The Flea and the Man

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the flee and of the man

He that dothe euyl / how be hit that the euylle be not grete men ought not to leue hym vnpunysshed / As it appyereth by this fable / Of a man whiche took a flee whiche bote hym / to whome the man sayd in this manere / Fle why bytest thow me / and letest me not slepe / And the flee ansuerd It is my kynd to doo soo / wherfore I praye the that thow wylt not put me to dethe / And the man beganne to lawhe / & sayd to the flee / how be it / that thow mayst not hurte me sore / Neuertheles / to the behoueth not to prycke me / wherfore thow shalt deye /

For men ought not to leue none euyll vnpunysshed how be hit that hit be not grete

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


A Fellow finding somewhat prick him, popt his finger upon the Place, and it prov’d to be a Flea. What art thou, says he, for an Animal, to suck thy Livelyhood out of my Carcass? Why ‘tis the Livelyhood (says the Flea) that Nature has allotted me, and my stinging is not mortal neither. Well, says the Man, but ‘tis troublesome however: And now I have ye, I’ll secure ye for ever hurting me again, either little or much.

THE MORAL. Live and let live, is the Rule of common Justice; but if People will be troublesome on the one hand, the Obligation is discharg’d on the other.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Flea and the Man

A Man, very much annoyed with a Flea, caught him at last, and said, "Who are you who dare to feed on my limbs, and to cost me so much trouble in catching you?' The Flea replied, "O my dear sir, pray spare my life, and destroy me not, for I cannot possibly do you much harm." The Man, laughing, replied, "Now you shall certainly die by mine own hands, for no evil, whether it be small or large, ought to be tolerated."