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Payne: The Wolf and the Fox

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A fox and a wolf once dwelt in the same den, harbouring therein together day and night; but the wolf was cruel and oppressive to the fox. They abode thus awhile, till one day the fox exhorted the wolf to use gentle dealing and leave evil-doing, saying, 'If thou persist in thine arrogance, belike God will give the son of Adam power over thee, for he is past master in guile and craft and knavery. By his devices he brings down the birds from the air and draws the fish forth of the waters and sunders mountains in twain and transports them from place to place. All this is of his craft and wiliness; wherefore do thou betake thyself to equity and fair dealing and leave evil and tyranny; and thou shalt fare the better for it.' But the wolf rejected his counsel and answered him roughly, saying, 'Thou hast no call to speak of matters of weight and stress.' And he dealt the fox a buffet that laid him senseless; but, when he revived, he smiled in the wolf's face and excused himself for his unseemly speech, repeating the following verses:

If I have sinned in aught that's worthy of reproach Or if I've made default against the love of you, Lo, I repent my fault; so let thy clemency The sinner comprehend, that doth for pardon sue.

The wolf accepted his excuse and held his hand from him, saying, 'Speak not of that which concerns thee not, or thou shalt hear what will not please thee.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the fox; 'henceforth I will abstain from what pleaseth thee not; for the sage says, "Speak thou not of that whereof thou art not asked; answer not, when thou art not called upon; leave that which concerns thee not for that which does concern thee and lavish not good counsel on the wicked, for they will repay thee therefor with evil."' And he smiled in the wolf's face, but in his heart he meditated treachery against him and said in himself, 'Needs must I compass the destruction of this wolf.' So he bore with his ill usage, saying in himself, 'Verily arrogance and falsehood lead to perdition and cast into confusion, and it is said, "He who is arrogant suffers and he who is ignorant repents and he who fears is safe: fair dealing is a characteristic of the noble, and gentle manners are the noblest of gains." It behoves me to dissemble with this tyrant, and needs must he be cast down.' Then said he to the wolf, 'Verily, the Lord pardons his erring servant and relents towards him, if he confess his sins; and I am a weak slave and have sinned in presuming to counsel thee. If thou knewest the pain that befell me by thy buffet, thou wouldst see that an elephant could not stand against it nor endure it: but I complain not of the pain of the blow, because of the contentment that hath betided me through it; for though it was exceeding grievous to me, yet its issue was gladness. As saith the sage, "The blow of the teacher is at first exceeding grievous, but the end of it is sweeter than clarified honey."' Quoth the wolf, 'I pardon thine offence and pass over thy fault; but be thou ware of my strength and avow thyself my slave; for thou knowest how rigorously I deal with those that transgress against me.' Thereupon the fox prostrated himself to the wolf, saying, 'May God prolong thy life and mayst thou cease never to subdue thine enemies!' And he abode in fear of the wolf and ceased not to wheedle him and dissemble with him.

One day, the fox came to a vineyard and saw a breach in its wall; but he mistrusted it and said in himself, 'Verily, there must be some reason for this breach and the adage says, "He who sees a cleft in the earth and doth not shun it or be wary in going up to it, is self-deluded and exposes himself to destruction." Indeed, it is well known that some folk make a semblant of a fox in their vineyards, even to setting before it grapes in dishes, that foxes may see it and come to it and fall into destruction. Meseems, this breach is a snare and the proverb says, "Prudence is the half of cleverness." Now prudence requires that I examine this breach and see if there be ought therein that may lead to perdition; and covetise shall not make me cast myself into destruction.' So he went up to the breach and examining it warily, discovered a deep pit, lightly covered (with boughs and earth), which the owner of the vineyard had dug, thinking to trap therein the wild beasts that laid waste his vines. Then he drew back from it, saying in himself, 'I have found it as I expected. Praised be God that I was wary of it! I hope that my enemy the wolf, who makes my life miserable, will fall into it; so will the vineyard be left to me and I shall enjoy it alone and dwell therein in peace.' So saying, he shook his head and laughed aloud, repeating the following verses:

Would God I might see, even now, A wolf fallen into yon pit, That this long time hath tortured my heart And made me quaff bitters, God wit! God grant I may live and be spared And eke of the wolf be made quit! So the vineyard of him shall be rid And I find my purchase in it.

Then he returned in haste to the wolf and said to him, 'God hath made plain the way for thee into the vineyard, without toil. This is of thy good luck; so mayst thou enjoy the easy booty and the plentiful provant that God hath opened up to thee without trouble!' 'What proof hast thou of what thou sayest?' asked the wolf; and the fox answered, 'I went up to the vineyard and found that the owner was dead, having been devoured by wolves: so I entered and saw the fruit shining on the trees.' The wolf misdoubted not of the fox's report and gluttony got hold on him; so he rose and repaired to the breach, blinded by greed; whilst the fox stopped short and lay as one dead, applying to the case the following verse:

Lustest after Leila's favours? Look thou rather bear in mind That 'tis covetise plays havoc with the necks of human kind.

Then said he to the wolf, 'Enter the vineyard: thou art spared the trouble of climbing, for the wall is broken down, and with God be the rest of the benefit.' So the wolf went on, thinking to enter the vineyard; but when he came to the middle of the covering (of the pit), he fell in; whereupon the fox shook for delight and gladness; his care and concern left him and he sang out for joy and recited the following verses:

Fortune hath taken ruth on my case; Yea, she hath pitied the length of my pain, Doing away from me that which I feared And granting me that whereto I was fain. So I will pardon her all the sins She sinned against me once and again; Since for the wolf there is no escape From certain ruin and bitter bane, And now the vineyard is all my own And no fool sharer in my domain.

Then he looked into the pit, and seeing the wolf weeping for sorrow and repentance over himself, wept with him; whereupon the wolf raised his head to him and said, 'Is it of pity for me thou weepest, O Aboulhussein?' 'Not so,' answered the fox, 'by Him who cast thee into the pit! I weep for the length of thy past life and for regret that thou didst not sooner fall into the pit; for hadst thou done so before I met with thee, I had been at peace: but thou wast spared till the fulfilment of thine allotted term.' The wolf thought he was jesting and said, 'O sinner, go to my mother and tell her what has befallen me, so haply she may make shift for my release.' 'Verily,' answered the fox, 'the excess of thy gluttony and thy much greed have brought thee to destruction, since thou art fallen into a pit whence thou wilt never escape. O witless wolf, knowest thou not the proverb, "He who taketh no thought to results, Fate is no friend to him, nor shall he be safe from perils?"' 'O Aboulhussein,' said the wolf, 'thou wast wont to show me affection and covet my friendship and fear the greatness of my strength. Bear me not malice for that I did with thee, for he who hath power and forgiveth, his reward is with God; even as saith the poet:

Sow benefits aye, though in other than fitting soil. A benefit's never lost, wherever it may be sown; And though time tarry full long to bring it to harvest-tide, Yet no man reapeth its fruit, save he who sowed it alone.'

'O most witless of beasts of prey and stupidest of the wildings of the earth,' rejoined the fox, 'hast thou forgotten thine arrogance and pride and tyranny and how thou disregardedst the due of comradeship and wouldst not take counsel by what the poet says:

Do no oppression, whilst the power thereto is in thine hand, For still in danger of revenge the sad oppressor goes. Thine eyes will sleep anon, what while the opprest, on wake, call down Curses upon thee, and God's eye shuts never in repose.'

'O Aboulhussein,' replied the wolf, 'reproach me not for past offences; for forgiveness is expected of the noble, and the practice of kindness is the best of treasures. How well says the poet:

Hasten to do good works, whenever thou hast the power, For thou art not able thereto at every season and hour.'

And he went on to humble himself to the fox and say to him, 'Haply, thou canst do somewhat to deliver me from destruction.' 'O witless, deluded, perfidious, crafty wolf,' answered the fox, 'hope not for deliverance, for this is but the just reward of thy foul dealing.' Then he laughed from ear to ear and repeated the following verses:

A truce to thy strife to beguile me! For nothing of me shalt thou gain. Thy prayers are but idle; thou sowedst Vexation; so reap it amain.

'O gentlest of beasts of prey,' said the wolf, 'I deem thee too faithful to leave me in this pit.' Then he wept and sighed and recited the following verses, whilst the tears streamed from his eyes:

O thou, whose kindnesses to me are more than one, I trow, Whose bounties unto me vouchsafed are countless as the sand, No shift of fortune in my time has ever fall'n on me, But I have found thee ready still to take me by the hand.

'O stupid enemy,' said the fox, 'how art thou reduced to humility and obsequiousness and abjection and submission, after disdain and pride and tyranny and arrogance! Verily, I companied with thee and cajoled thee but for fear of thy violence and not in hope of fair treatment from thee: but now trembling is come upon thee and vengeance hath overtaken thee.' And he repeated the following verses:

O thou that for aye on beguiling art bent, Thou'rt fall'n in the snare of thine evil intent. So taste of the anguish that knows no relent And be with the rest of the wolven forspent!

'O clement one,' replied the wolf, 'speak not with the tongue of despite nor look with its eyes; but fulfil the covenant of fellowship with me, ere the time for action pass away. Rise, make shift to get me a rope and tie one end of it to a tree; then let the other end down to me, that I may lay hold of it, so haply I may escape from this my strait, and I will give thee all my hand possesseth of treasures.' Quoth the fox, 'Thou persistest in talk of that wherein thy deliverance is not. Hope not for this, for thou shalt not get of me wherewithal to save thyself; but call to mind thy past ill deeds and the craft and perfidy thou didst imagine against me and bethink thee how near thou art to being stoned to death. For know that thy soul is about to leave the world and cease and depart from it; so shalt thou come to destruction and evil is the abiding-place to which thou goest!' 'O Aboulhussein,' rejoined the wolf, 'hasten to return to friendliness and persist not in this rancour. Know that he, who saves a soul from perdition, is as if he had restored it to life, and he, who saves a soul alive, is as if he had saved all mankind. Do not ensue wickedness, for the wise forbid it: and it were indeed the most manifest wickedness to leave me in this pit to drink the agony of death and look upon destruction, whenas it lies in thy power to deliver me from my strait. Wherefore go thou about to release me and deal benevolently with me.' 'O thou barbarous wretch,' answered the fox, 'I liken thee, because of the fairness of thy professions and the foulness of thine intent and thy practice, to the hawk with the partridge.' 'How so?' asked the wolf; and the fox said...

[Go to The Hawk and the Partridge]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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