"The Wolf and the Lamb" by Jean-Baptiste Oudry‘The Wolves and the Sheep’ by Terry L. Norton The Society August 28, 2020 Children's, Culture, Poetry 32 Comments adapted from Babrius, first century A.D., and Jean de La Fontaine, 1621-1695 __At least twelve thousand years (though likely more) Between the wolves and sheep had raged a war, Until the lupine clan convinced the ewes and rams They’d cease their onslaughts on the helpless lambs. The only stipulation to the peace, The wolves averred to those who wore the fleece, For harmony to reign throughout the land, Was that the woolly ones their dogs disband. The wolves declared, “Your dogs’ aggressive stance Is root cause of our bitter variance. Give us your guards that we may punish them And this incessant surge of warfare stem.” __The foolish sheep, who bleat on all occasions, Surrendered to these ravening persuasions. Yet, just before the terms were finalized, An ancient aries, wise in years advised, “How can we live secure in this wide mead, When time, both past and present, has decreed” (His woolly back now bristling in alarm) “That wolves to us are bent on bringing harm? Though presently the dogs serve as our shield, Still we our lives to wolf predations yield. Wolves sometimes slay a ewe or kill a ram And often seize and carry off a lamb, Where in the nearby forest, dimly-lit, By savage, yellowed fangs its throat is slit. If such acts wolves do when our dogs are here, What deeds must happen when they disappear? Eternal watch our shepherds cannot keep And thus retain the dogs to guard us sheep.” __Yet to the ram’s appeal, the herd refused to heed And to the thuggish wolves their dogs did cede. The wolves then took the watchdogs of the sheep And that night slew them when they fell asleep. The wolves grown bold, without the guardians’ check, The plot unknots as reason would expect And needs no stated moral for its close, For all can guess the way the ending goes. Terry L. Norton is professor emeritus of literacy acquisition at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. He is the author of Cherokee Myths and Legends, Thirty Tales Retold, and is the 2020 second place winner of the 2020 Poetry Translation Competition sponsored by The Society. In addition to The Society, his poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review and Kakalak Review. NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets. NOTE TO POETS: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here. CODEC News:Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 32 Responses Joe Tessitore August 28, 2020 The analogy is spot-on. The poem reads like (what used to be) an honest and informative newspaper article. Chilling and well-done. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Thank for your perceptive comment on metrics. Occasionally with iambic pentameter couplets, I use a six foot line, or alexandrine. Dryden, Pope, Goldsmith, Keats, and others allowed it as well, and in THE FAIRY QUEEN, Spenser’s contribution to stanzaic form, has eight lines of iambic pentameter and closes with an alexandrine. In his “Dedication of the Aeneis,” Dryden noted that, when the hexameter line is “used with judgment,” it “adds a certain majesty to the verse and stops the sense from overflowing into another line” (54). This technique avoids excessive “enjambement,” especially where a verb might be separated from its subject or its object. However, unlike Dryden, I claim neither majesty or judgment for my writing. I also like open-ended lines, but not when the poem aims for precision of expression. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. Reply Dr. Terry norton August 28, 2020 Woops! I hit an incorrect key. This reply was intended for Mr. Woodruff below. I am also glad you enjoyed the poem. Thank you. Julian D. Woodruff August 28, 2020 Terrific! Goose bumps here, in anticipation of (more) goons’ bumps. In the line “Yet to the ram’s appeal …,” the extra foot may be intended for emphasis. If not, there are at least 3 easy ways of dropping back to 5. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Please see my response above under Mr. Tessitore’s name. I hit an incorrect key in my intention to respond to you concerning metrics with the extra foot. Again, thank you for your comment. Reply Mike Bryant August 28, 2020 This is truly a fable for our times and beautifully written. The sheeple have decided to defund the shepherds. God help us. I recently read an article that said we must create millions of small groups of patriots, worldwide, to keep the wolves away. I believe the process has already begun. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 I appreciate your thoughtful comment. Reply Cynthia Erlandson August 31, 2020 My thoughts exactly. The poem is a great parable. Reply Peter Hartley August 28, 2020 Yes I think we can all guess. Horripilation-inducing and very cleverly written. We don’t have wolves in the U.K. but there have been several attempts to re-introduce them (WHY???). There’s probably a very good reason why they died out in the first place. Reply Joseph S. Salemi August 28, 2020 Peter, I believe the last native wolf in England was killed in the late fifteenth century (the species may have survived a bit longer in the remoter sections of Wales and Scotland). Wolves were always an annoyance, as predators on domestic cattle, pigs, and sheep. When English wool production took off in the 1400s, the imperative to kill off wolves became intense, and led to their final and deserved extirpation. What kind of environmentalist lunatics want to bring wolves BACK? Do they also want to reintroduce snakes to Ireland, or the anopheles mosquito to Africa? It’s time for us to recognize that a very large percentage of the environmentalist movement is driven by sheer irrationality. Reply Peter Hartley August 29, 2020 Joe S – But even without deliberate human intervention (eg to protect livestock from wolves) many or most of these animals have or would have become extinct through natural causes anyway because they were ill-adapted for survival. Look at the dodo, a great archaic pigeon shuffling along a Mauritian beach, or the great auk which had grown infinitely bigger than the (presumably optimum) size of all its relatives. The extinction of many of these animals is a part of evolution as WE are a part of evolution and the survival of the dodo, while it would be a very picturesque tourist draw, would be more the result of interference on our part, not conservation. The sea eagle, the biggest eagle in the world, has been re-introduced to Scotland. Again, WHY? It is no longer native. We already have the second biggest eagle in the world (the golden), which by all accounts is flourishing. More interference with nature and the natural order is what has brought it back. When creatures become extinct there is more likely to be a cause independent of mankind and a very good one too. But I’m sure that contrary to the splendid work of St Patrick there will be plenty of those crazed environmentalists who would like to see the return of snakes to Ireland. Let’s not just have vipers though. Why stop there?How about a few boa constrictors and pythons to strangle our livestock as well? (After all the beaver has been re-introduced to Scotland with what justification God only knows). There are plenty of sheep in the U.K., far too many for environmentalists to need to worry about. Joseph S. Salemi August 29, 2020 Peter, we have no argument. Ninety percent of all animal species that ever lived are now extinct. Palaeontology has shown that there have been several mass extinctions over the eons. At its deepest motivational level, extreme environmentalism is profoundly anti-human. It would gladly sacrifice millions of human beings to preserve some goddamned snail-darter. It would love to put thousands of people out of work to prevent coal and oil production. It is fanatically fixated on setting up a tyranny to prevent us from eating the foods we wish to eat. Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 I have nothing against four-legged wolves in remote areas and fear only those with two legs, and I certainly appreciate guard dogs whether with two or four. Thanks for your comment. In North Carolina, the reintroduction of red wolves has not met with great success. The coyotes have become something of an infestation in both rural and some urban areas. When at my mother’s farm, I often hear their howls at night. Reply Leo Zoutewelle August 28, 2020 Terry, I thought your poem was great and so pertinent to today! Excellent. Thank you for posting! Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Thank you for your comment. When I came across the two variants of this fable, the implications certainly struck a cord with me. Reply Yael August 28, 2020 Great poem, thanks for sharing. The story of today well-told. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Thank you. Glad you liked the narrative. Reply C.B. Anderson August 28, 2020 Yes, defunding the police is is a wonderful idea — let the wolves run the world. Incidentally, my favorite brand of Irish whiskey these days is called Wolfhound. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 I haven’t tried Wolfhound whiskey. Perhaps it would help me cope with a world without the police. Reply C.B. Anderson August 29, 2020 Well, yes, Terry, It does help, but it works best if the police are likewise supplied with a case or two. Susan Jarvis Bryant August 28, 2020 This is a wonderful poetic adaptation that taps into the times and sends a shiver of recognition. The closing three lines are my favorite. “The plot unknots as reason would expect/And needs no stated moral for its close,/For all can guess the way the ending goes.” says it all and leads me to question why many today are oblivious to the same moral outcome. I’m hoping this wily wolf wake-up call might well open a few eyes. Very well done, indeed! Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Yes, I also lack sufficient understanding for the stance that many take today. Thank you, Susan, for your comments. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Thank you for your kind words. Reply Margaret Coats August 28, 2020 Terry, a fabulous tale well told! I second Susan’s appreciation for the final lines, of which my favorite phrase is “the plot unknots.” I notice that Evan has marked this post for children, and the lively rhythm would certainly appeal to them. Come to think of it, perceptive children are able to make the very applications so obscure to many adults, especially when the children have access to good reading material. Reply Terry L. Norton August 28, 2020 Interesting that you should mention the post being marked for children. The story comes from a time, whether as part of the oral tradition or in the variants of Babrius and La Fontaine, when literature for children and adults had not diverged as it did later in western society beginning with treatises on education by Locke in SOME THOUGHTS CONCERNING EDUCATION and Rousseau in EMILE. Both recommended the fables attributed to Aesop as children’s reading material. Of course, I have always held that good children’s literature has a crossover appeal for adults. Today, with the advent of mass media like television and now computers and smart phones, the lines between what’s suitable for children and adults has once again blurred. Secrets deemed suitable for adults are more easily hidden in books than in media accessible to all. No one will ever be a remedial TV viewer or smart phone user except someone like me for the later. Thanks for your kind response. Reply Bill White September 12, 2020 I really like this. Timeless lesson, which can’t be repeated enough. Reply Terry L. Norton September 12, 2020 Thanks, Bill, for your gracious comment. Reply Bill White September 12, 2020 I am loving your work here, Terry. Very timely stuff. Garrett Myles September 14, 2020 Great story and language! Looking forward to seeing more poems from you. Reply Terry L. Norton September 14, 2020 I appreciate your comment, Garrett. Reply Evelyn Eickmeyer-Quinones October 1, 2020 One of your best, sir. Reply Terry L. Norton October 1, 2020 Thank you, Evelyn. I’m glad you likied the poem. 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