Robert Henryson ‘The Cock and the Fox’ the end.

The third hen wife picks up the subject of the worthless husband and says she believes what happened to him was God’s just punishment for his pride and lechery. Now, it seems to me a bit inconsistent, as just a moment ago another wife was accusing him of lacking potency. But I guess when people gang up together against somebody, they don’t pay much attention to consistency. The cock’s owner awakes from her swoon and sets her dogs on the fox – the Scottish widow seems to have much more of them than the English one. The fox sees he’s being pursued and in danger of getting caught. The cock advises him “Why don’t you tell him that I am your best friend and I swear I won’t move?” This is a bit less believable than in Chaucer’s version, even though in either case, the fact that the cunning fox listens to the advice of his victim strains credibility. Anyway, the story ends pretty much like in Chaucer: when the fox opens his maw, the cock flies to the nearest branch and even when the fox promises to be his servant for a year for free, he is not fooled the second time.

The story ends with Moralitas, in which the author explains his allegory: the cock stands for pride, which is one of the cardinal sins and brought about the fall of Lucifer, while the fox stands for flattery and false friends, who should be avoided at all costs. The fable overall is shorter and less elaborate than Chaucer’s version – Henryson doesn’t play with the mock-heroic style, nor is he as interested in displaying his learning, although in Chaucer’s case it may be attributed to the fact that the narrator of his story is a priest and so he may be a bit pedantic. It’s interesting to see how the moral goes in subtly different directions: in Chaucer’s case it is along the lines “lo, how mighty have fallen”, which really means nothing to an average non-mighty reader. Henryson’s moralizing seems to me to be more applicable to a more general readership.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s