The Old Lion

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the lyon / of the wyld bore / of the bole & of the asse

Whanne a man hath lost his dignyte or offyce / he muste leue his fyrst audacyte or hardyness / to thende / that he be not iniuryed and mocqued of euery one / wherof Esope sheweth vnto vs suche a fable / There was a lyon whiche in his yongthe was fyers and moche outragyous / And when he was come to his old age / there came to hym a wyldbore / whiche with his teeth rent and barst a grete pyece of his body and auenged vpon hym of the wrong that the lyon had doo to hym before that tyme / After came to hym the boole whiche smote and hurted hym with his hornes / And an asse came there / whiche smote hym in the forhede with his feete by maner of vyndycacion / And thenne the poure Lyon beganne to wepe sayenge within hym self in this manere / whan I was yonge and vertuous euery one doubted and fered me / And now that I am old and feble / and nyghe to my dethe / none is that setteth ne holdeth ought by me / but of euery one I am setten a back / And by cause that now I haue lost bothe vertue and strengthe / I haue lost alle good and worship /

And therefore this fable admonesteth many one whiche ben enhaunced in dygnyte and worship shewynge to them / how they must be meke and humble / For he that geteth and acquyreth no frendes ought to be doubtous to falle in suche caas and in suche peryls

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


A Lion that in the Days of his Youth and Strength had been very outragious and cruel, came in the end to be reduced, by old Age and Infirmity, to the last Degree of Misery and contempt; insomuch that all the Beasts of the Forest, some out of Insolence, others in Revenge, some, in fine, upon one Pretence, some upon another, fell upon him by Consent. He was a miserable Creature to all Intents and Purposes; but nothing went so near the Heart of him in his Distress, as to find himself battr’d by the Heel of an Ass.

THE MORAL A Prince that does not secure Friends to himself while he is in Power and Condition to oblige them, must never expect to find Friends when he is old and impotent, and no longer able to do them any Good. If he governs tyrannically in his Youth, he will be sure to be treated contemptuously in his Age; and the Baser his Enemies are, the more insolent and intolerable will be the Affront.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Old Lion

A Lion, worn out with years and powerless from disease, lay on the ground at the point of death. A Boar rushed upon him, and avenged with a stroke of his tusks a long-remembered injury. Shortly afterwards the Bull with his horns gored him as if he were an enemy. When the Ass saw that the huge beast could be assailed with impunity, he let drive at his forehead with his heels. The expiring Lion said, "I have reluctantly brooked the insults of the brave, but to be compelled to endure such treatment from thee, a disgrace to Nature, is indeed to die a double death."

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Sick Lion

A Lion had come to the end of his days and lay sick unto death at the mouth of his cave, gasping for breath. The animals, his subjects, came round him and drew nearer as he grew more and more helpless. When they saw him on the point of death they thought to themselves: "Now is the time to pay off old grudges." So the Boar came up and drove at him with his tusks; then a Bull gored him with his horns; still the Lion lay helpless before them: so the Ass, feeling quite safe from danger, came up, and turning his tail to the Lion kicked up his heels into his face. "This is a double death," growled the Lion.

Only cowards insult dying majesty.