Fox goes hunting on a (chilly) night. It goes to the farmer's yard and takes a goose. The farmer and wife are aroused; the farmer sets out after the fox. Fox escapes home with its kill; the fox family celebrates with a fine dinner
Fox, The Complete text(s) *** A *** As printed by W. H. Logan, The Pedlar's Pack of Ballads and Songs, pp. 292-293. Immediate source is not noted. The fox he went out on a cold winter night, And he pray'd to the moon to give him some light, For he had a long way to travel that night Before he could reach the town, O! Town, O! town, O! For he had a long way, &c. At length he arrived at the farmer's yard, For the ducks and the geese he was not afeard, He swore that the best of them would grease his beard Before he would leave the town, O! Town, O! &c. He seized the grey goose by the neck, He threw him astride across his back, Which made the grey goose cry quack! quack! And the blood it came trickling down, O! Down, O! &c. Old mother Slipperslopper jumped out of bed, She opened the casement and popp'd out her head; "Get up, John, get up! for the grey goose is dead, And the fox has been in the town, O! Town, O!" &c. So John he got up to the top of the hill, He sounded his bugle-horn both loud and shrill; "Blow on!" cried the fox, "that is better music still, For I'm glad I've got clear out of town, O! Town, O!" &c. When Reynard he had arrived on the plain, He threw down his burden to ease a load of pain; He quickly took it up, and he travell'd on again, For he thought he heard the sound of the hounds, O! Hounds, O! &c. When Reynard he had arrived at his den, -- Of young ones he had nine or ten, -- "You're welcome, father fox, you must travel back again, For we think it's a lucky town, O! Town, O!" &c. The fox and his wife, they had some strife, They tore up the grey goose without fork or knife; They tore up the grey goose without fork or knife, And the young ones picked the bones, O! Bones, O! &c. *** B *** (No title indicated) As found in British Museum MS. Royal 19.B.iv and printed in Maxwell S. Luria and Richard L. Hoffman, _Middle English Lyrics_, a Norton critical edition, 1974, item #135, pp. 125-126. The spelling and punctuation appear to have been standardized. [Chorus:] "Pax vobis," quod the fox, "For I am comen to towne." It fell ageins the next night Tje fox yede to with all his mighte, Withouten cole or candlelight, Whan that he cam unto the towne. Whan he cam all in the yarde, Sore the ges were ill aferde, "I shall make some of youre berde, Or that I go from the towne!" Whan he cam all in the crofte, There he stalked wunderfull softe; "For here have I been frayed full ofte Whan that I have come to towne." He hente a giise all be the eye, Faste the goos began to creye! Oute yede men as they might hete And seide, "Fals fox, ley it downe!" "Nay," he saide, "so mot I thee -- Sche shall go unto the wode with me, Sche and I unther a tree, Emange the beryes browne. ["]I have a wyf, and sche lieth seke, Many smale whelpes she have to eke -- Many bones they muste pike Will they ley adowne."
The earliest version of this piece appears to have been a Middle English poem found in British Museum MS. Royal 19.B.iv, and is thought to date from the fifteenth century. About as old is a strange version in Cambridge MS. Ee.1.12 with an extended prologue about the fox's raids but with lyrics closer to most modern versions. It is reasonable to assume that this, and perhaps even the British Museum text, are rewritings of documents still older.
It should perhaps be noted that foxes are asocial animals; the males do not take part in raising the young. - RBW