Page images
PDF
EPUB

the points of their horns, as are not to be mistaken, that he must leave the throne, and take his place among the cats, for that his knowledge of medicine was nothing worth:

“ “Scis nichil, Isengrime: fuge hinc,' ait omnis, 'abito.'”

Gusthero, the hare, is then despatched with a summons to the fox, who is called upon to display his skill in leech-craft; he is, however, desired by Reynard to return forthwith to court, and say he could not find him. He accordingly does so, and is, after awhile followed by Reynard, who appears laden with a quantity of healing herbs, and a number of old worn-out shoes. The lion makes no reply to his thrice proffered salutation. “Pulcra,” remarks the Fox aside,

'Pulcra,' ait, ‘hic merces pro pietate datur;' and then, in answer to the questions of his sovereign, he explains that, upon the announcement of his royal master's illness, instead of merely presenting himself at court, as all the other nobles of the land had done, he had taken a wearisome journey to Salerno, to find an effectual remedy for his disease, and in doing so had worn out an incredible number of shoes-producing these in proof of the accuracy of his statement. He then goes on to explain, that only one thing further is required to ensure his sovereign's recovery, which is that, when he takes the medicine, he must promote copious perspiration by enveloping himself in the thick and grey hide of a wolf three years and a half old, and suggests that Isengrim may lend his for that pur

66

pose, and, when the cure is effected, it can be returned to him. Isengrim, upon hearing this, seeks to escape, but being prevented, pleads that he is an old wolf, and not a young one. Reynard does not admit this excuse, but proves, from his being just two years and a half old when a certain event took place in the goat's house a twelvemonth before—that he is just of the right age. The ass, the goat, and the ram are called, and confirm the truth of Reynard's statement, who however decides at last that any wolf's skin, be it young or old, will answer the purpose. The lion accordingly commands the bear to flay the wolf, which he does, helping him off with his tunic after the French fashion ;

“ Ut tunicam France deposuisse queas”—

but leaving the shaggy covering on his head and paws.

This circumstance, as well as the redness of his bleeding limbs, gives rise to many bitter jests; such as taunting his disloyalty in not always wearing his gay red dress at court, instead of the old

grey

skin in which he was accustomed to appear ; and when the poor beast stretches forth his paws, and bows his head that his implacable antagonist may tear away the skin from them, Reynard upbraids him, that it became a suppliant to appear bare-headed and with naked hands, and not with his head covered, and with gloves, as if he were insolently going to challenge his sovereign to a combat. At length the wolf is allowed to escape, with the understanding that his skin will be taken care

of for him until he thinks proper to reclaim it. The lion takes the medicine prescribed by the fox, and ensconces himself in the wolf's hide

A copious sweat the fever straight subdued :
He woke refreshed, nay more he asked for food ;
Then better slept, and ate, until at length
His former health returned in all its strength."

"*

Rich gifts marked the obligation of the lion to his physician.

“ The king an honour to the fox ordained,

Which 'fore or since no other beast obtained,
Fearless to cross the marks his tail should leave.
The bear and boar no grant like this receive.”+

During the king's progress towards convalescence, he is entertained by the fox, who relates to him the particulars of that adventure of the wolf, to which he had before alluded; these are as follows:

Bertiliana, the she-goat, went forth upon a pilgrimage. At first she was alone, but was afterwards joined by seven companions, to each of whom some peculiar duty was allotted. Rearidus the stag, Joseph the ram, and Berfrid the goat, being furnished with

*Jamque fluunt febres largo sudore solute :

Evigilans surgit, poscit et ipse cibum ;
Tunc, melius meliusque valens, dormivit et edit,

Dum rediit pleno robore prisca salus.”—1. 511-514. † “ Precipuo vulpem Renardum donat honore,

Quem nemo meruit postea, nemo prius,
Intrepidum transire sue vestigia caude.

Non hoc contigerant ursus aperque decus.”-1.516-20.

horns, formed the van-guard. Reynard is the quartermaster; the ass is the janitor, and carrier of the baggage; Gerardus the goose keeps watch at night, and Sprotinus the cock is the time-keeper. An old wolf, who was lurking close by, had overheard the treaty, and determined, as he was very anxious to make one of the party, to creep in amongst them on the very first opportunity. Reynard had however spied him out, and laid his plans accordingly. For, having found a dead wolf hanging upon a tree, he cut off his head and gave it to Joseph, with special directions how he was to act, should the wolf intrude among them. Night approached : the travellers seated themselves to their evening meal. In his anxiety for his supper the ass neglects to fasten the door

“ asinum furor urget edendi”—

and Isengrim bursts in upon them exclaiming, “Peace be with you!” The party are at first greatly alarmed, but soon recover themselves

Bertiliana inquired, “ What shall we place before our guest ?”—“There is nothing but the grey head of an old wolf,” replied Joseph. “Bring that in then,” said the fox. Joseph brought in the head accordingly, at the sight of which Isengrim clapped his tail between his legs, and wished himself far enough away. “This head won't do," quoth Reynard,“ take it away, and bring a larger one?" Joseph went out and brought the same again. “

66 That won't do either,” said Reynard; “the large heads are in the other corner. Fetch in two of the seven very

[ocr errors]

big ones; or, stop, bring that fine one that is stretched open with the hazel-twig, that is just fit for eating.” Joseph went out and brought in the same again, but with its jaws stuck open with a bit of wood. The wolf trembled violently, and the several animals pretended to comfort him. Gerardus the goose thought he was suffering from ague, or perhaps from fear of himself. “Be of good cheer," said the goose, “I have no wish to terrify you; not but what I could if I wished, for the wolf whose head you see there, and which I snapped off, was a great deal stronger and more cunning than you are.”—“Our guest had better eat,” cried Joseph, “he need not care for the expense, we have enough for this nine or ten nights, if he will only stay with us.”_"I am very ill,” said the wolf, “and what is more, very much astonished, for whoever saw a party of pilgrims carrying with them so many wolves' heads ?”—“We never catch any but wicked wolves,” said Reynard ; "we never meddle with our dear guests.” “I am expected at home," continued the wolf, “my wife and children are waiting for me.”

“Won't you go with us ?” the stag cried out after him on our way we lay hold of all the wolves we find in the forest, and either hang them up in the trees, or starve them to death. You shall help us and be the hangman !”—“I am too young for so great an honour, I am only two years and a half old," replied the wolf, and so saying he took his departure.

;

“ Ille refert, • decus hoc mea non sibi vendicat etas

Dimidians lustrum, sicque solutus abit.”

« PreviousContinue »