The School Bag

The Fox

Huw Llwyd

Good morning, fox of the cave,
Every tame fowl's arch-foeman,
Your ripple I recognize,
Welcome to fertile country.
Describe, in the fair meadow,
Your life, bold soft-bellied beast.
Fair and clean, you are noted,
And shapely in every part:
You were dyed with dark colour,
Red and gold that will not fade;
Your narrow nose is savage,
Your teeth, they are marvellous,
Strange pincers, swiftly gripping,
And able to crunch through bones;
And your eye's glowering look
You turn like an old traitor.
On your head, fine beast, always,
Is the semblance of stiff stumps;
Your neck beneath was well-dressed,
Shaped like a ridge, you're splendid;
Bulging belly in coarse cloth,
A belly full of malice!
Short leg, bold through thick-branched grove,
Keen trotter towards weak lambkins.
Your tail, the length of mid-day,
Thick coarse cloth, is your pillow;
That tail is a yard-long brush,
A roll extremely swollen.
Kindling on the cairn's summit,
Kindled lad in a stout den,
Well-designed is your dwelling,
A hide-out from terriers.

Sorry scheme, you live yonder,
Paunchy lad, by plundering,
Pilfering, when it's quiet,
And strolling through leaves all day:
Kid's meat, when it's to be had,
Ewes, if they're for the taking;
A fine life, when there are lambs,
Blameless for you to tithe them.
Take hereafter, yours freely,
A goose and hen, unrebuked:
Clever you are, bird-snatching,
Hillside or bog, wild and tame.

All accomplishments your gift,
When closed in, you're a lion.
And if you come with twilight
Is there one so full of sense,
Or any with tricks slicker
Than yours, savage-snarling fox?
Nowhere, I know, in the grove,
Will I find shrewder judgement.
I am a man unwelcomed,
Disheartened, speechless, unloved,
No malice, no violence,
Strengthless in every struggle:
Yours, today, well-earned honours,
Teach me, a gift, how to live;
If you will give good counsel,
Forever I'll sing your praise.

‘Be still, sound man, no clamour,
No search for help, no complaint.
See that there are, and take heed,
Two paths for your protection:
One true path, straight is its course;
Another one through falsehood.

‘Seeking success, preferment?
I'd wish you to live like me.
One who's simple and peaceful,
Without malice, he'll not mount,
And integrity today,
In the world's view, is foolish.
Pillage or hazard the world,
Try cunning for the moment;
Learn to keep watch, look for faults,
Spare not one nor the other.
Remember, basic lesson,
Remember gain, the world's rule.
Devise, beware of a frown,
Traps for all, know all evil.
Do a kindness to no one
All your life, lest life be lost.
Make yourself known where you go,
From fear, cause much gift-giving.

‘Hard to live, no denying,
Today by what's gained from love.
If you wish to live for long,
Go with praise, learn to flatter,
And by lauding each small thing
Learn the art of deception.
Speak sweetly on each errand,
Let no profit slip your hand.
Speak nothing but pious words,
Your malice in your belly.
Let not a man who's been born
Know any place your purpose:
That's the way a fool is known,
He reveals what he's thinking.
To prey on the weak's the way;
Treat the strong with smooth talking.
Do wrong, make no amendment:
To you, man, a good day comes.
Do all this, you'll not founder,
With deception as your guide.

‘I have nothing more to tell:
The other path, consider.
I see the hounds in pursuit,
Hard for me to speak further
Or stay here on the hillside.
Farewell, I must flee above.’    

Welsh - Late 16th Century translated by Joseph Clancy