Robert Henryson ( )

The Wolf and the Lamb

Ane cruell wolff richt ravenous and fell
Upon ane tyme past to ane reveir
Descending from ane rotche unto ane well,
To slaik his thrist drank of the watter cleir.
Swa upon cace ane selie lamb come neir
Bot of his fa the wolff na thing he wist
And in the streme laipit to cule his thrist.

Thus drank thay baith bot not of ane intent,
The wolfis thocht wes all on wickitnes,
The selie lamb wes meik and innocent.
Upon the rever in ane uther place
Beneth the wolff he drank ane lytill space
Quhill him thocht gude, presomyng thair nane ill.
The wolff this saw and rampand come him till.

With girnand teith and angrie, austre luke,
Said to the lamb, Thow cative, wretchit thing,
How durst thow be sa bald to fyle this bruke
Quhar I suld drink with thy foull slavering!
It wer almous thee for to draw and hing
That suld presume with thy foull lippis vyle
To glar my drink and this fair watter fyle.

The selie lamb quaikand for verray dreid
On kneis fell and said, Schir, with your leif,
Suppois I dar not say thairoff ye leid
Bot be my saull, I wait ye can nocht preif
That I did ony thing that suld yow greif.
Ye wait alswa that your accusatioun
Failyeis fra treuth and contrair is to ressoun.

Thocht I can nocht, nature will me defend
And of the deid perfyte experience.
All hevie thing man of the self discend
Bot giff sumthing on force mak resistence,
Than may the streme on na way mak ascence
Nor ryn bakwart. I drank beneth yow far,
Ergo for me your bruke wes never the war.

Alswa my lippis, sen that I wes ane lam,
Tuitchit na thing that wes contagious
Bot sowkit milk from pappis of my dam,
Richt naturall, sweit, and als delitious.
Weill, quod the wolff, thy language rigorus
Cummis thee of kynd; swa thy father before
Held me at bait baith with boist and schore.

He wraithit me and than I culd him warne,
Within ane yeir and I brukit my heid
I suld be wrokkin on him or on his barne
For his exorbetant and frawart pleid.
Thow sall doutles for his deidis be deid.
Schir, it is wrang that for the fatheris gilt
The saikles sone suld punist be or spilt.

Haiff ye not hard quhat halie scripture sayis
Endytit with the mouth of God almycht,
Of his awin deidis ilk man sall beir the pais
As pyne for sin, reward for werkis rycht.
For my trespas quhy suld my sone have plycht?
Quha did the mis, lat him sustene the pane.
Yaa, quod the wolff, yit pleyis thow agane?

I let thee wit quhen that the father offendis
I will cheris nane of his successioun
And of his barnis I may weill tak amendis
Unto the twentie degree descending doun.
Thy father thocht to mak ane strang poysoun
And with his mouth into my watter spew.
Schir, quod the lamb, thay twa ar nouther trew.

The law sayis and ye will understand,
Thair suld na man for wrang nor violence
His adversar punis at his awin hand
Without proces of law and audiens
Quhilk suld have leif to mak lawfull defence
And thairupon summond peremtourly
For to propone, contrairie, or reply.

Set me ane lauchfull court, I sall compeir
Befoir the lyoun, lord and leill justice,
And be my hand I oblis me rycht heir
That I sall byde ane unsuspect assyis.
This is the law, this is the instant wys,
Ye suld pretend thairfoir ane summondis mak
Aganis that day to gif ressoun and tak.

Ha, quod the wolff, thou wald intruse ressoun
Quhair wrang and reif suld dwell in propertie.
That is ane poynt and part of fals tressoun
For to gar reuth remane with crueltie.
Be Goddis woundis, fals tratour, thow sall de
For thy trespas and for thy fatheris als.
With that anone he hint him be the hals.

The selie lamb culd do nathing bot bleit.
Sone wes he heidit, the wolff wald do na grace,
Syne drank his blude and of his flesche can eit
Quhill he wes full, syne went his way on pace.
Of his murther quhat sall we say allace,
Wes not this reuth, wes not this grit pietie,
To gar this selie lamb but gilt thus de?


The pure pepill this lamb may signifie
As maill men, merchandis, and all lauboureris
Of quhome the lyfe is half ane purgatorie
To wyn with lautie leving as efferis.
The wolf betakinnis fals extortioneris
And oppressouris of pure men as we se
Be violence or craft in sutelté.

Thre kynd of wolfis in this warld now rings.
The first ar fals perverteris of the lawis
Quhilk under poleit termis falset mingis,
Lettand that all wer gospell that he schawis,
Bot for ane bud the pure man he overthrawis,
Smoirand the richt, garrand the wrang proceid.
Of sic wolfis hellis fyre sall be thair meid.

O man of law, let be thy subteltie
With nice gimpis and fraudis intricait
And think that God in his divinitie
The wrang, the richt of all thy werkis wait.
For prayer, price, for hie nor law estait,
Of fals querrellis se thow mak na defence,
Hald with the richt, hurt not thy conscience.

Ane uther kynd of wolfis ravenous
Ar mychtie men haifand aneuch plentie
Quhilkis ar sa gredie and sa covetous
Thay will not thoill in peax ane pureman be.
Suppois he and his houshald baith suld de
For falt of fude, thairof thay gif na rak
Bot over his heid his mailling will thay tak.

O man but mercie, quhat is in thy thocht,
War than ane wolf and thow culd understand!
Thow hes aneuch, the pure husband richt nocht
Bot croip and crufe upon ane clout of land.
For Goddis aw, how durst thow tak on hand
And thow in barn and byre sa bene and big
To put him fra his tak and gar him thig?

The thrid wolf ar men of heritage
As lordis that hes land be Goddis lane
And settis to the mailleris ane village
And for ane tyme gressome payit and tane,
Syne vexis him or half his terme be gane
With pykit querrellis for to mak him fane
To flit or pay his gressome new agane.

His hors, his meir, he man len to the laird
To drug and draw in cairt and cariage,
His servand or his self may not be spaird
To swing and sweit withoutin meit or wage.
Thus how he standis in labour and bondage
That scantlie may he purches by his maill
To leve upon dry breid and watter caill!

Hes thow not reuth to gar thy tennentis sweit
Into thy laubour with faynt and hungrie wame
And syne hes lytill gude to drink or eit
With his menye at evin quhen he cummis hame?
Thow suld be rad for richteous Goddis blame
For it cryis ane vengeance unto the hevinnis hie
To gar ane pure man wirk but meit or fe.

O thow grit lord that riches hes and rent,
Be nocht ane wolf thus to devoir the pure.
Think that nathing cruell nor violent
May in this warld perpetuallie indure.
This sall thow trow and sikkerlie assure:
For till oppres, thow sall haif als grit pane
As thow the pure with thy awin hand had slane.

God keip the lamb quhilk is the innocent
From wolfis byit and men extortioneris,
God grant that wrangous men of fals intent
Be manifest and punischit as effeiris.
And God, as thow all rychteous prayer heiris,
Mot saif our king and gif him hart and hand
All sic wolfis to banes of the land.

Robert Henryson's other poems:
  1. Orpheus and Eurydice
  2. The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth
  3. The Preaching of the Swallow
  4. The Bludy Serk
  5. Ane Prayer for the Pest

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