La Fontaine: Horses (Wright)

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

The Horse Wishing To Be Revenged On The Stag 

The horses have not always been
The humble slaves of men.

When, in the far-off past,
The fare of gentlemen was mast,
And even hats were never felt,
Horse, ass, and mule in forests dwelt,
Nor saw one then, as in these ages,
So many saddles, housings, pillions —
Such splendid equipages,
With golden-lace postilions —
Such harnesses for cattle,
To be consumed in battle,
As one saw not so many feasts,
And people married by the priests.

The horse fell out, within that space,
With the antlered stag, so fleetly made;
He could not catch him in a race,
And so he came to man for aid.

Man first his suppliant bitted;
Then, on his back well seated,
Gave chase with spear, and rested not
Till to the ground the foe he brought.

This done, the honest horse, quite blindly,
Thus thanked his benefactor kindly:
"Dear sir, I'm much obliged to you;
I'll back to savage life. Adieu!"

"O, no," the man replied;
"You'd better here abide;
I know too well your use.
Here, free from all abuse,
Remain a liege to me,
And large your provender shall be."

Alas! good housing or good cheer,
That costs one's liberty, is dear.

The horse his folly now perceived,
But quite too late he grieved:
No grief his fate could alter;
His stall was built, and there he lived,
And died there in his halter.

Ah! wise had he one small offence forgot:
Revenge, however sweet, is dearly bought
By that one good, which gone, all else is nothing.

The Horse and the Wolf 

A wolf, what time the thawing breeze
Renews the life of plants and trees,
And beasts go forth from winter lair
To seek abroad their various fare —
A wolf, I say, about those days,
In sharp look-out for means and ways,
Espied a horse turned out to graze;
His joy the reader may opine.

"Once got," said he, "this game were fine;
But if a sheep, it were sooner mine.
I can't proceed my usual way;
Some trick must now be put in play."

This said,
He came with measured tread,
As if a healer of disease —
Some pupil of Hippocrates —
And told the horse, with learned verbs,
He knew the power of roots and herbs —
Whatever grew about those borders —
And not at all to flatter
Himself in such a matter,
Could cure of all disorders.

If he, Sir Horse, would not conceal
The symptoms of his case,
He, Doctor Wolf, would gratis heal;
For that to feed in such a place,
And run about untied,
Was proof itself of some disease,
As all the books decide.

"I have, good doctor, if you please,"
Replied the horse, "as I presume,
Beneath my foot, an aposthume."

"My son," replied the learned leech,
"That part, as all our authors teach,
Is strikingly susceptible
Of ills which make acceptable
What you may also have from me —
The aid of skilful surgery;
Which noble art, the fact is,
For horses of the blood I practise."

The fellow, with this talk sublime,
Watched for a snap the fitting time.

Meanwhile, suspicious of some trick,
The wary patient nearer draws
And gives his doctor such a kick,
As makes a chowder of his jaws.

Exclaimed the wolf, in sorry plight,
"I own those heels have served me right:
I erred to quit my trade,
As I will not in future;
Me nature surely made
For nothing but a butcher."

(500 words)

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