The Stag at the Pool
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Of the herte and of the hunter
Men preysen somtyme that / that shold be blamed & vitupered / And ofte men blamen & vytuperen that / that shold be preysyd / as reciteth to vs this fable of a herte / To whome it happyd on a tyme that he drank in a fontayn or welle as he dranke / he sawe in the water his hede which was horned / wherfore he preysed moche his hornes / And as he loked on his legges / whiche were lene and smal / he dispreysed and vytupered them / And as he was drynkynge in the fontayne he herd the voys and barkynge of dogges / wherfore he wold haue fledde awey in to the forest for to saue hym self / but as he sawe the dogges so nyghe hym he wold haue entrid within a busshe / but he myght not / for his hornes kepte hym withoute / And thenne seyng that he myght not escape began to saye within hym self / I haue blamed & vytupered my legges / whiche haue ben to me vtyle and prouffitable / And haue preysed my hornes / whiche ben now cause of my dethe /
And therfore men ought to disprayse that thynge / whiche is vnprouffitable / and preyse that whiche is vtyle and prouffitable / And they ought to preyse and loue the chirche and the commaundements of the same / the whiche ben moche vtyle & prouffytable / And dispreyse and flee al synne and vyce / whiche ben inutyle harmeful and dommageable
L'Estrange's translation (1692)
A STAG DRINKING
As a Stag was drinking upon the Bank of a clear Stream, he saw his Image in the Water, and enter’d into this Contemplation upon’t. Well! Says he, if these pitiful Shanks of mine were but answerable to this branching Head, I can’t but think how I should defy all my Enemies. The Words were hardly out of his Mouth, but he discover’d a pack of Dogs coming full Cry towards him. Away he scours cross the Fields, casts off the Dogs, and gains a Wood; but pressing thro’ a Thicket, the Bushes held him by the Hors, till the Hounds came in and pluck’d him down. The last thing he said was this. What an unhappy Fool was I, to take my Friends for my Enemies, and my Enemies for my Friends! I trusted to my Head, that has betray’d me; and I found fault with my Legs, that would have otherwise brought me off.
THE MORAL. He that does not throughly know himself, may be well allowed to make a false Judgement upon other Matters that most nearly concern him.
Townsend's translation (1887)
A Stag overpowered by heat came to a spring to drink. Seeing his own shadow reflected in the water, he greatly admired the size and variety of his horns, but felt angry with himself for having such slender and weak feet. While he was thus contemplating himself, a Lion appeared at the pool and crouched to spring upon him. The Stag immediately took to flight, and exerting his utmost speed, as long as the plain was smooth and open kept himself easily at a safe distance from the Lion. But entering a wood he became entangled by his horns, and the Lion quickly came up to him and caught him. When too late, he thus reproached himself: "Woe is me! How I have deceived myself! These feet which would have saved me I despised, and I gloried in these antlers which have proved my destruction."
- What is most truly valuable is often underrated.
The Hart and the Hunter
The Hart was once drinking from a pool and admiring the noble figure he made there. "Ah," said he, "where can you see such noble horns as these, with such antlers! I wish I had legs more worthy to bear such a noble crown; it is a pity they are so slim and slight." At that moment a Hunter approached and sent an arrow whistling after him. Away bounded the Hart, and soon, by the aid of his nimble legs, was nearly out of sight of the Hunter; but not noticing where he was going, he passed under some trees with branches growing low down in which his antlers were caught, so that the Hunter had time to come up. "Alas! alas!" cried the Hart:
"We often despise what is most useful to us."