The Fisherman and the Little Fish

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The Fisherman and the Little Fish
by Aesop

Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the fyssher and of the lytyl fysshe

Men ought not to leue that thynge whiche is sure & certayne / for hope to haue the vncertayn / as to vs reherceth this fable of a fyssher whiche with his lyne toke a lytyll fysshe whiche sayd to hym / My frend I pray the / doo to me none euylle / ne putte me not to dethe / For now I am nought / for to be eten / but whanne I shalle be grete / yf thow come ageyne hyther / of me shalt thow mowe haue grete auaylle / For thenne I shalle goo with the a good whyle / And the Fyssher sayd to the fysshe Syn I hold the now / thou shalt not scape fro me / For grete foly hit were to me for to seke the here another tyme /

For men ought not to lete goo that / of what they be sure of / hopynge to haue afterward that that they haue not and whiche is vncertayne

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Fisherman and the Little Fish

A Fisherman who lived on the produce of his nets, one day caught a single small Fish as the result of his day's labor. The Fish, panting convulsively, thus entreated for his life: "O Sir, what good can I be to you, and how little am I worth? I am not yet come to my full size. Pray spare my life, and put me back into the sea. I shall soon become a large fish fit for the tables of the rich, and then you can catch me again, and make a handsome profit of me." The Fisherman replied, "I should indeed be a very simple fellow if, for the chance of a greater uncertain profit, I were to forego my present certain gain."

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Fisher and the Little Fish

It happened that a Fisher, after fishing all day, caught only a little fish. "Pray, let me go, master," said the Fish. "I am much too small for your eating just now. If you put me back into the river I shall soon grow, then you can make a fine meal off me."

"Nay, nay, my little Fish," said the Fisher, "I have you now. I may not catch you hereafter."

A little thing in hand is worth more than a great thing in prospect.