Feet too of the Worſt of Men, we find at the bottom of the Account, that all the Enjoyments under the Sun, are not worth Struggling for. What can be Vainer now, than to Laviſh out our Lives and Fortunes in the Search and Purchaſe of Trifles; and at the ſame time to lye Carking for the Unprofitable Goods of this World, and in a reſtleſs Anxiety of Thought for what’s to come. The Folly, in fine, of theſe Vexatious and Frivolous Purſuits, ſhews it ſelf in all the Tranſports of our Wild and Ungovern’d Affections.
Here is further ſet forth in this Emblem, All the Fabulous Torments of Hell, even Above Ground. Men that are Tainted with this Appetite are ready to dye of Thirſt, with Tantalus, and the Water running at their very Lips. They are Condemn'd, with the Siſters, to the Filling of Tubs with Holes in ’em; which is but a Lively Figure of ſo much Labor ſpent in Vain, upon the Gratifying of Unreaſonablc Deſires. What's a Man's Contending with Inſuperable Difficulties, but the Rolling of Siſiphus's Stone up the Hill, which is ſure before-hand, to Return upon him again? What’s an Eternal Circulation of the ſame Things, as well as the ſame Steps, without Advancing one Inch of Ground toward his Journey's End, but Ixion in the Wheel? And all this while, with Cares, and Horrors at his Heart, like the Vultur that's Day and Night Quarrying upon Prometheus’ s Liver.
But after all that's ſaid upon this Subject, of our Miſtake, and Puniſhment, the Great Nicety will lye in Rightly Diſtinguiſhing betwixt the Subſtance, and the Shadow ; and in what degree of Preference the one ſtands to the other. Now this muſt be according to Epictetus’s Diſtribution of Matters, into what we have in our own Power; and what not; and in Placing things Honeſt and Neceſſary, before other Subordinate Satisfactions. Æſop’ s Dog here was in the Poſſeſſion of a very Good Breakfaſt, and he knew very well what he had in his Mouth; but ſtill, either out of Levity, Curioſity, or Greedineſs, he muſt be Chopping at ſomething elſe, that he neither Wanted, nor Underſtood, till he loſt All for a Shadow; that is to ſay, for juſt nothing at All.
F a b. VII.
A Lion, an Aſs, &c. a Hunting.
A Lion, an Aſs, and ſome other of their Fellow-Forreſters, went a Hunting one day; and every one to go ſhare and ſhare-like in what they took. They pluck'd down a Stag, and cut him up into ſo many Parts; but as they were entering upon the Dividend, Hands off ſays the Lion: This Part is mine by the Privilege of my Quality : This, becauſe I’ll have it in ſpite of your Teeth: This again, becauſe I took moſt Pains for’t; and if you Diſpute the Fourth, we muſt e’en Pluck a Crow about it. So the Confederates Mouths were all ſtopt, and they went away as mute as Fiſhes.