Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
II. Freedom
The Wolf and the Dog
Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)
 
From the French by Elizur Wright

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        5
  No human mortal owns.
    Sir Wolf, in famished plight,
  Would fain have made a ration
  Upon his fat relation:
    But then he first must fight;        10
  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        15
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,        20
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.”        25
        “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,        30
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—        35
Cold pullets, pigeons, savory messes—
Besides unnumbered fond caresses.”
    The wolf, by force of appetite,
    Accepts the terms outright,
    Tears glistened in his eyes;        40
    But faring on, he spies
A galled spot on the mastiff’s neck.
“What ’s that?” he cries. “Oh, nothing but a speck.”
“A speck?”—“Ay, ay: ’t is not enough to pain me:
Perhaps the collar’s mark by which they chain me.”        45
  “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        50
    Which could to servile chains entice;
    For me, I ’ll shun them while I ’ve wit.”
    So ran Sir Wolf, and runneth yet.
 
 
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