“Jumpin’ fences, dodgin’ trees, and tryin’ to get away…”

Since it’s turning into “Theodulf Week” here on Quid Plura?, I thought I’d make another hasty translation from the poetic corpus of the bishop of Orleans.

Back in June, I wrote about the fox I keep seeing here in my neighborhood. I enjoy spotting this critter, but Theodulf’s poem about an incident at the monastery of Charroux reminds me that what I consider an example of amusing urban fauna is a creature that often infuriated medieval people.

As with my other exercises in Theodulfiana, this is a loose translation, and I’ve only rendered the core anecdote. I’ve left out both the beginning—a brief ode to the monastery—and the little benediction at the end. I’m sure I haven’t done justice to Theodulf’s tone. He’d no doubt scold me for that, were he not twelve centuries dead.


A fox there was; that thief was wont to steal
The food the brothers needed for their meal.
The thousand-colored beast with outstretched wing
She gobbled in her jaws, that wicked thing.
The monks abiding there had scarcely guessed
The nature of this chaos-bringing pest—
Until that hen she stole, perchance to eat,
Thus making clear the way of her deceit.
Her burden made her sluggish, they could see:
She lingered deep within their alder-tree—
She lingered there, forlorn in her deceit,
For every pathway led to her defeat.
The chicken’s head she’d swallowed—but, in fact,
Its every other limb remained intact,
And you, the trickster’s foot, were on a bough
No higher than a hedge; it did allow
Her rightmost paw to touch a trace of wall
Whose stones were stacked so steeply and so tall.
Thus hung the wretched thief, that wicked pest;
She flailed her neck and thrashed her head, distressed.
The faithful monks erupted in delight:
They saw God’s wondrous portents in this sight.

2 thoughts on ““Jumpin’ fences, dodgin’ trees, and tryin’ to get away…”

  1. Jeff,

    Wow, this makes it seem like the fox ate the hen in a snake-like manner swallowing it whole. That would tend to make any creature sluggish.

    I wonder if some brother later on sported a nice red fur cap to ward off the winter winds or if perchance it was sold to a local noble instead. I think that would fall under the “God will provide” category.




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