The Fox and the Goat

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the foxe and of the gote

He whiche is wyse and sage ought fyrst to loke and behold the ende / or he begynneth the werke or dede / as hyer appiereth by this fable / Of a Foxe & of a gote / that somtyme descended and wente doune in to a depe welle / for to drynke And whanne they had wel dronke / by cause that thei coude not come vpward ageyne / the Foxe sayd to the gote in this maner / my frend yf thow wylt helpe me / we shall sone ben bothe oute of this welle / For yf thow wylt sette thy two feet ageynste the walle / I shal wel lepe vpon the / & vpon thy hornes And thenne I shal lepe oute of this welle / And whanne I shalle be oute of hit / thow shalt take me by the handes / and I shal plucke and drawe the oute of the welle / And at this request the gote / acorded and ansuerd / I wylle wel / And thenne the gote lyfte vp his feet ageynst the walle / and the foxe dyd so moche by his malyce that he gat out of the welle / And whan he was oute / he began to loke on the gote / whiche was within the welle / & thenne the gote sayd to hym / help me now as thou hast promysed / And thenne the foxe beganne to lawhe and to scorne hym / and sayd to hym / O mayster goote / yf thow haddest be wel wyse with thy fayre berde / or euer thow haddest entryd in to the welle / thow sholdest fyrst haue taken hede / how thow sholdest haue comen oute of hit ageyne /

And therfore he wiche is wyse / yf he wysely wylle gouerne hym self / ought to take euer good hede to the ende of his werke

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


A Fox and a Goat went down by consent into a Well to drink, and when they had quench’d their Thirst, the Goat fell to hunting up and down which way to get back again. Oh! Says Reynard, Never trouble your Head how to get back, but leave that to me. Do but you raise your self upon your hinder-Legs with your fore-Feet close to the Wall, and then stretch out your Head; I can easily whip up to your Horns, and so out of the Well, and draw you after me. The Goat puts himself in a Posture immediately, as he was directed, gives the Fox a lift, and so out he springs: But Reynard’s Business was now only to make sport with his Companion, instead of helping him. Some hard Words the Goat gave him, but the Fox puts off all with a Jest. If you had but half so much Brain as Beard, says he, you would have bethought your self how to get up again before you went down.

THE MORAL. A wise Man will debate every thing pro and con before he comes to fix upon any Resolution. He leaves nothing to Chance more than needs must. There must be no Bantering out of Season.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Fox and the Goat

A Fox one day fell into a deep well and could find no means of escape. A Goat, overcome with thirst, came to the same well, and seeing the Fox, inquired if the water was good. Concealing his sad plight under a merry guise, the Fox indulged in a lavish praise of the water, saying it was excellent beyond measure, and encouraging him to descend. The Goat, mindful only of his thirst, thoughtlessly jumped down, but just as he drank, the Fox informed him of the difficulty they were both in and suggested a scheme for their common escape. "If," said he, "you will place your forefeet upon the wall and bend your head, I will run up your back and escape, and will help you out afterwards." The Goat readily assented and the Fox leaped upon his back. Steadying himself with the Goat's horns, he safely reached the mouth of the well and made off as fast as he could. When the Goat upbraided him for breaking his promise, he turned around and cried out, "You foolish old fellow! If you had as many brains in your head as you have hairs in your beard, you would never have gone down before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself to dangers from which you had no means of escape."

Look before you leap.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Fox and the Goat

By an unlucky chance a Fox fell into a deep well from which he could not get out. A Goat passed by shortly afterwards, and asked the Fox what he was doing down there. "Oh, have you not heard?" said the Fox; "there is going to be a great drought, so I jumped down here in order to be sure to have water by me. Why don't you come down too?" The Goat thought well of this advice, and jumped down into the well. But the Fox immediately jumped on her back, and by putting his foot on her long horns managed to jump up to the edge of the well. "Good-bye, friend," said the Fox, "remember next time,

"Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties."