THE WOLF AND THE PEASANTS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE WOLF AND THE PEASANTS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

A Conscientious Wolf one day
(If conscientious Wolves there be),
Lamenting he was beast of prey,
Though such but by necessity,
Exclaimed—"I′m dreaded far and near,
To all a thing of hate and fear;
Dogs, hunters, and peasants combine to pursue me,
And weary out Jove with their prayers to undo me:
In England long since a price paid for my head,
Has caused the whole race to be utterly dead.
I′m an object of wrath to each ignorant squire,
Who orders his people to hunt me and kill;
And if a child cries, all that mothers require
Is to mention my name to make it be still.
And why this universal spite,
In all the country round,
Which never leaves the Wolf at rest?
Because, perchance, by hunger prest,
To satisfy my appetite,
I′ve eaten scurvy sheep, or ass, or mangy hound.
Ah! well, henceforth I′ll eat no living thing,
But feed on herbs, and water from the spring;
Or starve and die—a cruel, cruel fate—
Sooner than be a thing of universal hate."
Saying these words, a pleasant savour drew
Our wolf′s attention to some shepherds near,
Feasting on what his wolfish instinct knew
Had once been lambkin, to some mother dear.
"Ah, ah!" he exclaimed, "this is strange, by my troth;
I′m reproaching myself for each lamb that I′ve slain,
Whilst the shepherds and sheep-dogs themselves are not loth
To regale on roast lamb is abundantly plain;
And shall I, then, a Wolf, feed on nothing but grass?
No, not if I know it! The day shall not pass
Till a lambkin has gone down my cavernous jaws,
Without waiting for any of cookery′s laws.
A lamb, did I say? I should just think so, rather;
Aye, the mother that bore him, and also his father."
Well, the Wolf was right; for as long as we feed
On animals′ flesh, it is surely unjust
That we should endeavour to make them recede
To the primitive food of a root or a crust.
And beasts of prey, we should always remember,
Know not the use of spit or ember.
Shepherds, shepherds! trust to me;
The Wolf a hermit ne′er can be.
And sure the Wolf is only wrong
When he is weak and you are strong.

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