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Aesop's Fables: Caxton (1484)

1.12. Of the two rats
(Perry 352)

Better worthe is to lyue in pouerte surely / than to lyue rychely beyng euer in daunger / wherof Esope telleth suche a fable / There were two rats / wherof the one was grete and fatte / and held hym in the celer of a Ryche man And the other was poure and lene / On a daye this grete and fat ratte wente to sporte hym in the feldes and mette by the way the poure rat / of the whiche he was receyued as well as he coude in his poure cauerne or hole / and gaf hym of suche mete as he had / Thenne sayd the fatte ratte come thow wyth me / And I shalle gyue the wel other metes / He went with hym in to the toune / and entred bothe in to the celer of the ryche man / the whiche celer was full of alle goodes / And whan they were within the grete rat presented and gaf to the poure rat of the delycious metes / sayeng thus to hym / Be mery and make good chere / and ete and drynke Ioyously / And as they were etynge / the bouteler of the place came in to the celer / & the grete rat fled anon in to his hole / & the poure rat wist not whyther he shold goo ne flee / but hyd hym behynd the dore with grete fere and drede / and the bouteler torned ageyne and sawe hym not / And whan he was gone the fatte rat cam out of his cauerne or hole / and called the poure ratte / whiche yet was shakynge for fere / and said to hym / come hyder and be not aferd / & ete as moche as thou wylt / And the poure rat sayd to hym / for goodes loue lete me go oute of this celer / For I haue leuer ete some corne in the feldes and lyue surely / than to be euer in this torment / for thou arte here in grete doubte & lyuest not surely /
And therfore hit is good to lyue pourely & surely For the poure lyueth more surely than the ryche

Caxton published his edition of Aesop's fables in 1484. There are modern reprints by Joseph Jacobs (D. Nutt: London, 1889) and more recently by Robert Lenaghan (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1967). Lenaghan's edition is available at amazon.com.