Traps for Foxes

Alciphron, Letters of Farmers 19 [iii. 22]

“I made a trap for those damned foxes of a little meat attached to a snare. They had been waging war on the grapevines–not just chewing on the grapes themselves but even lopping off the vines from the bases altogether. I heard that my master was coming and he is a mean and cruel man who is always putting forward minor decrees and announcements to the Athenians on the Pnyx. Even before today he has used his skill in speech to send many people to their doom.

So, because I was afraid due the kind of person my master is that I might suffer something awful, I wanted to trap that fox thief. But baby Plangone, the little puppy we were raising as a pet for the lady of the house, got greedy and rushed to take the bait. And now it is stretched out on the ground, a rotting corpse two days dead.

I have fallen from one evil into another! There’s no way my master will be forgiving about this. So I am going to run to wherever my feet can take me. Farewell farm and everything that is mine. It is the right time to save myself and not to wait to suffer pain, but to take care before the pain arrives.”

Πολύαλσος Εὐσταφύλῳ

Πάγην ἔστησα ἐπὶ τὰς μιαρὰς ἀλώπεκας κρεᾴδιον τῆς σκανδάλης ἀπαρτήσας. ἐπεὶ γὰρ ἐπολέμουν τὰς σταφυλάς, καὶ οὐ μόνον τὰς ῥᾶγας7 ἔκοπτον ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη καὶ ὁλοκλήρους ἀπέτεμνον τῶν 2οἰνάρων τοὺς βότρυς, ὁ δεσπότης δὲ ἐπιστήσεσθαι κατηγγέλλετο—ἀργαλέος ἄνθρωπος καὶ δριμύς, γνωμίδια καὶ προβουλευμάτια συνεχῶς ἐπὶ τῆς Πνυκὸς Ἀθηναίοις εἰσηγούμενος, καὶ πολλοὺς ἤδη διὰ σκαιότητα τρόπου καὶ δεινότητα ῥημάτων ἐπὶ τοὺς ἕνδεκα ἀγαγών—δείσας μή τι πάθοιμι κἀγὼ καὶ ταῦτα τοιούτου τοῦ11 δεσπότου ὄντος, τὴν κλέπτιν ἀλώπεκα συλλαβὼν ἐβουλόμην παραδοῦναι. ἀλλ᾿ ἡ μὲν οὐχ ἧκε· Πλαγγὼνδὲ τὸ Μελιταῖον κυνίδιον, ὃ ἐτρέφομεν1 ἄθυρμα τῇ δεσποίνῃ προσηνές, ὑπὸ τῆς ἄγαν λιχνείας ἐπὶ τὸ κρέας ὁρμῆσαν κεῖταί σοι τρίτην ταύτην ἡμέραν ἐκτάδην νεκρὸν ἤδη μυδῆσαν. ἔλαθον οὖν ἐπὶ κακῷ κακὸν ἀναρριπίσας. καὶ τίς παρὰ τῷ σκυθρωπῷ τῶν τοιούτων συγγνώμη; φευξόμεθα ᾗ ποδῶν ἔχομεν, χαιρέτω δὲ ὁ ἀγρὸς καὶ τἀμὰ πάντα. ὥρα γὰρ σώζειν ἑαυτόν, καὶ μὴ παθεῖν ἀναμένειν ἀλλὰ πρὸ τοῦ παθεῖν φυλάξασθαι.

A fox, escaping with a farmyard goose. This illustration may be based on the Reynard the Fox stories.
Kongelige Bibliotek, GKS 1633 4° (Bestiarius – Bestiary of Ann Walsh), folio 16r from

Archilochus, fr. 201

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big one”

πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα.

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