The Stag in the Ox-Stall

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the herte and of the oxe

Onely for to flee none is assured to scape the daunger wherfore he fleeth / As thow shalt mowe see by this fable / Of a herte whiche ranne byfore the dogges / and to thende that he shold not be take / he fledde in to the fyrst toun that he found / & entryd in to a stable where as many oxen were / to whom he sayd the cause why he was come there / prayeng them swetely that they wold saue hym / And the oxen sayd thus to hym / Allas poure herte thow arte amonge vs euylle adressyd / thow sholdest be more surely in the feldes / For yf thow be perceyued or sene of the oxeherd or els of the mayster / Certaynly thow arte but dede / Helas for god & for pyte I praye yow that ye wylle hyde me within your racke / and that ye deceyue me not / and at nyght next comynge / I shalle goo hens / and shalle putte my self in to a sure place / And whanne the seruaunts was come for to gyue heye to the oxen / they dyd cast heye before the oxen / and wente ageyne theyre waye and sawe not the hert / wherof the herte was gretely reioysshed wenynge to haue scaped the perylle of dethe / He thenne rendred thanke and graces to the oxen / and one of the oxen sayd to hym / It is facyle to scape out of the handes of the blynd but hit is not facyle to scape fro the handes of hym that seeth wel / For yf oure mayster come hyther whiche hath more than an honderd eyen / Certaynly thow arte deed yf he perceyue the / And yf he see the not / certaynly thow arte saued / and shalt goo for the on thy waye surely / The mayster withyn a short whyle after entryd in to the stable And after he commaunded to vysyte and see the hey / whiche was before his oxen / And hym self went and tasted / yf they had ynough of hit / And as he tasted thus the heye / he felt the hornes of the herte with his hand / and to hym self sayd / what is that that I fele here / and beynge dredeful called alle his seruauntes / and demaunded of the manere how the herte came thyder / And they sayd to hym / My lord I knowe nothynge therof / And the lord was full gladde and made the herte to be taken and slayne / and maade a grete feest for to haue ete hym /

Therfore it happeth oftyme / that he whiche supposeth to flee is taken and hold within the lace or nette / For he that fleeth awey is in grete perylle / wherfore men ought wel to kepe them self to doo suche dede / that they must nedes flee therfore

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


A Stag that was hard set by Huntsmen, betook himself to a Stall for Sanctuary, and prevail’d with the Oxen to conceal him the best they could, so they cover’d him with Straw, and by and by in comes the Keeper to dress the Cattle and feed them; and when he had done his Work, he went his way without any Discovery. The Stag reckon’d himself by this time to be out of all danger; but one of the Oxen that had more Brains than his Fellows, advis’d him not to be too confident neither: for the Servant, says he, is a puzzling Fool that heeds nothing; but when my Master comes, he’ll have an eye here, and there, and every where, and will most certainly find ye out. Upon the very speaking of the Word, in comes the Master, and he spies out twenty Faults, I warrant ye; this was not well, and that was not well; till at last, as he was prying and groping up and down, he felt the Horns of the Stag under the Straw, and so made Prize of him.

THE MORAL OF THE TWO FABLES ABOVE. He that would be sure to have his Business well done, must either do it himself, or see the doing of it; beside that many a good Servant is spoil’d by a careless Master.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Stag in the Ox-Stall

A Stag, roundly chased by the hounds and blinded by fear to the danger he was running into, took shelter in a farmyard and hid himself in a shed among the oxen. An Ox gave him this kindly warning: "O unhappy creature! why should you thus, of your own accord, incur destruction and trust yourself in the house of your enemy?' The Stag replied: "Only allow me, friend, to stay where I am, and I will undertake to find some favorable opportunity of effecting my escape." At the approach of the evening the herdsman came to feed his cattle, but did not see the Stag; and even the farm-bailiff with several laborers passed through the shed and failed to notice him. The Stag, congratulating himself on his safety, began to express his sincere thanks to the Oxen who had kindly helped him in the hour of need. One of them again answered him: "We indeed wish you well, but the danger is not over. There is one other yet to pass through the shed, who has as it were a hundred eyes, and until he has come and gone, your life is still in peril." At that moment the master himself entered, and having had to complain that his oxen had not been properly fed, he went up to their racks and cried out: "Why is there such a scarcity of fodder? There is not half enough straw for them to lie on. Those lazy fellows have not even swept the cobwebs away." While he thus examined everything in turn, he spied the tips of the antlers of the Stag peeping out of the straw. Then summoning his laborers, he ordered that the Stag should be seized and killed.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Stag in the Ox-Stall

A Hart hotly pursued by the hounds fled for refuge into an ox-stall, and buried itself in a truss of hay, leaving nothing to be seen but the tips of his horns. Soon after the Hunters came up and asked if any one had seen the Hart. The stable boys, who had been resting after their dinner, looked round, but could see nothing, and the Hunters went away. Shortly afterwards the master came in, and looking round, saw that something unusual had taken place. He pointed to the truss of hay and said: "What are those two curious things sticking out of the hay?" And when the stable boys came to look they discovered the Hart, and soon made an end of him. He thus learnt that Nothing escapes the master's eye.