The Cock and the Jewel

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

From an 1894 Japanese edition of La Fontaine's fables; an illustration of the fable of the cock (or rooster) and the pearl

Of the Cok and of the precious stone

/ As a Cok ones sought his pasture in the donghylle / he fond a precious stone / to whome the Cok sayd / Ha a fayre stone and precious thow arte here in the fylth And yf he desyreth the had found the / as I haue he should haue take the vp / and sette the ageyne in thy fyrst estate / but in vayne I haue found the / For no thynge I haue to do with the / ne no good I may doo to the / ne thou to me /

And thys fable sayd Esope to them that rede this book / For by the cok is to vnderstond the fool whiche retcheth not of sapyence ne of wysedome / as the Cok retcheth and setteth not by the precious stone / And by the stone is to vnderstond this fayre and playsaunt book

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


As a Cock was turning up a Dung-hill, he spy’d a Diamond. Well (he says to himself) this sparkling Foolery now to a Lapidary in my place, would have been the making of him; but as to any Use or Purpose of mine, a Barley-Corn had been worth forty on’t.

THE MORAL He that’s industrious in an honest Calling, shall never fail of a Blessing. ‘Tis the part of a wise Man to prefer Things necessary before Matters of Curiosity, Ornament, or Pleasure.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Cock and the Jewel

A Cock, scratching for food for himself and his hens, found a precious stone and exclaimed: "If your owner had found thee, and not I, he would have taken thee up, and have set thee in thy first estate; but I have found thee for no purpose. I would rather have one barleycorn than all the jewels in the world."

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Cock and the Pearl

A cock was once strutting up and down the farmyard among the hens when suddenly he espied something shinning amid the straw. "Ho! ho!" quoth he, "that's for me," and soon rooted it out from beneath the straw. What did it turn out to be but a Pearl that by some chance had been lost in the yard? "You may be a treasure," quoth Master Cock, "to men that prize you, but for me I would rather have a single barley-corn than a peck of pearls."

Precious things are for those that can prize them.