The Farmer and the Stork

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the labourer and of the pyelarge

He whiche is taken with the wicked and euyll oughte to suffre payne and punycyon as they / As it appiereth by this fable / Of a labourer whiche somtyme dressyd and sette his gynnes and nettes for to take the ghees and the cranes / whiche ete his corne / It happed thenne that ones amonge a grete meyny of ghees and cranes / he took a pyelarge / whiche prayd the labourer in this maner / I praye the lete me go / For I am neyther goos ne crane nor I am not come hyther for to do to the ony euylle / The labourer beganne thenne to lawhe / and sayd to the pyelarge / yf thow haddest not be in theyr felauship / thow haddest not entryd in to my nettes / ne haddest not be taken / And by cause that thow arte founde and taken with them / thow shalt be punysshed as they shalle be

Therfore none ought to hold companye with the euylle withoute he wylle suffre the punycion of them whiche ben punysshed

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


A poor innocent Stork had the ill Hap to be taken in a Net that was laid for Geese and Cranes. The Stork’s Plea for herself was Simplicity and Piety: The Love she bare to Mankind, and the Service she did in picking up venomous Creatures. This is all true, says the Husbandman; but they that keep ill Company, if they be catch’d with ill Company, must expect to suffer with ill Company.

THE MORAL. ‘Tis as much as a Man’s Life, Fortune, and Reputation are worth, to keep good Company (over and above the Contagion of leud Examples;) for as Birds of a Feather will flock together, so if the good and bad be taken together, they must expect to go the Way of all Flesh together.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Farmer and the Stork

A Farmer placed nets on his newly sown plowlands and caught a number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them he trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in the net and was earnestly beseeching the Farmer to spare his life. "Pray save me, Master," he said, "and let me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity. Besides, I am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I love and slave for my father and mother. Look too, at my feathers — they are not the least like those of a Crane." The Farmer laughed aloud and said, "It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company."

Birds of a feather flock together.