The Wolf and the Lamb

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The Wolf and the Lamb
by Aesop

Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the wulf and of the lambe

/ Of the Innocent and of the shrewe Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable / how it was so / that the lambe and the wulf had bothe thurst / and went bothe to a Ryuer for to drynke / It happed that the wulf dranke aboue & the lambe dranke bynethe / And as the wulf sawe and perceyued the lambe / he sayd with a hyghe voys / Ha knaue why hast thou troubled and fowled my water / whiche I shold now drynke / Allas my lord sauf your grece / For the water cometh fro yow toward me / Thenne sayd the wulf to the lambe / Hast thow no shame ne drede to curse me / And the lambe sayd My lord with your leue / And the wulf sayd ageyne / Hit is not syxe monethes passyd that thy fader dyd to me as moche / And the lambe ansuerd yet was I not at that tyme born / And the wlf said ageyne to hym / Thou hast ete my fader / And the lambe ansuerd / I haue no teeth / Thenne said the wulf / thou arte wel lyke thy fader / and for his synne & mysded thow shalt deye / The wulf thenne toke the lambe and ete hym /

This fable sheweth that the euylle man retcheth not by what maner he may robbe & destroye the good & innocent man

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


As a Wolf was lapping at the Head of a Fountain, he spy'd a Lamb paddling at the same time a good way off down the Stream. The Wolf had no sooner the Prey in his eye, but away he runs open-mouth to't. Villain (says he) how dare you lie muddling the Water that I'm a drinking? Indeed, says the poor Lamb, I did not think that my drinking here below could have foul'd your Water so far above. Nay, says t'other, you'll never leave your chopping of Logick, till your Skin's turn'd over your Ears, as your Father's was, a matter of six months ago, for prating at this saucy rate; you remember it full well, Sirrah. If you'll believe me, Sir, (quoth the innocent Lamb, with fear and trembling) I was not come into the World then. Why thou Impudence, cries the Wolf, hast thou neither Shame nor Conscience? But it runs in the Blood of your whole Race, Sirrah, to hate our Family; and therefore since Fortune has brought us together so conveniently, you shall e'en pay some of your Forefathers Scores before you and I part. And so without any more ado, he leap'd at the Throat of the miserable helpless Lamb, and tore him immediately to pieces.

THE MORAL OF THE TWO FABLES ABOVE. 'Tis an easy Matter to find a Staff to beat a Dog. Innocence is no Protection against the arbitrary Cruelty of a tyrannical Power; But Reason and Conscience are yet so sacred, that the greatest Villanies are still countenanc'd under that Cloke and Colour.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Wolf and the Lamb

A Wolf, meeting with a Lamb astray from the fold, resolved not to lay violent hands on him, but to find some plea to justify to the Lamb the Wolf's right to eat him. He thus addressed him: "Sirrah, last year you grossly insulted me." "Indeed," bleated the Lamb in a mournful tone of voice, "I was not then born." Then said the Wolf, "You feed in my pasture." "No, good sir," replied the Lamb, "I have not yet tasted grass." Again said the Wolf, "You drink of my well." "No," exclaimed the Lamb, "I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother's milk is both food and drink to me." Upon which the Wolf seized him and ate him up, saying, "Well! I won't remain supperless, even though you refute every one of my imputations."

The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Wolf and the Lamb

ONCE upon a time a Wolf was lapping at a spring on a hillside, when, looking up, what should he see but a Lamb just beginning to drink a little lower down. "There's my supper," thought he, "if only I can find some excuse to seize it." Then he called out to the Lamb, "How dare you muddle the water from which I am drinking."

"Nay, master, nay," said Lambikin; "if the water be muddy up there, I cannot be the cause of it, for it runs down from you to me.

"Well, then," said the Wolf, "why did you call me bad names this time last year?"

"That cannot be," said the Lamb; "I am only six months old."

"I don't care," snarled the Wolf; "if it was not you, it was your father;" and with that he rushed upon the poor little Lamb and—

Warra warra warra warra warra—

ate her all up. But before she died she gasped out—

"Any excuse will serve a tyrant."