The Lion, The Wolf, And The Fox.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine


A lion, old, and impotent with gout,
Would have some cure for age found out.
Impossibilities, on all occasions,
With kings, are rank abominations.
This king, from every species, -
For each abounds in every sort, -
Call'd to his aid the leeches.
They came in throngs to court,
From doctors of the highest fee
To nostrum-quacks without degree, -
Advised, prescribed, talk'd learnedly;
But with the rest
Came not Sir Cunning Fox, M.D.
Sir Wolf the royal couch attended,
And his suspicions there express'd.
Forthwith his majesty, offended,
Resolved Sir Cunning Fox should come,
And sent to smoke him from his home.
He came, was duly usher'd in,
And, knowing where Sir Wolf had been,
Said, 'Sire, your royal ear
Has been abused, I fear,
By rumours false and insincere;
To wit, that I've been self-exempt
From coming here, through sheer contempt.
But, sire, I've been on pilgrimage,
By vow expressly made,
Your royal health to aid,
And, on my way, met doctors sage,
In skill the wonder of the age,
Whom carefully I did consult
About that great debility
Term'd in the books senility,
Of which you fear, with reason, the result.
You lack, they say, the vital heat,
By age extreme become effete.
Drawn from a living wolf, the hide
Should warm and smoking be applied.
The secret's good, beyond a doubt,
For nature's weak, and wearing out.
Sir Wolf, here, won't refuse to give
His hide to cure you, as I live.'
The king was pleased with this advice.
Flay'd, jointed, served up in a trice,
Sir Wolf first wrapp'd the monarch up,
Then furnish'd him whereon to sup.

Beware, ye courtiers, lest ye gain,
By slander's arts, less power than pain;
For in the world where ye are living,
A pardon no one thinks of giving.

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