Aesop: The lies of lupine liberators
Translated by Ben Edwin Perry
Peace by Surrender
Envoys from the wolves once came to a flock of sheep offering to make a solemn treaty of guaranteed peace, on condition that the dogs be given to them for punishment; it was only because of them that the wolves and the sheep were hostile to each other and ever at war.
The sheep, being silly creatures given to bleating helplessly on all occasions, were about to hand over the dogs. But an old ram among them, whose wool began to bristle from the roots up, exclaimed: “What a strange deal this is! How am I to live with you unguarded? It’s on their account, the wolves’, that even now I can’t graze in your company without danger, though the dogs are guarding me.”
From The Aesop Romance
Translated by Lloyd W. Daly
The wolves said to the dogs: “Why, since you are like us in every way, don’t you show a brotherly spirit toward us? The only difference between us is one of principle. We live a life of freedom together, but though you skulk and slave for men, all you get from them is beatings; you get collars put around your necks, and have to guard their sheep. But when they eat, all they throw you is the bones. Why don’t you listen to us. Turn the flocks over to us; we’ll share everything and have all we want to eat.” So the dogs did as they said but as soon as they got into the shelters where the sheep were kept, the dogs were the wolves’ first victims.
Translated by Bernard Pares
The Wolves and the Sheep
The wolves so plagued the sheep, that life was not worth living;
It got so bad, that in the end,
The rulers of the beasts, their best attentions giving
Sought how the sheep they might defend.
So High Commissioners were summoned to attend;
Now, some of these were wolves, the truth to tell;
But wolves there are of whom report speaks well;
Such honorable wolves – and oft the story’s told,
With proofs that cannot be rebutted -
Were seen to walk right past the fold
In perfect peace – when they were fairly glutted;
Then why refuse a vote to wolves of good repute?
The sheep may claim a hearing for their suit: -
No reason there, the wolves to persecute!
Deep in the forest’s wilds the Council opens session,
To every plea gives due expression,
And drafts a law quite perfect and complete;
And word for word this law I here repeat: -
“So soon as wolf on fold shall make aggression,
And sheep thereby suffer from oppression,
Then straightway shall that sheep be free,
No matter who that wolf may be,
To seize him by the throat, and drag to judgment-seat
In nearest copse or wood.”
There’s nothing left to add, and nothing to delete;
Only the way it works is not so good.
For though the court, they say, is scrupulously fair,
The sheep may plaintiff or defendant be -
The dragging’s never done by him, and he
Has yet to make his first appearance there.
Jean de La Fontaine
The Wolves and the Sheep
By-gone a thousand years of war,
The wearers of the fleece
And wolves at last made peace;
Which both appear’d the better for;
For if the wolves had now and then
Eat up a straggling ewe or wether,
As often had the shepherd men
Turn’d wolf-skins into leather.
Fear always spoil’d the verdant herbage,
And so it did the bloody carnage.
Hence peace was sweet; and, lest it should be riven,
On both sides hostages were given.
The sheep, as by the terms arranged,
For pups of wolves their dogs exchanged;
Which being done above suspicion,
Confirm’d and seal’d by high commission,
What time the pups were fully grown,
And felt an appetite for prey,
And saw the sheepfold left alone,
The shepherds all away,
They seized the fattest lambs they could,
And, choking, dragg’d them to the wood;
Of which, by secret means apprised,
Their sires, as is surmised,
Fell on the hostage guardians of the sheep,
And slew them all asleep.
So quick the deed of perfidy was done,
There fled to tell the tale not one!
From which we may conclude
That peace with villains will be rued.
Peace in itself, ’tis true,
May be a good for you;
But ’tis an evil, nathless,
When enemies are faithless.