La Fontaine: Dogs (Wright)

These stories are part of the La Fontaine unit. Story source: The Fables of La Fontaine translated by Elizur Wright (1882).




The Wolf and the Dog 

A prowling wolf, whose shaggy skin
(So strict the watch of dogs had been)
Hid little but his bones,
Once met a mastiff dog astray;
A prouder, fatter, sleeker Tray
No human mortal owns.

Sir Wolf in famished plight,
Would fain have made a ration
On his fat relation,
But then he first must fight,
And well the dog seemed able
To save from wolfish table
His carcass snug and tight.

So, then, in civil conversation
The wolf expressed his admiration
Of Tray's fine case.

                           Said Tray, politely,
"Yourself, good sir, may be as sightly;
Quit but the woods, advised by me,
For all your fellows here, I see,
Are shabby wretches, lean and gaunt,
Belike to die of haggard want.
With such a pack, of course it follows,
One fights for every bit he swallows.
Come, then, with me, and share
On equal terms our princely fare."

"But what with you
Has one to do?"
Inquires the wolf.

                   "Light work indeed,"
Replies the dog; "you only need
To bark a little now and then,
To chase off duns and beggar men,
To fawn on friends that come or go forth,
Your master please, and so forth,
For which you have to eat
All sorts of well-cooked meat —
Cold pullets, pigeons, savoury messes —
Besides unnumbered fond caresses."

The wolf, by force of appetite,
Accepts the terms outright,
Tears glistening in his eyes.

But faring on, he spies
A galled spot on the mastiff's neck.
"What's that?" he cries.

             "O, nothing but a speck."

"A speck?"

                      "Ay, ay; It's not enough to pain me;
Perhaps the collar's mark by which they chain me."

"Chain! chain you! What! run you not, then,
Just where you please, and when?"

"Not always, sir; but what of that?"

"Enough for me, to spoil your fat!
It ought to be a precious price
Which could to servile chains entice;
For me, I'll shun them while I have wit."

So ran Sir Wolf, and runs yet.


The Ass and the Dog 

Dame Nature, our respected mother,
Ordains that we should aid each other;
The ass this ordinance neglected,
Though not a creature ill-affected.

Along the road a dog and he
One master followed silently;
Their master slept — meanwhile, the ass
Applied his nippers to the grass,
Much pleased in such a place to stop,
Though there no thistle he could crop.

He would not be too delicate,
Nor spoil a dinner for a plate,
Which, but for that, his favourite dish,
Were all that any ass could wish.

"My dear companion," Towser said,
"It's as a starving dog I ask it —
Pray lower down your loaded basket,
And let me get a piece of bread."

No answer — not a word! — indeed,
The truth was our Arcadian steed
Feared lest, for every moment's flight,
His nimble teeth should lose a bite.

At last, "I counsel you," said he, "to wait
Till master is himself awake,
Who then, unless I much mistake,
Will give his dog the usual bait."

Meanwhile, there issued from the wood
A creature of the wolfish brood,
Himself by famine sorely pinched.

At sight of him the donkey flinched,
And begged the dog to give him aid.

The dog budged not, but answer made:
"I counsel you, my friend, to run,
Till master's nap is fairly done;
There can, indeed, be no mistake,
That he will very soon awake:
Till then, scud off with all your might,
And should he snap you in your flight,
This ugly wolf —why, let him feel
The greeting of your well-shod heel.
I do not doubt, at all, but that
Will be enough to lay him flat."

But before he ceased it was too late;
The ass had met his cruel fate.


(500 words)

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