Sir Wolf, here, won’t refuse to give his hide to cure you, as I live

A follow-up of sorts to The wolf, the fox, and the ailing lion – Jean de La Fontaine’s reworking (in an old-fashioned but serviceable translation from Gutenberg):

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox

A lion, old, and impotent with gout,
Would have some cure for age found out.
Impossibilities, on all occasions,
With kings, are rank abominations.
This king, from every species,–
For each abounds in every sort,–
Call’d to his aid the leeches.
They came in throngs to court,
From doctors of the highest fee
To nostrum-quacks without degree,–
Advised, prescribed, talk’d learnedly;
But with the rest
Came not Sir Cunning Fox, M.D.
Sir Wolf the royal couch attended,
And his suspicions there express’d.
Forthwith his majesty, offended,
Resolved Sir Cunning Fox should come,
And sent to smoke him from his home.
He came, was duly usher’d in,
And, knowing where Sir Wolf had been,
Said, ‘Sire, your royal ear
Has been abused, I fear,
By rumours false and insincere;
To wit, that I’ve been self-exempt
From coming here, through sheer contempt.
But, sire, I’ve been on pilgrimage,
By vow expressly made,
Your royal health to aid,
And, on my way, met doctors sage,
In skill the wonder of the age,
Whom carefully I did consult
About that great debility
Term’d in the books senility,
Of which you fear, with reason, the result.
You lack, they say, the vital heat,
By age extreme become effete.
Drawn from a living wolf, the hide
Should warm and smoking be applied.
The secret’s good, beyond a doubt,
For nature’s weak, and wearing out.
Sir Wolf, here, won’t refuse to give
His hide to cure you, as I live.’
The king was pleased with this advice.
Flay’d, jointed, served up in a trice,
Sir Wolf first wrapp’d the monarch up,
Then furnish’d him whereon to sup.
Beware, ye courtiers, lest ye gain,
By slander’s arts, less power than pain;
For in the world where ye are living,
A pardon no one thinks of giving.

Le Lion, le Loup, et le Renard

Un Lion décrépit, goutteux, n’en pouvant plus,
Voulait que l’on trouvât remède à la vieillesse :
Alléguer l’impossible aux Rois, c’est un abus.
Celui-ci parmi chaque espèce
Manda des Médecins ; il en est de tous arts :
Médecins au Lion viennent de toutes parts ;
De tous côtés lui vient des donneurs de recettes.
Dans les visites qui sont faites,
Le Renard se dispense, et se tient clos et coi.
Le Loup en fait sa cour, daube au coucher du Roi
Son camarade absent ; le Prince tout à l’heure
Veut qu’on aille enfumer Renard dans sa demeure,
Qu’on le fasse venir. Il vient, est présenté ;
Et, sachant que le Loup lui faisait cette affaire :
Je crains, Sire, dit-il, qu’un rapport peu sincère,
Ne m’ait à mépris imputé
D’avoir différé cet hommage ;
Mais j’étais en pèlerinage ;
Et m’acquittais d’un voeu fait pour votre santé.
Même j’ai vu dans mon voyage
Gens experts et savants ; leur ai dit la langueur
Dont votre Majesté craint à bon droit la suite.
Vous ne manquez que de chaleur :
Le long âge en vous l’a détruite :
D’un Loup écorché vif appliquez-vous la peau
Toute chaude et toute fumante ;
Le secret sans doute en est beau
Pour la nature défaillante.
Messire Loup vous servira,
S’il vous plaît, de robe de chambre.
Le Roi goûte cet avis-là :
On écorche, on taille, on démembre
Messire Loup. Le Monarque en soupa,
Et de sa peau s’enveloppa ;
Messieurs les courtisans, cessez de vous détruire :
Faites si vous pouvez votre cour sans vous nuire.
Le mal se rend chez vous au quadruple du bien.
Les daubeurs ont leur tour d’une ou d’autre manière :
Vous êtes dans une carrière
Où l’on ne se pardonne rien.

Is there no hope? Alas! –then bring the jowl

From Alexander Pope’s An Epistle to Cobham, 234-239 in the Twickenham edition:

A salmon’s belly, Helluo, was thy fate:
The doctor call’d, declares all help too late.
Mercy! cries Helluo, mercy on my soul!
Is there no hope? Alas! –then bring the jowl.

Helluo is a very rare Latin word for glutton. The image, whatever the possible contemporary target, has a real background source in a tale from Athenaeus (8.341) of a little known poet named Philoxenus:

The comic poet Macho (64–86 Gow) writes the following about the dithyrambic poet Philoxenus of Cythera:

They say that the dithyrambic poet
Philoxenus was an extraordinary
glutton. So once when he was in Syracuse,
he bought an octopus that was three feet long,
and prepared it and ate almost the entire thing
except for the head. He got a stomach-ache
and was in terrible shape. A doctor
came to visit him, saw that he was doing
very badly, and said: “If you’ve got
any business that needs to be taken care of, do it
right away,
Philoxenus; because you’ll be dead by mid-afternoon.”
He responded: “My affairs are all in order,
doctor,” he said, “and have been settled for a while
now.
With the gods’ help, the dithyrambs I’m leaving
behind
have all grown up and been awarded garlands,
and I’m entrusting them to the care of the Muses I
grew
up with. That Aphrodite and Dionysus are my
executors,
my will makes clear. But since
Timotheus’ Charon, the one from his Niobe,
is not allowing me to linger, but is shouting for me to
proceed to the ferry,
and my night-dark fate, which I must heed, is
calling—
so that I can run off to the Underworld with
everything that’s mine:
give me the rest of that octopus!”


Bateson, the editor, believes that Pope more likely got his inspiration from John Hales’ Golden Remains:

When Philoxenus the Epicure had fallen desperately sick upon glutting himself on a delicate and costly fish, perceiving he was to die, he calls for the remainder of his fish, and eats it up, and dies a true Martyr to his belly.”

He also – with some qualifying skepticism – offers La Fontaine’s Le Glouton as another possibility. That one feels closer to Pope’s choppy rhythm to me but either way here’s my hasty translation:

À son souper un glouton
Commande que l’on appreste
Pour luy seul un Esturgeon.
Sans en laisser que la teste,
Il soupe ; il creve, on y court :
On luy donne maints clisteres.
On luy dit, pour faire court,
Qu’il mette ordre à ses affaires.
Mes amis, dit le goulu,
M’y voila tout resolu ;
Et puis qu’il faut que le meure,
Sans faire tant de façon,
Qu’on m’apporte tout à l’heure
Le reste de mon poisson.

At his dinner a glutton
orders that there be readied
for himself alone a sturgeon.
Leaving aside only the head,
he dines; Now he’s bursting, help comes running:
They give him several enemas.
They tell him – to cut it short –
That he should put his affairs in order.
My friends, says the glutton,
I’m ready, fully resolute;
And since I must die
don’t make a deal of it
but have someone bring right away
the rest of my fish.