The Thieves and The Cock

Thieves stole a Cock who pleaded for life saying he serviced man by waking him. The thieves thought this all the better reason to kill and eat the bird.

The safeguards of virtue are hateful to those with evil intentions.

Townsend VersionTownsend version

Some thieves broke into a house and found nothing but a Cock, whom they stole, and got off as fast as they could. Upon arriving at home they prepared to kill the Cock, who thus pleaded for his life: “Pray spare me; I am very serviceable to men. I wake them up in the night to their work.” “That is the very reason why we must the more kill you,” they replied; “for when you wake your neighbors, you entirely put an end to our business.”

Moral

The safeguards of virtue are hateful to those with evil intentions.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Some Thieves once broke into a house, but found nothing in it worth carrying off but a Cock. The poor Cock said as much for himself as a Cock could say, urging them to remember his services in calling people up to their work when it was time to rise. “Nay,” said one of the Robbers, “you had better say nothing about that. You alarm people and keep them waking, so that it is impossible for us to rob in comfort.”

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Thieves and CockSOME Thieves, entering a house with a design to rob it, when they were got in, found nothing worth taking, but a Cock! so they took and earned him off. But as they were about to kill him, he begged hard for his life, putting them in mind, how useful he was to mankind, by crowing and calling them up betimes to their work. You villain, replied they, it is for that very reason we will wring your neck off; for you alarm and keep people waking, so that we cannot rob in quiet for you.

THE APPLICATION

The same thing which recommends us to the esteem of good people, will make those that are bad have but an ill opinion of us. It is in vain for innocent men, under oppression, to complain to those who are the occasion of it; all they can urge, will but make against them; and even their very innocence, though they should say nothing, would render them sufficiently suspected. The advice, therefore, that this fable brings along with it, is to inform us, that there is no trusting, nor any hopes of living well with wicked, unjust men. When vice flourishes and is in power, were it possible for a good man to live quietly in the neighbourhood of it, and preserve his integrity, it might be sometimes convenient for him to do so, rather than quarrel with, and provoke it against him. But as it is certain that rogues are irreconcileable enemies to men of worth, if the latter would be secure, they must take a method to free themselves from the power and society of the former.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

A band of thieves brake into a house once, and found nothing in’t to carry away, but one poor cock. The cock said as much for himself as a cock could say; but insisted chiefly upon the services of his calling people up to their work, when ’twas time to rise. Sirrah (says one of the thieves) you had better have let that argument alone; for your waking the family spoils our trade, and we are to be hang’d forsooth for your bawling.

Moral

That which is one body’s meat, is another body’s poyson; as the trussing up of thieves is the security of honest men. One foolish word is enough to spoil a good cause, and ’tis many a man’s fortune to cut his own throat with his own argument.

1001Gallus et Fures

Fures, qui se per ruinosum parietem in aedes quasdam insinuassent, cum quod auferre possent nihil reperirent, gallum forte strepentem et cantantem comprehendunt et secum asportant. Quem iugulaturi, orantur ab eo sibi ut parcant, suum enim cantum utilem hominibus esse, quos excitet de somno ad opera et laborem. Tum fures “Eo libentius,” inquiunt, “te occiderimus, qui eos suscites quorum vigilantia obstet conatibus nostris.”

Perry #122