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Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

Perry 645 (John of Sheppey 13)

One day the lion pretended to be sick and went limping up to the unicorn, his chief enemy. He greeted the unicorn and said to him, 'Let us put aside all that we have done in the past, because I am no longer able to harm anyone at all. As you can see, I am old and suffering from various ailments. But before I die, I would very much like to speak with my wife who is out in the desert. So, kind sir, if I might be so bold, I would like to borrow your horn to use as a walking stick on my journey since it is just the right length and very sturdy. I promise to return it to you as soon as I reach my wife; I give you my word.' The unicorn believed the lion and pitied his feigned distress, so he loaned the lion his horn and was thus left defenceless. The lion then inflicted a serious wound on the unicorn and laid him low. The unicorn said, 'You are guilty not so much of cruelty as of treachery, since you repaid my favour with wickedness and betrayed the promise you made me.' The lion said, 'You fool, don't you know that the saying: / The man who prolongs his enemy's life / Takes something from his own; clemency does not entail / Showing mercy to one's enemies.' / The unicorn replied, 'You traitor, don't you know that in the same book it is written: / Let the victory which we contrive by the sword / Be an honourable victory or no victory at all; / Let not posterity read that I won by guile; no perfidy / Should obscure my triumph.'
Therefore, as we read in Ecclesiasticus XII: Do not ever trust your enemy. Always protect yourself from him, even if he comes to you humble and supplicating. The truth of this is plain to see.

Note: The lion and unicorn are quoting from the twelfth-century Latin poet Walter of Chatillon, Alexandreis 2.471-3 and 4.361-6. John of Sheppey was the Bishop of Rochester (d. 1360).

Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
NOTE: New cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.