and the Mouse


Prologue

In middis of June that joly sweit seasoun
Quhen that fair Phebus with his bemis bricht
Had dryit up the dew fra daill and doun
And all the land maid with his lemis licht,
In ane mornyng betwix midday and nicht
I rais and put all sleuth and sleip asyde
And to ane wod I went allone but gyde.

Sweit wes the smell of flouris quhyte and reid,
The noyes of birdis richt delitious,
The bewis braid blomit abone my heid,
The ground growand with gresis gratious.
Of all plesance that place wes plenteous,
With sweit odouris and birdis harmony,
The morning myld, my mirth wes mair forthy.

The rosis reid arrayit rone and ryce,
The prymeros and the purpour viola.
To heir it wes ane poynt of paradice
Sic mirth the mavis and the merle couth ma.
The blossummis blythe brak upon bank and bra,
The smell of herbis and the fowlis cry
Contending quha suld have the victory.

Me to conserve than fra the sonis heit,
Under the schaddow of ane hawthorne grene
I lenit doun amang the flouris sweit
Syne maid a cors and closit baith my ene.
On sleip I fell amang thir bewis bene
And in my dreme methocht come throw the schaw
The fairest man that ever befoir I saw.

His gowne wes of ane claith als quhyte as milk,
His chymmeris wes of chambelate purpour broun,
His hude of scarlet bordowrit weill with silk
On hekillit wyis untill his girdill doun,
His bonat round and of the auld fassoun,
His beird wes quhyte, his ene wes grit and gray
With lokker hair quhilk over his schulderis lay.

Ane roll of paper in his hand he bair,
Ane swannis pen stikand under his eir,
Ane inkhorne with ane prettie gilt pennair,
Ane bag of silk all at his belt he weir,
Thus wes he gudelie grathit in his geir.
Of stature large and with ane feirfull face,
Evin quhair I lay he come ane sturdie pace

And said, God speid, my sone, and I wes fane
Of that couth word and of his cumpany.
With reverence I salusit him agane,
Welcome, father, and he sat doun me by.
Displeis yow not my gude maister thocht I
Demand your birth, your facultye, and name,
Quhy ye come heir or quhair ye dwell at hame.

My sone, said he, I am of gentill blude.
My natall land is Rome withoutin nay
And in that towne first to the sculis I yude,
In civile law studyit full mony ane day
And now my winning is in hevin for ay.
Esope I hecht. My writing and my werk
Is couth and kend to mony cunning clerk.

O maister Esope, poet lawriate,
God wait ye ar full deir welcum to me.
Ar ye not he that all thir fabillis wrate
Quhilk in effect suppois thay fenyeit be,
Ar full of prudence and moralitie?
Fair sone, said he, I am the samin man.
God wait gif that my hert wes merie than.

I said, Esope, my maister venerabill,
I yow beseik hartlie for cheritie
Ye wald dedene to tell ane prettie fabill
Concludand with ane gude moralitie.
Schaikand his heid, he said, My sone, lat be
For quhat is it worth to tell ane fenyeit taill
Quhen haly preiching may nathing availl?

Now in this warld me think richt few or nane
To Goddis word that hes devotioun.
The eir is deif, the hart is hard as stane,
Now oppin sin without correctioun,
The e inclynand to the eirth ay doun,
Sa roustit is the warld with canker blak
That now my taillis may lytill succour mak.

Yit, gentill schir, said I, For my requeist,
Not to displeis your fatherheid I pray,
Under the figure off ane brutall beist
Ane morall fabill ye wald denye to say.
Quha wait nor I may leir and beir away
Sumthing thairby heirefter may availl?
I grant, quod he, and thus begouth ane taill.

The Fable

Ane lyoun, at his pray wery foirrun,
To recreat his limmis and to rest,
Beikand his breist and belly at the sun,
Under ane tre lay in the fair forest.
Swa come ane trip of myis out off thair nest
Richt tait and trig, all dansand in ane gyis
And over the lyoun lansit twyis or thryis.

He lay so still, the myis wes not effeird
Bot to and fro out over him tuke thair trace.
Sum tirlit at the campis of his beird,
Sum spairit not to claw him on the face.
Merie and glaid thus dansit thay ane space
Till at the last the nobill lyoun woke
And with his pow the maister mous he tuke.

Scho gave ane cry and all the laif, agast,
Thair dansing left and hid thame sone alquhair.
Scho that wes tane cryit and weipit fast
And said allace oftymes that scho come thair.
Now am I tane ane wofull presonair
And for my gilt traistis incontinent
Of lyfe and deith to thoill the jugement.

Than spak the lyoun to that cairfull mous,
Thow cative wretche and vile unworthie thing,
Over malapart and eik presumpteous
Thow wes to mak out over me thy tripping.
Knew thow not weill I wes baith lord and king
Of beistis all? Yes, quod the mous, I knaw,
Bot I misknew because ye lay so law.

Lord, I beseik thy kinglie royaltie
Heir quhat I say and tak in patience.
Considder first my simple povertie
And syne thy mychtie hie magnyfycence.
Se als how thingis done of neglygence,
Nouther of malice nor of prodissioun,
Erer suld have grace and remissioun.

We wer repleit and had grit aboundance
Off alkin thingis sic as to us effeird.
The sweit sesoun provokit us to dance
And mak sic mirth as nature to us leird.
Ye lay so still and law upon the eird
That be my saull we weind ye had bene deid,
Elles wald we not have dancit over your heid.

Thy fals excuse, the lyoun said agane,
Sall not availl ane myte, I underta.
I put the cace I had bene deid or slane
And syne my skyn bene stoppit full of stra,
Thocht thow had found my figure lyand swa,
Because it bare the prent of my persoun,
Thow suld for feir on kneis have fallin doun.

For thy trespas thow can mak na defence
My nobill persoun thus to vilipend.
Of thy feiris nor thy awin negligence
For to excuse thow can na cause pretend.
Thairfoir thow suffer sall ane schamefull end
And deith sic as to tressoun is decreit,
Onto the gallous harlit be the feit.

A, mercie, lord, at thy gentrice I ase
As thow art king of beistis coronate,
Sober thy wraith and let thi yre overpas
And mak thy mynd to mercy inclynate.
I grant offence is done to thyne estate,
Quhairfoir I worthie am to suffer deid
Bot gif thy kinglie mercie reik remeid.

In everie juge mercy and reuth suld be
As assessouris and collaterall.
Without mercie, justice is crueltie
As said is in the lawis spirituall.
Quhen rigour sittis in the tribunall,
The equitie of law quha may sustene?
Richt few or nane but mercie gang betwene.

Alswa ye knaw the honour triumphall
Of all victour upon the strenth dependis
Of his conqueist quhilk manlie in battell
Throw jeopardie of weir lang defendis.
Quhat pryce or loving quhen the battell endis
Is said off him that overcummis ane man
Him to defend quhilk nouther may nor can?

Ane thowsand myis to kill and eik devoir
Is lytill manheid to ane strang lyoun,
Full lytill worschip have ye wyn thairfoir,
To quhais strenth is na comparisoun.
It will degraid sum part of your renoun
To sla ane mous quhilk may mak na defence
Bot askand mercie at your excellence.

Also it semis not your celsitude
Quhilk usis daylie meittis delitious
To fyle your teith or lippis with my blude
Quhilk to your stomok is contagious.
Unhailsum meit is of ane sarie mous
And that namelie untill ane strang lyoun
Wont till be fed with gentill vennesoun.

My lyfe is lytill worth, my deith is les,
Yit and I leif I may peradventure
Supplie your hienes beand in distres
For oft is sene ane man of small stature
Reskewit hes ane lord of hie honour
Keipit that wes in poynt to be overthrawin
Throw misfortoun. Sic cace may be your awin.

Quhen this wes said, the lyoun his langage
Paissit and thocht according to ressoun
And gart mercie his cruell ire asswage
And to the mous grantit remissioun,
Oppinnit his pow and scho on kneis fell doun
And baith hir handis unto the hevin upheild,
Cryand, Almichty God mot yow foryeild!

Quhen scho wes gone, the lyoun held to hunt
For he had nocht bot levit on his pray
And slew baith tayme and wyld as he wes wont
And in the ****rie maid ane grit deray
Till at the last the pepill fand the way
This cruell lyoun how that thay mycht tak.
Of hempyn cordis strang nettis couth thay mak

And in ane rod quhair he wes wont to ryn
With raipis rude fra tre to tre it band,
Syne kest ane range on raw the wod within,
With hornis blast and kennettis fast calland.
The lyoun fled and throw the ron rynnand
Fell in the net and hankit fute and heid.
For all his strenth he couth mak na remeid.

Welterand about with hiddeous rummissing,
Quhyle to, quhyle fra, quhill he mycht succour get
Bot all in vane, it vailyeit him nathing.
The mair he flang, the faster wes he knet.
The raipis rude wes sa about him plet
On everilk syde that succour saw he nane
Bot styll lyand, thus murnand maid his mane.

O lamit lyoun liggand heir sa law,
Quhair is the mycht of thy magnyfycence
Of quhome all brutall beist in eird stude aw
And dred to luke upon thy excellence?
But hoip or help, but succour or defence,
In bandis strang heir man I ly allace
Till I be slane, I se nane uther grace.

Thair is na wy that will my harmis wreik
Nor creature do confort to my croun.
Quha sall me bute, quha sall my bandis breik,
Quha sall me put fra pane off this presoun?
Be he had maid this lamentatioun,
Throw aventure the lytill mous come neir
And of the lyoun hard the pietuous beir.

And suddanlie it come intill hir mynd
That it suld be the lyoun did hir grace
And said, Now wer I fals and richt unkynd
Bot gif I quit sum part thy gentilnes
Thow did to me, and on with that scho gais
To hir fellowis and on thame fast can cry,
**** help, **** help! and thay come all in hy.

Lo, quod the mous, this is the same lyoun
That grantit grace to me quhen I wes tane
And now is fast heir bundin in presoun,
Brekand his hart with sair murning and mane.
Bot we him help, of souccour wait he nane.
**** help to quyte ane gude turne for ane uther,
Go lous him sone; and thay said, Ye, gude brother.

Thay tuke na knyfe, thair teith wes scharpe aneuch.
To se that sicht forsuith it wes grit wounder
How that thay ran amang the rapis tewch,
Befoir, behind, sum yeid abone, sum under
And schuir the raipis of the mastis in schunder,
Syne bad him ryse and he start up anone
And thankit thame, syne on his way is gone.

Now is the lyoun fre of all danger,
Lows and delyverit to his libertie
Be lytill beistis of ane small power
As ye have hard because he had pietie.
Quod I, Maister, is thair ane moralitie
In this fabill? Yea, sone, he said, richt gude.
I pray yow, schir, quod I, Ye wald conclude.

Moralitas

As I suppois, this mychtie gay lyoun
May signifie ane prince or empriour,
Ane potestate or yit ane king with croun
Quhilk suld be walkrife gyde and governour
Of his pepill and takis na labour
To reule and steir the land and justice keip,
Bot lyis still in lustis, sleuth, and sleip.

The fair forest with levis lowne and le,
With foulis sang and flouris ferlie sweit
Is bot the warld and his prosperitie
As fals plesance myngit with cair repleit.
Richt as the rois with froist and wynter weit
Faidis, swa dois the warld and thame desavis
Quhilk in thair lustis maist confidence havis.

Thir lytill myis ar bot the commountie,
Wantoun, unwyse without correctioun.
Thair lordis and princis quhen that thay se
Of justice mak nane executioun,
Thay dreid nathing to mak rebellioun
And disobey for quhy thay stand nane aw
That garris thame thair soveranis misknaw.

Be this fabill, ye lordis of prudence
May considder the vertew of pietie
And to remit sumtyme ane grit offence
And mitigate with mercy crueltie.
Oftymis is sene ane man of small degree
Hes quit ane kinbute baith for gude and ill
As lord hes done rigour or grace him till.

Quha wait how sone ane lord of grit renoun
Rolland in wardlie lust and vane plesance
May be overthrawin, destroyit, and put doun
Throw fals fortoun quhilk of all variance
Is haill maistres and leidar of the dance
Till injust men and blindis thame so soir
That thay na perrell can provyde befoir?

Thir rurall men that stentit hes the net
In quhilk the lyoun suddandlie wes tane
Waittit alway amendis for to get.
For hurt, men wrytis in the marbill stane.
Mair till expone as now I lett allane
Bot king and lord may weill wit quhat I mene.
Figure heirof oftymis hes bene sene.

Quhen this wes said, quod Esope, My fair child,
Persuaid the kirkmen ythandly to pray
That tressoun of this ****rie be exyld
And justice regne and lordis keip thair fay
Unto thair soverane lord baith nycht and day,
And with that word he vanist and I woke,
Syne throw the schaw my journey hamewart tuke.



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


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