The Farmer, The Dog, And The Fox.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

[1]

The wolf and fox are neighbours strange:
I would not build within their range.
The fox once eyed with strict regard
From day to day, a poultry-yard;
But though a most accomplish'd cheat,
He could not get a fowl to eat.
Between the risk and appetite,
His rogueship's trouble was not slight.
'Alas!' quoth he, 'this stupid rabble
But mock me with their constant gabble;
I go and come, and rack my brains,
And get my labour for my pains.
Your rustic owner, safe at home,
Takes all the profits as they come:
He sells his capons and his chicks,
Or keeps them hanging on his hook,
All dress'd and ready for his cook;
But I, adept in art and tricks,
Should I but catch the toughest crower,
Should be brimful of joy, and more.
O Jove supreme! why was I made
A master of the fox's trade?
By all the higher powers, and lower,
I swear to rob this chicken-grower!'
Revolving such revenge within,
When night had still'd the various din,
And poppies seem'd to bear full sway
O'er man and dog, as lock'd they lay
Alike secure in slumber deep,
And cocks and hens were fast asleep,
Upon the populous roost he stole.
By negligence, - a common sin, -
The farmer left unclosed the hole,
And, stooping down, the fox went in.
The blood of every fowl was spill'd,
The citadel with murder fill'd.
The dawn disclosed sad sights, I ween,
When heaps on slaughter'd heaps were seen,
All weltering in their mingled gore.
With horror stricken, as of yore,
The sun well nigh shrunk back again,
To hide beneath the liquid main.
Such sight once saw the Trojan plain,
When on the fierce Atrides'[2] head
Apollo's awful anger fell,
And strew'd the crimson field with dead:
Of Greeks, scarce one was left to tell
The carnage of that night so dread.
Such slaughter, too, around his tent,
The furious Ajax made, one night,
Of sheep and goats, in easy fight;
In anger blindly confident
That by his well-directed blows
Ulysses fell, or some of those
By whose iniquity and lies
That wily rival took the prize.
The fox, thus having Ajax play'd,
Bore off the nicest of the brood, -
As many pullets as he could, -
And left the rest, all prostrate laid.
The owner found his sole resource
His servants and his dog to curse.
'You useless puppy, better drown'd!
Why did you not your 'larum sound?'
'Why did you not the evil shun,'
Quoth Towser, 'as you might have done?
If you, whose interest was more,
Could sleep and leave an open door,
Think you that I, a dog at best,
Would watch, and lose my precious rest?'
This pithy speech had been, in truth,
Good logic in a master's mouth;
But, coming from a menial's lip,
It even lack'd the lawyership
To save poor Towser from the whip.

O thou who head'st a family,
(An honour never grudged by me,)
Thou art a patriarch unwise,
To sleep, and trust another's eyes.
Thyself shouldst go to bed the last,
Thy doors all seen to, shut and fast.
I charge you never let a fox see
Your special business done by proxy.

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