An argosy of fables/Babrius
THE FROG AND THE OX
n Ox, grazing in a swampy meadow, chanced to set his foot among a parcel of young frogs, and crushed nearly the whole brood to death. One that escaped ran off to his mother with the dreadful news; "And, mother!" said he, "it was a beast—such a big fourfooted beast!—that did it." "Big?" quoth the old Frog, "how big? was it as big"—and she puffed herself out to a great degree—"as big as this?" "Oh!" said the little one, "a great deal bigger than that." "Well, was it so big?" and she swelled herself out yet more. "Indeed, mother, but it was; and if you were to burst yourself, you would never reach half its size." Provoked at such a disparagement of her powers, the old Frog made one more trial, and burst herself indeed.
So men are ruined by attempting a greatness to which they have no claim.
THE ARAB AND THE CAMEL
AN Arab having loaded his Camel, asked him whether he preferred to go up hill or down hill. "Pray, Master," said the Camel dryly, "is the straight way across the plain shut up?"
(Babrius, Fable 8; Thomas James' translation.)
THE HARE AND THE HOUND
A HOUND having put up a Hare from a bush, chased her for some distance, but the Hare had the best of it, and got off. A Goatherd who was coming by jeered at the Hound, saying that Puss was the better runner of the two. "You forget," replied the Hound, "that it is one thing to be running for your dinner, and another for your life."
(Babrius, Fable 69; Thomas James' translation.)
THE FARMER AND THE CRANE
SOME Cranes settled down in a Farmer's field that was newly sown. For some time the Farmer frightened them away by brandishing an empty sling at them. But when the Cranes found that he was only slinging to the winds, they no longer minded him, nor flew away. Upon this the Farmer slung at them with stones, and killed a great part of them. "Let us be off," said the rest, "to the land of the Pygmies, for this man means to threaten us no longer, but is determined to get rid of us in earnest."
(Babrius, Fable 26; Thomas James' translation.)
THE HUNTER AND THE FISHERMAN
A HUNTER was returning from the mountains loaded with game, and a Fisherman was at the same time coming home with his creel full of fish, when they chanced to meet by the way. The Hunter took a fancy to a dish of fish: The Fisher preferred a supper of game.
So each gave to the other the contents of his own basket. And thus they continued daily to exchange provisions, till one who had observed them said: "Now, by this invariable interchange, will they destroy the zest of their meal; and each will soon wish to return to his own store again."
(Babrius, Fable 61; Thomas James' translation.)
THE BEEVES AND THE BUTCHERS
THE Beeves, once on a time, determined to make an end of the Butchers, whose whole art, they said, was conceived for their destruction. So they assembled together, and had already whetted their horns for the contest, when a very old Ox, who had long worked at the plough, thus addressed them:—"Have a care, my friends, what you do. These men, at least, kill us with decency and skill, but if we fall into the hands of botchers instead of butchers, we shall suffer a double death; for be well assured, men will not go without beef, even though they were without butchers."
Better to bear the ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of.
(Babrius, Fable 21; Thomas James' translation.)
THE DOG AND HIS MASTER
A CERTAIN Man was setting out on a journey, when, seeing his Dog standing at the door, he cried out to him, "What are you gaping about? Get ready to come with me." The Dog, wagging his tail, said, "I am all right, Master; it is you who have to pack up."
(Babrius, Fable 110; Thomas James' translation.)
THE LARK AND HER YOUNG ONES
THERE was a brood of young Larks in a field of corn, which was just ripe, and the mother, looking every day for the reapers, left word, whenever she went out in search of food, that her young ones should report to her all the news they heard. One day, while she was absent the master came to look at the state of the crop. "It is full time," said he, "to call in all my neighbours and get my corn reaped." When the old Lark came home, the young ones told their mother what they had heard, and begged her to remove them forthwith. "Time enough," said she; "if he trusts to his neighbours, he will have to wait awhile yet for his harvest." Next day, however, the owner came again, and finding the sun still hotter and the corn more ripe, and nothing done, "There is not a moment to be lost," said he; "we cannot depend upon our neighbours: we must call in our relations;" and, turning to his son, "Go call your uncles and cousins, and see that they begin to-morrow." In still greater fear, the young ones repeated to their mother the farmer's words. "If that be all," says she, "do not be frightened, for the relations have got harvest work of their own; but take particular notice what you hear the next time, and be sure you let me know." She went abroad the next day, and the owner coming as before, and finding the grain falling to the ground from over-ripeness, and still no one at work, called to his son. "We must wait for our neighbours and friends no longer; do you go and hire some reapers to-night, and we will set to work ourselves to-morrow." When the young ones told their mother this—"Then," said she, "it is time to be off, indeed; for when a man takes up his business himself, instead of leaving it to others, you may be sure that he means to set to work in earnest."
(Babrius, Fable 88; Thomas James' translation.)
THE LION AND THE EAGLE
AN Eagle stayed his flight, and entreated a Lion to make an alliance with him to their mutual advantage. The Lion replied, "I have no objection, but you must excuse me for requiring you to find surety for your good faith; for how can I trust any one as a friend, who is able to fly away from his bargain whenever he pleases?"
Try before you trust.
(Babrius, Fable 100; Townsend's translation.)
JUPITER AND THE MONKEY
JUPITER issued a proclamation to all the beasts of the forest, and promised a royal reward to the one whose offspring should be deemed the handsomest. The Monkey came with the rest, and presented, with all a mother's tenderness, a flat-nosed, hairless, ill-featured young Monkey as a candidate for the promised reward. A general laugh saluted her on the presentation of her son. She resolutely said, "I know not whether Jupiter will allot the prize to my son; but this I do know, that he is at least in the eyes of me, his mother, the dearest, handsomest, and most beautiful of all."
(Babrius, Fable 56; Townsend's translation.)
THE PLAYFUL ASS
AN ASS climbed up to the roof of a building, and frisking about there, broke in the tiling. The owner went up after him, and quickly drove him down, beating him severely with a thick wooden cudgel. The Ass said, "Why, I saw the Monkey do this very thing yesterday, and you all laughed heartily, as if it afforded you very great amusement."
Those who do not know their right place must be taught it.
(Babrius, Fable 125; Townsend's translation.)
THE BIRD-CATCHER, THE PARTRIDGE AND THE COCK
A BIRD-CATCHER was about to sit down to a dinner of herbs, when a friend unexpectedly came in. The bird-trap was quite empty, as he had caught nothing. He proceeded to kill a pied Partridge, which he had tamed for a decoy. He entreated thus earnestly for his life: "What would you do without me when next you spread your nets? Who would chirp you to sleep, or call for you the covey of answering birds?" The Bird-catcher spared his life, and determined to pick out a fine young Cock just attaining to his comb. He thus expostulated in piteous tones from his perch: "If you kill me, who will announce to you the appearance of the dawn? Who will wake you to your daily tasks? or tell you when it is time to visit the bird-trap in the morning?" He replied, "What you say is true. You are a capital bird at telling the time of day. But I and the friend who has come in must have our dinners."
Necessity knows no law.
(Babrius, Fable 124; Townsend's translation.)
THE MOUSE AND THE BULL
A BULL was bitten by a Mouse, and, pained by the wound, tried to capture him. The Mouse first reached his hole in safety, and the Bull dug into the walls with his horns, until wearied, crouching down, he slept by the hole. The Mouse peeping out, crept furtively up his flank, and, again biting him, retreated to his hole. The Bull rising up, and not knowing what to do, was sadly perplexed. The Mouse murmured forth, "The great do not always prevail. There are times when the small and lowly are the strongest to do mischief."
(Babrius, Fable 112; Townsend's translation.)