The Wolves and the Sheep

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the wulues and of the sheep

Whanne men haue a good hede / and a good defensour / or a good Capitayne / men oughte not to leue hym / for he that leueth hym repenteth hym afterward of hit / as to vs reherceth this fable / Of the sheep whiche had were and discencion with the wolues / And by cause that the wulues made to stronge werre ageynst the sheep / the shepe thenne tooke for theyr help the dogges / and the whethers also / And thenne was the bataylle of the sheep so grete and so stronge / & fought so vygorously agenst the wolues. that they put them to flyght / And whanne the wolues sawe the strengthe of theyr aduersaryes / they sent an ambassade toward the sheep for to trete the pees with them / the whiche Ambassade sayd to the sheep in this maner / yf ye wylle gyue vs the dogges / we shalle swere vnto yow oure feythe / that we shalle neuer kepe ne hold werre ageynst yow / And the sheep ansuerd / yf ye wylle gyue vs yur fayth / we shalle be content / And thus they made pees to gyder / but the wulues kyld the dogges / whiche were the capytayns and protectours of the sheep / And the dogges dyde but lytyll hurte to the wulues / wherfore whanne the lytyl and yong wulues were growen in theyr age / they came of eche part and countrey / and assembled them to gyder / and all of one accord and wylle sayd to theyre Auncestres and faders / we must ete vp alle the sheep / And theyr faders ansuerd thus to them / we haue maade pees with them / Neuertheles the yonge wolues brake the pees and ranne fyersly vpon the sheep / and theyr faders wente after them / And thus by cause that the sheep had delyuerd the dogges to the wolues / the whiche were theyr capitayns / and that they had none that kepte them / they were all eten and deuoured of the wulues /

Therfore hit is good to kepe well his capytayne / whiche may at a nede gyue socour and helpe / For a trewe frend is better at a nede than a Royalme / For yf the sheep had kepte the loue of the dogges / the wolues had neuer deuoured them / wherfore it is a sure thynge to kepe wel the loue of his protectour and good frende /

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


There was a Time when the Sheep were so hardy as to wage War with the Wolves: and so long as they had the Dogs for their Allies, they were upon all Encounters, at least a Match for their Enemies. Upon this Consideration, the Wolves sent their Embassadors to the Sheep, to treat about a Peace, and in the mean Time there were Hostages given on both sides; the Dogs on the Part of the Sheep, and the Wolves Whelps on the other Part, till the Matters might be brought to an Issue. While they were upon Treaty, the Whelps fell a howling; the Wolves cry’d out Treason; and pretending an Infraction in the Abuse of their Hostages, fell upon the Sheep immediately without their Dogs, and made them pay for the Improvidence of leaving themselves without a Guard.

THE MORAL. ‘Tis Senseless in the highest Degree, to think of establishing an Alliance among those that Nature herself has divided by an irreconcilable Disagreement. Beside that a foolish Peace is much more destructive than a bloody War.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Wolves and the Sheep

"Why should there always be this fear and slaughter between us?" said the Wolves to the Sheep. "Those evil-disposed Dogs have much to answer for. They always bark whenever we approach you and attack us before we have done any harm. If you would only dismiss them from your heels, there might soon be treaties of peace and reconciliation between us." The Sheep, poor silly creatures, were easily beguiled and dismissed the Dogs, whereupon the Wolves destroyed the unguarded flock at their own pleasure.