Robert Henryson, The Fabillis of Esope


The Fabillis of Esope


  • Intro

    Robert Henryson was a 15th century Scottish poet whose work developed some of Chaucer’s themes. His work combined a strong sense of morality with a real sympathy, seen here in the story of the wolf and the lamb, first found in the fables of Aesop. The wolf is seen as bullying, greedy, and eventually murderous, and even justifying itself by making the lamb pay for its own father’s success in out-arguing the wolf and escaping. The lamb quotes scripture to challenge the wolf’s proposal to punish the lamb for its father’s ‘offence’, but the wolf quotes scripture back, that it will be revenged to the twentieth generation.


    In Henryson’s moral to the fable, the lamb is seen as the labouring man, while the wolf stands for ‘perverters of the laws’, ‘mychtie men’, and hereditary landowners.  Henryson calls on God and the king ‘all sic wolfis to banes of the land’ (to banish all such wolves from the land).


    The language may be seen as between Chaucerian (later Middle English) and Modern Scots dialect – selie is Middle English for ‘innocent’ (modern ‘silly’) while watter is a fair transcription for the Scottish pronunciation of ‘water’.


    Shelfmark: C.71.b.25.

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