The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the beestes and of the birdes

None maye doo no good to two lordes at ones / whiche ben contrary one to that other / as sayth to vs this fable that the beestes made grete were agenyst the byrdes / & fought euery day to gyder / And the backe feryng the wulues And that the beestes shold vaynquysshe and ouercome the byrdes / wold haue hold with the beestes / and be agenyst the byrdes / And whanne that bataylle was ordeyned on both sydes / the egle beganne to entre in to the batayll of the beestes by suche a strengthe / that with the help of the other byrdes he gat the feld / and vaynquysshed / and ouercame the bestes / wherfor the bestes maade pees with the byrdes / and were alle of one accord and of one wylle / And for the treason that the backe had made / she was condempned to neuer see the day / And neuer flee / but only by nyght / And also she was despoylled of alle her fethers /

And therfore he that wylle serue two lordes contrary one to other may not be good ne trewe / And they whiche relynquen and leue theyr owne lordes for to serue another straunger / whiche is enemy to theyr lord / ben wel worthy to be punysshed / For as the Euangely sayth / None may serue bothe god and the deuyl

L'Estrange's translation (1692)[edit]


Upon a desperate and a double Battel betwixt the Birds and the Beasts, the Bat stood Neuter, till she found that the Beasts had the better on’t, and then went over to the stronger Side. But it came to pass afterward (as the Chance of War is various) that the Birds rally’d their broken Troops, and carry’d the Day; and away she went then to t’other Party, where she was try’d by a Council of War as a Deserter; stript, banish’d, and finally condemn’d never to see Day-light again.

THE MORAL OF THE THREE FABLES ABOVE. Trimming, in some, Cases, is foul and dishonest; in others laudable, and in some again not only honest but necessary. The Nicety lies in the Skill of distinguishing upon Cases, Times, and Degrees.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat

The Birds waged war with the Beasts, and each were by turns the conquerors. A Bat, fearing the uncertain issues of the fight, always fought on the side which he felt was the strongest. When peace was proclaimed, his deceitful conduct was apparent to both combatants. Therefore being condemned by each for his treachery, he was driven forth from the light of day, and henceforth concealed himself in dark hiding-places, flying always alone and at night.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts

A great conflict was about to come off between the Birds and the Beasts. When the two armies were collected together the Bat hesitated which to join. The Birds that passed his perch said: "Come with us"; but he said: "I am a Beast." Later on, some Beasts who were passing underneath him looked up and said: "Come with us"; but he said: "I am a Bird." Luckily at the last moment peace was made, and no battle took place, so the Bat came to the Birds and wished to join in the rejoicings, but they all turned against him and he had to fly away. He then went to the Beasts, but soon had to beat a retreat, or else they would have torn him to pieces. "Ah," said the Bat, "I see now,

"He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends."