A prowling wolf, whose shaggy skin
(So strict the watch of dogs had been)
Hid little but his bones,
Once met a mastiff dog astray.
A prouder, fatter, sleeker Tray,
No human mortal owns.
Sir Wolf in famished plight,
Would fain have made a ration
On his fat relation;
But then he first must fight;
And well the dog seemed able
To save from wolfish table
His carcass snug and tight.
So, then, in civil conversation
The wolf expressed his admiration
Of Tray’s fine case. Said Tray, politely,
“Yourself, good sir, may be as sightly;
Quit but the woods, advised by me.
For all your fellows here, I see,
Are shabby wretches, lean and gaunt,
Belike to die of haggard want.
With such a pack, of course it follows,
One fights for every bit he swallows.
Come, then, with me, and share
On equal terms our princely fare.”
“But what with you
Has one to do?”
Inquires the wolf. “Light work indeed,”
Replies the dog; “you only need
To bark a little now and then,
To chase off duns and beggar men,
To fawn on friends that come or go forth,
Your master please, and so forth;
For which you have to eat
All sorts of well-cooked meat—
Cold pullets, pigeons, savoury messes—
Besides unnumbered fond caresses.”
The wolf, by force of appetite,
Accepts the terms outright,
Tears glistening in his eyes.
But faring on, he spies
A galled spot on the mastiff’s neck.
“What’s that?” he cries. “O, nothing but a speck.”
“A speck?” “Ay, ay; It’s not enough to pain me;
Perhaps the collar’s mark by which they chain me.”
“Chain! chain you! What! run you not, then,
Just where you please, and when?”
“Not always, sir; but what of that?”
“Enough for me, to spoil your fat!
It ought to be a precious price
Which could to servile chains entice;
For me, I’ll shun them while I have wit.”
So ran Sir Wolf, and runs yet.
Jean de La Fontaine (1668)