Robert Henryson ( )

The Trial of the Fox

This foirsaid foxe that deit for his misdeid
Had not ane barne wes gottin richteouslie
That to his airschip micht of law succeid
Except ane sone the quhilk in lemanrie
He gottin had in purches privelie
And till his name wes callit Father-war
That luifit weill with pultrie tig and tar.

It followis weill be ressoun naturall
And gre be gre of richt comparisoun,
Of evill cummis war, of war cummis werst of all,
Of wrangus get cummis wrang successioun.
This foxe, bastard of generatioun,
Of verray kynde behuifit to be fals.
Swa wes his father and his grandschir als.

As nature will, seikand his meit be sent,
Off cace he fand his fatheris carioun,
Nakit, new slane and till him is he went,
Tuke up his heid and on his kne fell doun
Thankand grit God of that conclusioun
And said,Now sall I bruke, sen I am air,
The boundis quhair thow wes wont for to repair.

Fy covetice, unkynd and venemous.
The sone wes fane he fand his father deid
Be suddand schot for deidis odious
That he micht ringe and raxe intill his steid,
Dreidand nathing the samin lyfe to leid
In stouth and reif as he had done befoir
Bot to the end attent he tuke no moir.

Yit nevertheles throw naturall pietie
The carioun upon his bak he tais.
Now find I weill this proverb trew, quod he,
Ay rinnis the foxe, als lang as he fute hais,
Syne with the corps unto ane peitpoit gais
Of watter full and kest him in the deip
And to the Devill he gaif his banis to keip.

O fulische man plungit in wardlynes
To conqueis wrangwis guidis, gold and rent,
To put thy saull in pane or hevines,
To riche thy air quhilk efter thow art went,
Have he thy gude, he takis bot small tent
To sing or say for thy salvatioun.
Fra thow be dede, done is thy devotioun.

This tod to rest he carit to ane craig
And thair he hard ane buisteous bugill blaw
Quhilk as him thocht maid all the warld to waig,
Than start he up quhen he this hard and saw
Ane unicorne come lansand over ane law,
With horne in hand, ane bill in breist he bure,
Ane pursephant semelie, I yow assure.

Unto ane bank quhair he micht se about
On everilk syde, in haist he culd him hy,
Schot out his voce full schyll, and gaif ane schout
And Oyas, oyas twyse or thryse did cry.
With that the beistis in the feild thairby,
All mervelland quhat sic ane thing suld mene,
Govand agast, thay gaderit on ane grene.

Out of his buste ane bill sone can he braid
And red the text withoutin tarying.
Commandand silence, sadlie thus he said:
We, nobill Lyoun, of all beistis the king,
Greting to God ay lestand but ending,
To brutall beistis and irrationall
I send as to my subjectis grit and small.

My celsitude and hie magnificence
Lattis yow to wit that evin incontinent
Thinkis the morne with royall deligence
Upon this hill to hald ane parliament.
Straitlie thairfoir I gif commandement
For to compeir befoir my tribunall
Under all pane and perrell that may fall.

The morrow come, and Phebus with his bemis
Consumit had the mistie cluddis gray.
The ground wes grene and as the gold it glemis
With gresis growand gudelie, grit, and gay.
The spyce thay spred to spring on everilk spray.
The lark, the maveis, and the merll full hie
Sweitlie can sing, trippand fra tre to tre.

Thre leopardis come, a croun of massie gold
Beirand thay brocht unto that hillis hicht
With jaspis jonit and royall rubeis rold
And mony diveris dyamontis dicht.
With pollis proud ane palyeoun doun thay picht
And in that throne thair sat ane wild lyoun
In rob royall with sceptour, swerd, and croun.

Efter the tennour off the cry befoir
That gais on fut all beistis in the eird
As thay commandit wer withoutin moir
Befoir thair lord the lyoun thay appeird
And quhat thay wer, to me as Lowrence leird,
I sall reheirs ane part of everilk kynd
Als fer as now occurris to my mynd. As much

The minotaur, ane monster mervelous,
Bellerophont, that beist of bastardrie,
The warwolf and the pegase perillous
Transformit be assent of sorcerie,
The linx, the tiger full of tiranie,
The elephant and eik the dromedarie,
The cameill with his cran-nek furth can carie,

The leopard as I haif tauld beforne,
The anteloip the sparth furth couth speid,
The peyntit pantheir and the unicorne,
The rayndeir ran throw reveir, rone, and reid,
The jolie jonet and the gentill steid,
The asse, the mule, the hors of everilk kynd,
The da, the ra, the hornit hart, the hynd,

The bull, the beir, the bugill, and the bair,
The wodwys, wildcat, and the wild wolfyne,
The hardbakkit hurcheoun and the hirpland hair,
Baith otter and aip and pennit porcupyne,
The gukit gait, the selie scheip, the swyne,
The baver, bakon, and the balterand brok,
The fowmart with the fibert furth can flok,

The gray grewhound with slewthound furth can slyde
With doggis all divers and different,
The rattoun ran, the globard furth can glyde,
The quhrynand quhitret with the quhasill went,
The feitho that hes furrit mony fent,
The mertrik with the cunning and the con,
The bowranbane and eik the lerion,

The marmisset the mowdewart couth leid
Because that nature denyit had hir sicht.
Thus dressit thay all furth for dreid of deid.
The musk  the lytill mous with all hir micht
In haist haikit unto that hillis hicht 
And mony kynd of beistis I couth not knaw
Befoir thair lord the lyoun thay loutit law.

Seing thir beistis all at his bidding boun,
He gaif ane braid and blenkit him about,
Than flatlingis to his feit thay fell all doun.
For dreid of deith, thay droupit all in dout.
The lyoun lukit quhen he saw thame lout
And bad thame with ane countenance full sweit,
Be not efferit bot stand up on your feit.

I lat yow wit my micht is merciabill
And steiris nane that ar to me prostrait,
Angrie, austerne, and als unamyabill
To all that standfray ar to myne estait.
I rug, I reif all beistys that makis debait
Aganis the micht of my magnyficence.
Se nane pretend to pryde in my presence.

My celsitude and my hie majestie
With micht and mercie myngit sall be ay.
The lawest heir I can full sone uphie
And mak him maister over yow all I may.
The dromedarie giff he will mak deray,
The grit camell thocht he wer never sa crous,
I can him law als lytill as ane mous.

Se neir be twentie mylis quhair I am
The kid ga saiflie be the gaittis syde,
Se tod Lowrie luke not upoun the lam
Na revand beistis nouther ryn nor ryde.
Thay couchit all efter that this wes cryde.
The justice bad the court for to gar fence,
The sutis call, and foirfalt all absence.

The panther with his payntit coit-armour
Fensit the court as of the law effeird.
Tod Lowrie lukit up quhair he couth lour
And start on fute all stonist and all steird.
Ryifand his hair, he rarit with ane reird,
Quaikand for dreid and sichand couth he say,
Allace this hour, allace this dulefull day.

I wait this suddand semblie that I se
Haifand the pointis of ane parliament
Is maid to mar sic misdoars as me.
Thairfoir geve I me schaw, I will be schent,
I will be socht and I be red absent,
To byde or fle it makis no remeid,
All is alyke, thair followis not bot deid.

Perplexit thus in his hart can he mene
Throw falset how he micht himself defend.
His hude he drew far doun attoure his ene hood;
And winkand with the ane eye furth he wend.
Clinscheand he come that he micht not be kend
And for dreddour that he suld thoill arreist
He playit bukhude behind fra beist to beist.

O fylit spreit and cankerit conscience
Befoir ane roy renyeit with richteousnes,
Blakinnit cheikis and schamefull countenance,
Fairweill thy fame, now gone is all thy grace!
The phisnomie, the favour of thy face
For thy defence is foull and disfigurate,
Brocht to the licht basit, blunt, and blait.

Be thow atteichit with thift or with tressoun
For thy misdeid wrangous and wickit fay,
Thy cheir changis, Lowrence, thow man luke doun.
Thy worschip of this warld is went away.
Luke to this tod how he wes in effray
And fle the filth of falset, I thee reid,
Quhairthrow thair fallowis syn and schamefull deid.

Compeirand thus befoir thair lord and king
In ordour set as to thair stait effeird,
Of everilk kynd he gart ane part furth bring
And awfullie he spak and at thame speird
Geve there wes ony beist into this eird
Absent and thairto gart thame deiplie sweir
And thay said nane except ane gray stude meir.

Ga make ane message sone unto that stude.
The court than cryit, My lord, quha sall it be?
Cum furth, Lowrie, lurkand under thy hude.
Aa, schir, mercie, lo I have bot ane ee,
Hurt in the hoche and cruikit as ye may se.
The wolff is better in ambassatry
And mair cunning in clergie fer than I.

Rampand he said, Ga furth, ye brybouris baith!
And thay to ga withowtin tarying.
Over ron and rute thay ran togidder raith
And fand the meir at hir meit in the morning.
Now, quod the tod, Madame, cum to the king.
The court is callit, and ye ar contumax.
Let be, Lowrence, quod scho, your cowrtlie knax.

Maistres, quod he, cum to the court ye mon.
The lyoun hes commandit so indeid.
Schir tod, tak ye the flyrdome and the fon.
I have respite ane yeir and ye will reid.
I can not spell, quod he, sa God me speid.
Heir is the wolff, ane nobill clerk at all
And of this message is maid principall.

He is autentik and ane man of age
And hes grit practik of the chancellary.
Let him ga luke and reid your privilage
And I sall stand and beir witnes yow by.
Quhair is thy respite? quod the wolff in hy.
Schir, it is heir under my hufe, weill hid.
Hald up thy heill, quod he, and so scho did.

Thocht he wes blindit with pryde, yit he presumis
To luke doun law quhair that hir letter lay.
With that the meir gird him upon the gumis
And straik the hattrell of his heid away.
Halff out of lyif, thair lenand doun he lay.
Allace, quod Lowrence, Lupus, thow art loist.
His cunning, quod the meir, wes worth sum coist.

Lowrence, quod scho,will thow luke on my letter
Sen that the wolff nathing thairoff can wyn?
Na, be Sanct Bryde, quod he. me think it better
To sleip in haill nor in ane hurt skyn.
Ane skrow I fand and this wes writtin in
(For fyve schillingis I wald not anis forfaut him),
Felix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum.5

With brokin skap and bludie cheikis reid,
This wretchit wolff weipand on his wayis went
Of his menye markand to get remeid 
To tell the king the cace wes his intent.
Schir, quod the tod, byde still upon this bent
And fra your browis wesche away the blude
And tak ane drink for it will do yow gude.

To fetche watter this fraudfull foxe furth fure.
Sydelingis a bank he socht unto ane syke.
On cace he meittis, cummand fra the mure,
Ane trip of lambis dansand on ane dyke.
This tratour tod, this tirrant and this tyke,
The fattest of this flock he fellit hais
And eit his fill, syne to the wolff he gais.

Thay drank togidder and syne thair journey takis
Befoir the king, syne kneillit on thair kne.
Quhair is yone meir, schir tod, wes contumax?
Than Lowrence said, My lord, speir not at me.
This new-maid doctour of divinitie
With his reid cap can tell yow weill aneuch.
With that the lyoun and all the laif thay leuch.

Tell on the cais now, Lowrence, let us heir.
This wittie wolf, quod he, this clerk of age,
On your behalff he bad the meir compeir
And scho allegit to ane privilage:
Cum neir and se, and ye sall haiff your wage.
Because he red hir rispite plane and weill,
Yone reid bonat scho raucht him with hir heill.

The lyoun said, Be yone reid cap I ken
This taill is trew, quha tent unto it takis.
The greitest clerkis ar not the wysest men,
The hurt of ane happie the uther makis.
As thay wer carpand in this cais with knakis
And all the court in garray and in gam,
Swa come the yow, the mother of the lam,

Befoir the justice on hir kneis fell,
Put out hir playnt on this wyis wofully,
This harlet huresone and this hound of hell,
He werryit hes my lamb full doggitly
Within ane myle in contrair to your cry.
For Goddis lufe my lord, gif me the law
Of this lurker. With that Lowrence let draw.

Byde! quod the lyoun, Lymmer, let us se
Giff it be suthe the selie yow hes said.
Aa soverane lord, saif your mercie, quod he,
My purpois wes with him for to haif plaid,
Causles he fled as he had bene effraid,
For dreid of deith he duschit over ane dyke
And brak his nek. Thow leis, quod scho, fals tyke.

His deith be practik may be previt eith:
Thy gorrie gumis and thy bludie snout,
The woll, the flesche yit stikkis on thy teith
And that is evidence aneuch but dout.
The justice bad ga cheis ane sis about
And so thay did and fand that he wes fals
Of murther, thift, and party tressoun als.

Thay band him fast, the justice bad belyif
To gif the dome and tak of all his clais,
The wolf that new-maid doctour couth him schrif,
Syne furth him led and to the gallows gais
And at the ledder fute his leif he tais.
The aip wes basare and bad him sone ascend
And hangit him and thus he maid his end.


Richt as the mynour in his minorall
Fair gold with fyre may fra the leid weill wyn,
Richt so under ane fabill figurall
Sad sentence men may seik and efter fyne
As daylie dois the doctouris of devyne
Apertly be oure leving can apply
And preve thare preching be a poesye.

The lyoun is the warld be liklynace
To quhome loutis baith empriour and king
And thinkis of this warld to get mare grace
And gapis daylie to get mair leving,
Sum for to reull and sum to raxe and ring,
Sum gadderis geir, sum gold, sum uther gude,
To wyn this warld, sum wirkis as thay wer wod.

This wolf I likkin to sensualitie
As quhen lyke brutall beistis we accord
Our mynd all to this warldis vanitie,
Lyking to tak and loif him as our lord.
Fle fast thairfra gif thow will richt remord,
Than sall ressoun ryse, rax, and ring
And for thy saull thair is na better thing.

The meir is men of contemplatioun
Of pennance walkand in this wildernes
As monkis and othir men of religioun
That presis God to pleis in everilk place,
Abstractit from this warldis wretchitnes
In wilfull povertee fra pomp and pryde,
And fra this warld in mynd ar mortyfyde.

Hir hufe I likkin to the thocht of deid.
Will thow remember, man, that thow man de,
Thow may brek sensualiteis heid
And fleschlie lust away fra thee sall fle.
Wis Salomon sais  will thow nocht see 
For as thow may thy sely saull now wyn,
Think on thy end  thow sall not glaidlie sin.

This tod I likkin to temptationis
Beirand to mynd mony thochtis vane
That daylie sagis men of religounis,
Cryand to thame, Cum to the warld agane!
Yit gif thay se sensualitie neir slane
And suddand deith with ithand panis sore,
Thay go abak and temptis thame no more.

O Mary myld mediatour of mercy meik
Sitt doun before thy sone celestiall,
For us synnars his celsitude beseke
Us to defend fra pane and perrellis all
And help us up unto that hevinlie hall
In gloir quhair we may se the face of God
And thus endis the talking of the tod.

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. The Bludy Serk

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