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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)

The Fox, the Wolf, and the Horse

From “Fables”

A FOX, though young, by no means raw,

Had seen a horse—the first he ever saw.

“Ho! neighbor wolf,” said he to one quite green,

“A creature in our meadow I have seen—

Sleek, grand! I seem to see him yet—

The finest beast I ever met.”

“Is he a stouter one than we?”

The wolf demanded eagerly.

“Some picture of him let me see.”

“If I could paint,” said fox, “I should delight

T’ anticipate your pleasure at the sight;

But come, who knows? perhaps it is a prey

By fortune offered in our way.”

They went. The horse, turn’d loose to graze,

Not liking much their looks or ways,

Was just about to gallop off.

“Sir,” said the fox, “your humble servants, we

Make bold to ask you what your name may be.”

The horse, an animal with brains enough,

Replied, “Sirs, you yourselves may read my name;

My shoer round my heel hath writ the same.”

The fox excused himself for want of knowledge:

“Me, sir, my parents did not educate—

So poor a hole was their entire estate.

My friend, the wolf, however, taught at college,

Could read it were it even Greek.”

The wolf, to flattery weak,

Approach’d, to verify the boast;

For which four teeth he lost.

The high-raised hoof came down with such a blow

As laid him bleeding on the ground full low.

“My brother,” said the fox, “this shows how just

What once was taught me by a fox of wit—

Which on thy jaws this animal hath writ—

‘All unknown things the wise mistrust.’”