Wounded and weak, and dripping fast with blood,
A Fox crept wearily through mire and mud.
Quickly attracted by the hopeful sight,
A Fly—a restless, winged parasite—
Came to show sympathy—and bite.
The Fox accused the gods on high,
Thought Fate had vexed him cruelly.
"Why attack me?—am I a treat?
When were the Foxes thought good meat?
I, the most nimble, clever beast,
Am I to be for flies a feast?
Now Heaven confound the paltry thing
So small, yet with so sharp a sting!"
A Hedgehog, hearing all his curses
(His first appearance in my verses),
Wished to set the poor beast free
Of the Flies′ importunity.
"My neighbour," said the worthy soul,
"I′ll use my darts, and slay the whole."
"For Heaven′s sake!" poor Reynard says,
"Don′t do it! Let them go their ways.
These animals are full, you see:
New ones will bite more greedily."
Such torments in this land are seen,—
Courtiers and magistrates, I mean.
Great Aristotle likens flies
To certain men; and he was wise.
But when such folk get full of gold,
They′re less importunate, I′m told.