Robert Henryson ( )

The Fox and the Wolf

Leif we this wedow glaid, I yow assure,
Of Chantecleir mair blyith than I can tell,
And speik we of the fatal aventure
And destenie that to this foxe befell
Quhilk durst na mair with miching intermell
Als lang as leme or licht wes of the day
Bot bydand nicht full styll lurkand he lay

Quhill that Thetes the goddes of the flude
Phebus had callit to the harbery
And Hesperous put off his cluddie hude
Schawand his lustie visage in the sky,
Than Lourence luikit up quhair he couth ly
And kest his hand upon his ee on hicht,
Merie and glade that cummit wes the nicht.

Out of the wod unto ane hill he went
Quhair he micht se the twinkling sternis cleir
And all the planetis of the firmament,
Thair cours and eik thair moving in the spheir,
Sum retrograde and sum stationeir
And off the zodiak in quhat degree
Thay wer ilkane as Lowrence leirnit me:

Than Saturne auld wes enterit in Capricorne
And Juppiter movit in Sagittarie
And Mars up in the Rammis heid wes borne
And Phebus in the Lyoun furth can carie,
Venus the Crab, the Mone wes in Aquarie,
Mercurius the god of eloquence
Into the Virgyn maid his residence.

But astrolab, quadrant, or almanak,
Teichit of nature be instructioun,
The moving of the hevin this tod can tak
Quhat influence and constellatioun
Wes lyke to fall upon the eirth adoun
And to himself he said withoutin mair,
Weill worth thee, father, that send me to the lair.

My destenie and eik my weird I wait,
My aventure is cleirlie to me kend.
With mischeif myngit is my mortall fait,
My misleving the soner bot I mend.
Deid is reward of sin, and schamefull end.
Thairfoir I will ga seik sum confessour
And schryiff me clene of all sinnis to this hour.

Allace, quod he, richt waryit ar we thevis.
Our lyif is set ilk nicht in aventure.
Our cursit craft full mony man mischevis
For ever we steill and ever alyk ar pure.
In dreid and schame our dayis we indure,
Syne Widdinek and Crakraip callit als
And till our hyre ar hangit be the hals.

Accusand thus his cankerit conscience,
Into ane craig he kest about his ee,
So saw he cummand ane lyttill than frome thence
Ane worthie doctour of divinitie,
Freir Wolff Waitskaith, in science wonder sle,
To preiche and pray wes new cum fra the closter
With beidis in hand, sayand his Pater Noster.

Seand this wolff, this wylie tratour tod
On kneis fell with hude into his nek.
Welcome, my gostlie father under God,
Quod he with mony binge and mony bek.
Ha, quod the wolff, schir tod, for quhat effek
Mak ye sic feir? Ryse up, put on your hude!
Father, quod he, I haif grit cause to dude:

Ye ar the lanterne and the sicker way
Suld gyde sic sempill folk as me to grace.
Your bair feit and your russet coull of gray,
Your lene cheik, your paill and pietious face,
Schawis to me your perfite halines
For weill wer him that anis in his lyve
Had hap to yow his sinnis for to schryve.

Na, selie Lowrence, quod the wolf and leuch,
It plesis me that ye ar penitent.
Of reif and stouth, schir, I can tell aneuch
That causis me full sair for to repent.
Bot father, byde still heir upon the bent,
I yow beseik, and heir me to declair
My conscience that prikkis me sa sair.

Weill, quod the wolff, sit doun upon thy kne.
And he doun bairheid sat full humilly
And syne began with Benedicitie.
Quhen I this saw, I drew ane lytill by,
For it effeiris nouther to heir nor spy
Nor to reveill thing said under that seill
But to the tod thisgait the wolf couth mele,

Art thow contrite and sorie in thy spreit
For thy trespas? Na, schir, I can not duid.
Me think that hennis ar sa honie sweit
And lambes flesche that new ar lettin bluid,
For to repent my mynd can not concluid
Bot of this thing that I haif slane sa few.
Weill, quod the wolf, in faith thow art ane schrew.

Sen thow can not forthink thy wickitnes,
Will thow forbeir in tyme to cum and mend?
And I forbeir, how sall I leif allace,
Haifand nane uther craft me to defend?
Neid causis me to steill quhairever I wend.
I eschame to thig, I can not wirk ye wait,
Yit wald I fane pretend to gentill stait.

Weill, quod the wolf, thow wantis pointis twa
Belangand to perfyte confessioun.
To the thrid part of pennance let us ga.
Will thow tak pane for thy transgressioun?
A, schir, considder my complexioun,
Seikly and waik and of my nature tender;
Lo, will ye se, I am baith lene and sklender.

Yit nevertheles I wald, swa it wer licht,
Schort, and not grevand to my tendernes,
Tak part of pane, fulfill it gif I micht,
To set my selie saull in way of grace.
Thow sall, quod he, forbeir flesch hyne to Pasche
To tame this corps, that cursit carioun,
And heir I reik thee full remissioun.

I grant thairto swa ye will giff me leif
To eit puddingis or laip ane lyttill blude
Or heid or feit or paynchis let me preif
In cace I faut of flesch unto my fude.
For grit mister I gif thee leif to dude
Twyse in the oulk, for neid may haif na law.
God yeild yow schir, for that text weill I knaw.

Quhen this wes said, the wolf his wayis went.
The foxe on fute he fure unto the flude.
To fang him fisch haillelie wes his intent
Bot quhen he saw the walterand wallis woude,
All stonist still into ane stair he stude
And said, Better that I had biddin at hame
Nor bene ane fischar in the devillis name.

Now man I scraip my meit out of the sand
For I haif nouther boittis, net, nor bait.
As he wes thus for falt of meit murnand,
Lukand about his leving for to lait,
Under ane tre he saw ane trip of gait.
Than wes he blyith and in ane hewch him hid,
And fra the gait he stall ane lytill kid,

Syne over the heuch unto the see he hyis
And tuke the kid be the hornis twane
And in the watter outher twyis or thryis
He dowkit him and till him can he sayne,
Ga doun schir kid, cum up schir salmond agane,
Quhill he wes deid, syne to the land him drewch
And of that new-maid salmond eit anewch.

Thus fynelie fillit with young tender meit,
Unto ane derne for dreid he him addrest
Under ane busk quhair that the sone can beit
To beik his breist and bellie he thocht best
And rekleslie he said quhair he did rest,
Straikand his wame aganis the sonis heit,
Upon this wame set wer ane bolt full meit.

Quhen this wes said, the keipar of the gait,
Cairfull in hart his kid wes stollen away,
On everilk syde full warlie couth he wait
Quhill at the last he saw quhair Lowrence lay.
Ane bow he bent, ane flane with fedderis gray
He haillit to the heid, and or he steird
The foxe he prikkit fast unto the eird.

Now, quod the foxe, allace and wellaway.
Gorrit I am and may na forther gane.
Methink na man may speik ane word in play
Bot now on dayis in ernist it is tane.
The hird him hynt and out he drew his flane
And for his kid and uther violence
He tuke his skyn and maid ane recompence.


This suddand deith and unprovysit end
Of this fals tod without contritioun
Exempill is exhortand folk to mend
For dreid of sic ane lyke conclusioun
For mony gois now to confessioun
Cannot repent nor for thair sinnis greit
Because thay think thair lustie lyfe sa sweit.

Sum bene also throw consuetude and ryte
Vincust with carnall sensualitie.
Suppose thay be as for the tym contryte,
Cannot forbeir nor fra thair sinnis fle.
Use drawis nature swa in propertie
Of beist and man that neidlingis thay man do
As thay of lang tyme hes bene hantit to.

Bewar, gude folke, and feir this suddane schoit
Quhilk smytis sair withoutin resistence.
Attend wyislie and in your hartis noit,
Aganis deith may na man mak defence.
Ceis of your sin, remord your conscience,
Do wilfull pennance here and ye sall wend
Efter your deith to blis withouttin end.

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

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