An argosy of fables/Phædrus

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An argosy of fables
Book 1. Part 3, Phædrus




IN the days of old, when the Frogs were all at liberty in the lakes, and had grown quite weary of following every one his own devices, they assembled one day together, and with no little clamour petitioned Jupiter to let them have a King to keep them in better order, and make them lead honester lives. Jupiter knowing the vanity of their hearts, smiled at their request, and threw down a Log into the lake, which by the splash and commotion it made, sent the whole commonwealth into the greatest terror and amazement. They rushed under the water and into the mud, and dared not come within ten leaps' length of the spot where it lay. At length one Frog bolder than the rest ventured to pop his head above the water, and take a survey of their new King at a respectful distance. Presently, when they perceived the Log to lie stock-still, others began to swim up to it and around it; till by degrees, growing bolder and bolder, they at last leaped upon it, and treated it with the greatest contempt. Dissatisfied with so tame a ruler, they forthwith petitioned Jupiter a second time for another and more active King. Upon which he sent them a Stork, who no sooner arrived among them than he began laying hold of them and devouring them one by one as fast as he could, and it was in vain that they endeavoured to escape him. Then they sent Mercury with a private message to Jupiter, beseeching him that he would take pity on them once more; but Jupiter replied, that they were only suffering the punishment due to their folly, and that another time they would learn to let well alone, and not be dissatisfied with their natural condition.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 2; Thomas James' translation.)


A JACKDAW, as vain and conceited as Jackdaw could be, picked up the feathers which some Peacocks had shed, stuck them amongst his own, and despising his old companions, introduced himself with the greatest assurance into a flock of those beautiful birds. They, instantly detecting the intruder, stripped him of his borrowed plumes, and falling upon him with their beaks, sent him about his business. The unlucky Jackdaw, sorely punished and deeply sorrowing, betook himself to his former companions, and would have flocked with them again as if nothing had happened. But they, recollecting what airs he had given himself, drummed him out of their society, while one of those whom he had so lately despised, read him this lecture:—"Had you been contented with what nature made you:—you would have escaped the chastisement of your betters and also the contempt of your equals."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 3; Thomas James' translation.)


THE Cow, the Goat and the unresentful Sheep once formed a partnership with the Lion in his native jungle. One day, when they had run down a large Stag and divided it into four parts, the Lion spoke as follows:

"I naturally take the first part because I am named the Lion; you will give me the second part as a tribute to my courage; then, since I am the strongest, the third part comes to me anyway; and woe betide any one of you who meddles with the fourth!" And thus he unblushingly appropriated the entire Stag for himself.

Do not expect justice where might is right.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 5.)


A FOX had stolen into the house of an actor, and in rummaging among his various properties, laid hold of a highly-finished Mask. "A fine-looking head, indeed!" cried he; "what a pity it is that it wants brains!"

A fair outside is but a poor substitute for inward worth.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 7; Thomas James' translation.)


A HARE had been seized by an Eagle, and was squeaking pitifully, when a passing Sparrow asked with a sneer, "What has become of your famous speed, friend Hare? what was the matter with your legs?" These words were hardly out of the Sparrow's mouth, when a Hawk snatched him up unaware and quickly silenced his vain outcry. The dying Hare found comfort in this sight. "Ah, friend Sparrow," she said, "you who just now thought that you could safely laugh at my misfortune have fallen victim to the same cruel fate!"

It is foolish to advise others if you cannot take care of yourself.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 9.)


THE Wolf once accused the Fox of having robbed him. The Fox denied that she had stolen anything. The two were brought before Judge Monkey to decide between them. When each in turn had stated his side of the case, the Monkey rendered judgment as follows:

"It is evident, Mr. Wolf, that you have not lost what you ask back! But it is equally evident, Mrs. Fox, that you did take what you so glibly deny!"

Whoever once earns a reputation for lying will not be believed even when he tells the truth.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 10.)


A STAG one summer's day came to a pool to quench his thirst, and as he stood drinking he saw his form reflected in the water. "What beauty and strength," said he, "are in these horns of mine; but how unseemly are these weak and slender feet!" While he was thus criticising, after his own fancies, the form which Nature had given him, the huntsmen and hounds drew that way. The feet, with which he had found so much fault, soon carried him out of the reach of his pursuers; but the horns, of which he was so vain, becoming entangled in a thicket, held him till the hunters again came up to him, and proved the cause of his death.

Look to use before ornament.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 12; Thomas James' translation.)


A CLUMSY and unsuccessful Cobbler, rendered desperate by poverty, went to a strange town and began to practise medicine. He sold a drug which he falsely claimed was an antidote for all poisons, and obtained a great reputation, thanks to his high-sounding advertisements. It happened that the Mayor of the town, finding himself indisposed, sent for this new Doctor; but deciding first to put him to a test, he called for a cup and while pouring in water pretended that he was mixing poison with the Cobbler's antidote, and proposed that they should drink it together on a wager. Hereupon the Cobbler under fear of death confessed that he had no skill in the art of medicine, and owed his fame only to the credulity of the crowd. The Mayor forthwith called a public meeting, and thus addressed the citizens:

"Consider the folly of which you have been guilty! You have not hesitated to entrust your lives to a man whom no one would trust even to make the shoes for their feet."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 14.)


A SHEPHERD watched his Ass feeding in a meadow. Being alarmed on a sudden by the cries of the enemy, he appealed to the Ass to fly with him, lest they should both be captured. He lazily replied, "Why should I, pray? Do you think it likely the conquerer will place on me two sets of panniers?" "No," rejoined the Shepherd. "Then," said the Ass, "as long as I carry the panniers, what matters it to me whom I serve?" In a change of government the poor change nothing beyond the name of their master.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 15; Thomas James' translation.)


THE Stag once asked the Sheep to lend him a measure of wheat, saying that the Wolf would guarantee payment. The Sheep, suspecting trickery, replied: "The Wolf is a lawless beast, forever plundering and running off; while you yourself are so swift that one moment you are here and the next moment out of sight. How should I find you when the day of payment comes?"

The word of two rogues is no better than the word of one.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 16.)


THE proud Mother of a family of new-born Puppies asked a sister Dog to let her occupy her kennel for a few days. The other, good-naturedly, moved out and gave her possession. After some days had passed, and she wanted her kennel back, the other pleaded pitifully for a further extension of time, until the Puppies should be strong enough to walk out by themselves. When this time also had passed, and her friend came once more to demand back the kennel, she faced her defiantly in the doorway: "If you think you are a match for me and my stalwart sons," she said, "come ahead and put us out!"

A smooth tongue often covers a false heart.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 19.)


A LION worn out with years lay stretched upon the ground, utterly helpless, and drawing his last breath. A Boar came up, and to satisfy an ancient grudge, drove at him with his tusks. Next a Bull, determined to be revenged on an old enemy, gored him with his horns. Upon this an Ass, seeing that the old Lion could thus be treated with impunity, thought that he would show his spite also, and came and threw his heels in the Lion's face. Whereupon the dying beast exclaimed: "The insults of the powerful were bad enough, but those I could have managed to bear; but to be spurned by so base a creature as thou—the disgrace of nature, is to die a double death."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 21; Thomas James' translation.)


A THIEF in the night threw a piece of bread to a Dog, hoping to make friends with him by this offer of food. "Listen, stranger," said the Dog, "if you think you can silence my tongue and keep me from barking to warn my Master, you are much mistaken. This sudden friendliness on your part warns me to keep my eyes wide open so that you shall not be the richer through any fault of mine."

Sudden generosity may please the foolish, but it sets its traps in vain for the wary.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 23.)


THE story goes that when Dogs drink from the River Nile, they keep on running while they drink, so that the Crocodiles cannot catch them. Accordingly, when a certain Dog began to drink as he ran, a Crocodile said to him:

"Don't be afraid,—come on in, and lap the water up at your leisure."

"Nothing I should like better," replied the Dog, "if I did not know just how hungrily you are eyeing me."

Those who give bad advice to cautious men waste their time and make themselves ridiculous.

(Phædrus, Fables, Book I, No. 25.)


A FROG, sitting at the edge of a swamp, was watching a battle between two Bulls in an adjoining field. "Alas! what deadly danger threatens us," he said. Another Frog, overhearing him, asked what he meant, when the Bulls were merely fighting to decide which should lead the herd, and the cattle passed their lives quite apart from the home of the Frogs. "It is true," rejoined the first Frog, "that they are a different race and live apart from us. But whichever Bull is beaten and driven from his leadership in the woods will come to find some secret hiding place; and I fear that many of us will be trampled to pieces under his hard hoofs. That is why I say that their battle means death and destruction to us."

When the mighty quarrel, the humble pay the cost.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 30.)



SOME Pigeons had long lived in fear of a Kite, but by being always on the alert, and keeping near their dove-cote, they had contrived hitherto to escape the attacks of the enemy. Finding his sallies unsuccessful, the Kite betook himself to craft: "Why," said he, "do you prefer this life of continual anxiety, when, if you would only make me your king, I would secure you from every attack that could be made upon you?" The Pigeons, trusting to his professions, called him to the throne; but no sooner was he established there than he exercised his prerogative by devouring a pigeon a-day. Whereupon one that yet awaited his turn, said no more than "It serves us right."

They who voluntarily put power into the hand of a tyrant or an enemy, must not wonder if it be at last turned against themselves.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. I, No. 31; Thomas James' translation.)


AN Eagle had made her nest at the top of a tall oak. A Cat, having found a convenient hole in the middle of the trunk, placed her kittens there; and a Wild Sow had found shelter for her young in another hollow at its foot. Before long the Cat decided to destroy the peace of this community by cruel trickery. As part of her plan, she climbed up to the nest of the Eagle and said:

"Destruction is threatening you, and probably me too, for the Wild Sow, whom you see daily rooting in the ground, is planning to uproot and overthrow this oak so that she may find an easy prey in your young ones and mine."

Having thus spread terror and confusion in the Eagle's nest, she crept down to the lair of the bristly Wild Sow.

"Your little Porkers," said she, "are in great danger. For the very next time that you take your little family out to feed the Eagle is prepared to swoop down and carry them off."

Leaving consternation behind her in the Sow's lair, the crafty Cat hid herself in the safe recesses of her own hole, stealing out only at night time, with noiseless tread, to find food for herself and Kittens. But all day long she pretended to be in mortal fear, and kept a crafty look-out from her lofty hollow. Meanwhile, the Eagle, fearing destruction, fasted in the top branches; while the Wild Sow, dreading invasion, dared not put her snout out of her lair. Before long the two mothers and their families perished from hunger, and afforded an ample feast for the Cat and her Kittens.

This stupid credulity bears witness to the wide-spread havoc that can be wrought by a man with a false tongue.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. II, No. 4.)


TWO Mules, well laden with packs, were trudging along. One carried panniers filled with money, the other sacks weighted with grain. The Mule carrying the treasure walked with head erect, as if conscious of the value of his burden, and tossed up and down the clear toned bells fastened to his neck. His companion followed with quiet and easy step. All on a sudden Robbers rushed from their hiding-places upon them, and in the scuffle with their owners, wounded with a sword the Mule carrying the treasure, which they greedily seized upon, while they took no notice of the grain. The Mule which had been robbed and wounded, bewailed his misfortunes. The other replied, "I am indeed glad that I was thought so little of, for I have lost nothing, nor am I hurt with any wound." Better an humble lot with security than great wealth beset with dangers.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. II, No. 7; Townsend's translation.)


A HUNTED Stag, driven out of covert and distracted by fear, made for the first farm-house he saw, and hid himself in an Ox-stall which happened to be open. As he was trying to conceal himself under the straw, "What can you mean," said an Ox, "by running into such certain destruction as to trust yourself to the haunts of man?" "Only do you not betray me," said the Stag, "and I shall be off again on the first opportunity." Evening came on; the herdsman foddered the cattle, but observed nothing. The other farm-servants came in and out. The Stag was still safe. Presently the bailiff passed through; all seemed right. The Stag now feeling himself quite secure began to thank the Oxen for their hospitality. "Wait awhile," said one of them, "we indeed wish you well, but there is yet another person, one with a hundred eyes; if he should happen to come this way I fear your life will be still in jeopardy." While he was speaking, the Master, having finished his supper, came round to see that all was safe for the night, for he thought that his cattle had not of late looked as well as they ought. Going up to the rack, "Why so little fodder here?" says he; "Why is there not more straw?" And "How long, I wonder, would it take to sweep down these cobwebs!" Prying and observing, here and there and everywhere, the Stag's antlers, jutting from out the straw, caught his eye, and calling in his servants he instantly made prize of him.

No eye like the Master's eye.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. II, No. 8; Thomas James' translation.)


A HOUND, who had been an excellent one in his time, and had done good service to his master in the field, at length became worn out with the weight of years and trouble. One day, when hunting the wild Boar, he seized the creature by the ear, but his teeth giving way, he was forced to let go his hold, and the Boar escaped. Upon this the huntsman, coming up, severely rated him. But the feeble Dog replied, "Spare your old servant! It was the power not the will that failed me. Remember rather what I was, than abuse me for what I am."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. 5, No. 10; Thomas James' translation.)


AN Old Woman saw an empty Wine-jar lying on the ground. Though not a drop of the noble Falernian, with which it had been filled, remained, it still yielded a grateful fragrance to the passers-by. The Old Woman, applying her nose as close as she could and snuffing with all her might and main, exclaimed, "Sweet creature! how charming must your contents once have been, when the very dregs are so delicious!"

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 1; Thomas James' translation.)


A PANTHER, by some mischance, fell into a pit. The Shepherds discovered him, and threw sticks at him, and pelted him with stones, while some of them, moved with compassion towards one about to die even though no one should hurt him, threw in some food to prolong his life. At night they returned home, not dreaming of any danger, but supposing that on the morrow they should find him dead. The Panther, however, when he had recruited his feeble strength, freed himself with a sudden bound from the pit, and hastened home with rapid steps to his den. After a few days he came forth and slaughtered the cattle, and, killing the Shepherds who had attacked him, raged with angry fury. Then they who had spared his life, fearing for their safety, surrendered to him their flocks, and begged only for their lives; to whom the Panther made this reply: "I remember alike those who sought my life with stones, and those who gave me food—lay aside, therefore, your fears. I return as an enemy only to those who injured me."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 2; Townsend's translation.)


ONE day a Man was passing by a butcher's shop, when he happened to see the body of a Monkey hanging there among the other kinds of meat and game. Out of curiosity, he stopped and asked the butcher if he could tell him what Monkey tasted like. The butcher replied jokingly, "The best way to judge of any one's tastes is from the expression of the face!"

This answer is more clever than it is true. For many a handsome face cloaks evil dispositions, and homely features often go with a kindly nature.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 4.)


A CERTAIN Young Rowdy once shied a stone and struck Æsop. "Good shot!" said the old man, and gave the boy a penny, adding, "That's all I've got, on my word. But I'll show you a way to get more. Do you see that man coming there? he's rich and important! if you can hit him as you did me you will get the reward you deserve." The Young Rowdy thought this good advice and followed it, but was disappointed at the result of his shameless impudence, for he found himself arrested and properly punished by the court.

A little success has led many a man to his ruin.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 5.)


A FLY sat on the axle-tree of a chariot, and addressing the Draught-mule said, "How slow you are! Why do you not go faster? See if I do not prick your neck with my sting." The Draught-mule replied, "I do not heed your threats; I only care for him who sits above you, and who quickens my pace with his whip, or holds me back with the reins. Away, therefore, with your insolence, for I know well when to go fast, and when to go slow."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 6; Townsend's translation.)


A LEAN hungry Wolf chanced one moonshiny night to fall in with a plump well-fed House-Dog. After the first compliments were passed between them, "How is it, my friend," said the Wolf, "that you look so sleek? How well your food agrees with you! And here am I striving for my living night and day, and can hardly save myself from starving." "Well," says the Dog, "if you would fare like me, you have only to do as I do." "Indeed!" says he, "and what is that?" "Why," replies the Dog, "just to guard the master's house and keep off the thieves at night." "With all my heart; for at present I have but a sorry time of it. This woodland life, with its frosts and rains, is sharp work for me. To have a warm roof over my head and a bellyful of victuals always at hand will, methinks, be no bad exchange." "True," says the Dog; "therefore you have nothing to do but to follow me." Now as they were jogging on together, the Wolf spied a mark in the Dog's neck, and having a strange curiosity, could not forbear asking, what it meant. "Pooh! nothing at all," says the Dog. "Nay, but pray"—says the Wolf. "Oh! a mere trifle, perhaps the collar to which my chain is fastened—" "Chain!" cries the Wolf in surprise; "you don't mean to say that you cannot rove when and where you please?" "Why, not exactly perhaps; you see I am looked upon as rather fierce, so they sometimes tie me up in the day-time, but I assure you I have perfect liberty at night, and the master feeds me off his own plate, and the servants give me their tit-bits, and I am such a favourite, and—but what is the matter? where are you going?" "Oh, good night to you," says the Wolf; "you are welcome to your dainties; but for me, a dry crust with liberty against a king's luxury with a chain."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 7; Thomas James' translation.)


A CERTAIN Bully once tried to pick a quarrel with a Cripple, and in addition to bad language and insulting remarks, jeered at him for his bodily affliction. The Cripple replied:

"The loss of a limb is only a reason why I should strive the harder to do my part of the world's work. But why, poor fool, do you jeer at my misfortune? There is no shame in the accidents of chance, but only in the consequence of our own misdeeds."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 11.)


SOME Bees had built their comb in the hollow trunk of an oak. The Drones asserted that it was their doing, and belonged to them. The cause was brought into court before Judge Wasp. Knowing something of the parties, he thus addressed them:—"The plaintiffs and defendants are so much alike in shape and colour as to render the ownership a doubtful matter, and the case has very properly been brought before me. The ends of justice, and the object of the court, will best be furthered by the plan which I propose. Let each party take a hive to itself, and build up a new comb, that from the shape of the cells and the taste of the honey, the lawful proprietors of the property in dispute may appear." The Bees readily assented to the Wasp's plan. The Drones declined it. upon the Wasp gave judgment:—"It is clear now who made the comb, and who cannot make it; the Court adjudges the honey to the Bees."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 13; Thomas James' translation.)


AN Athenian one day found Æsop at play with a company of little boys, and began to jeer and laugh at him for it. The old fellow, who was too much of a joker himself to suffer others to ridicule him, took a bow, unstrung it and laid it upon the ground. Then, addressing his critic, he said:

"Now, Philosopher, explain this riddle, if you can, and tell us the meaning of that unstrung bow."

The man, after racking his brain, and scratching his head for a considerable time, to no purpose, at last gave it up and said that he could not solve the riddle.

"Why," said Æsop, laughing, "if you keep a bow always bent, it will presently break; but if you let it go slack, it will be ready for use when you need it."

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 14; from Bussey's Fables Original and Selected.)


AN Owl, accustomed to feed at night and to sleep during the day, was greatly disturbed by the noise of a Grasshopper, and earnestly besought her to leave off chirping. The Grasshopper refused to desist, and chirped louder and louder the more the Owl entreated. The Owl, when she saw that she could get no redress, and that her words were despised, attacked the chatterer by a stratagem. "Since I cannot sleep," she said, "on account of your song, which, believe me, is sweet as the lyre of Apollo, I shall indulge myself in drinking some nectar which Pallas lately gave me. If you do not dislike it, come to me, and we will drink it together." The Grasshopper, who was at once thirsty, and pleased with the praise of her voice, eagerly flew up. The Owl, coming forth from her hollow, seized her, and put her to death.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 16; Townsend's translation.)


THE Gods, according to an ancient legend, made choice of certain trees to be under their special protection. Jupiter chose the oak, Venus the myrtle, Apollo the laurel, Cybele the pine, and Hercules the poplar. Minerva, wondering why they had preferred trees not yielding fruit, inquired the reason of their choice. Jupiter replied, "It is lest we should seem to covet the honour for the fruit." But said Minerva, "Let any one say what he will, the olive is more dear to me on account of its fruit." Then said Jupiter, "My daughter, you are rightly called wise; for unless what we do is useful, the glory of it is vain."

(Phædrus; Fables Vol. III, No. 17; Townsend's translation.)


THE Peacock made complaint to Juno that, while the nightingale pleased every ear with his song, he no sooner opened his mouth than he became a laughing-stock to all who heard him. The


Goddess, to console him, said, "But you far excel in beauty and in size. The splendour of the emerald shines, in your neck, and you unfold a tail gorgeous with painted plumage." "But for what purpose have I," said the bird, "this dumb beauty, so long as I am surpassed in song?" "The lot of each," replied Juno, "has been assigned by the will of the Fates—to thee, beauty; to the eagle, strength; to the nightingale, song; to the raven, favourable, and to the crow, unfavourable auguries. These are all contented with the endowments allotted to them."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. III, No. 18; Townsend's translation.)


AESOP'S master, having come home earlier than usual, and there being no other slave in the house, Æsop was ordered to get supper ready as fast as he could. So away he ran to light a candle, from which to kindle his fire; but since it still wanted an hour or two of sunset, he had to visit several houses before he could get a light; at last, however, he succeeded, and being in a hurry, he returned directly through the market-place, which was his nearest way home. As he passed along, an Impertinent Fellow in the crowd caught him by the sleeve, bent on cracking a joke at his expense.

"Tell me, Æsop," said he, "what are you doing with a lighted candle at this hour of day? Are you trying to light the sun to bed?"

"No," answered Æsop as he hurried on his way, "I am only looking for a real Man."

An ill-timed jest reveals an empty mind.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol III, No. 19; from Bussey's Fables, Original and Selected.)


THE She-goats having obtained by request from Jupiter the favour of a beard, the He-goats, sorely displeased, made complaint that the females equalled them in dignity. "Suffer them," said Jupiter, "to enjoy an empty honour, and to assume the badge of your nobler sex, so long as they are not your equals in strength or courage."

It matters little if those who are inferior to us in merit should be like us in outside appearances.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. IV, No. 15; Townsend's translation.)


A CERTAIN ship had long been buffeted by raging seas, and all on board, expecting instant death, bewailed their fate. But suddenly the storm abated, and the sky cleared, and the ship rode steadily, rocked by gentle waves. The Sailors, in their relief, gave way to extravagant rejoicing; but the Helmsman, made wise by past danger, spoke a word of warning:

"You should learn to keep your rejoicings and your fears under better control, since all our life is a mixture of joy and sorrow."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. IV, No. 16.)


A MOUNTAIN was once greatly agitated. Loud groans and noises were heard; and crowds of people came from all parts to see what was the matter. While they were assembled in anxious expectation of some terrible calamity, out came a Mouse.

Don't make much ado about nothing.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. IV, No. 22; Townsend's translation.)


TWO Soldiers travelling together, were set upon by a Robber. The one fled away; the other stood his ground, and defended himself with his stout right hand. The Robber being slain, the timid companion runs up and draws his sword, and then, throwing back his travelling cloak, says, "I'll at him, and I'll take care he shall learn whom he has attacked." On this he who had fought with the Robber made answer, "I only wish that you had helped me just now, even if it had been only those words, for I should have been the more encouraged, believing them to be true; but now put up your sword in its sheath and hold your equally useless tongue, till you can deceive others who do not know you. I, indeed, who have experienced with what speed you run away, know right well that no dependence can be placed on your valour."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. V, No. 2; Townsend's translation.)


A FLY bit the bare head of a Bald Man, who, endeavouring to destroy it, gave himself a heavy slap. Then said the Fly mockingly, "You who have wished to revenge, even with death, the prick of a tiny insect, what will you do to yourself, who have added insult to injury?" The Bald Man replied, "I can easily make peace with myself, because I know there was no intention to hurt. But you, an ill-favoured and contemptible insect, who delight in sucking human blood, I wish that I could have killed you, even if I had incurred a heavier penalty."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. V, No. 3; Townsend's translation.)


A CERTAIN wealthy patrician, intending to treat the Roman people with some theatrical entertainment, publicly offered a reward to any one who would produce a novel spectacle. Incited by emulation, artists arrived from all parts to contest the prize, among whom a well-known witty Mountebank gave out that he had a new kind of entertainment that had never yet been produced on any stage. This report being spread abroad, brought the whole city together. The theatre could hardly contain the number of spectators. And when the artist appeared alone upon the stage, without any apparatus, or any assistants, curiosity and suspense kept the spectators in profound silence. On a sudden he thrust down his head into his bosom, and mimicked the squeaking of a young pig, so naturally, that the audience insisted upon it that he had one under his cloak, and ordered him to be searched; which being done, and nothing appearing, they loaded him with the most extravagant applause.

A Countryman among the audience observing what passed—"Oh!" says he, "I can do better than this;" and immediately gave out that he would perform the next day. Accordingly, on the morrow, a yet greater crowd was collected. Prepossessed, however, in favour of the Mountebank, they came rather to laugh at the Countryman than to pass a fair judgment on him. They both came out upon the stage. The Mountebank grunts away first, and calls forth the greatest clapping and applause. Then the Countryman, pretending that he concealed a little pig under his garments (and he had, in fact, really got one) pinched its ear till he made it squeak. The people cried out that the Mountebank had imitated the pig much more naturally, and hooted to the Countryman to quit the stage; but he, to convict them to their face, produced the real pig from his bosom. "And now, gentlemen, you may see," said he, "what a pretty sort of judges you are!"

It is easier to convince a man against his senses than against his will.

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. V, No. 5; Thomas James' translation.)


A BULL was striving with all his might to squeeze himself through a narrow passage which led to his stall. A young Calf came up, and offered to go before and show him the way by which he could manage to pass. "Save yourself the trouble," said the Bull; "I knew that way long before you were born."

(Phædrus, Fables, Vol. V, No. 9; Townsend's translation.)




A WOODMAN came into a forest to ask the Trees to give him a handle for his Axe. It seemed so modest a request that the principal Trees at once agreed to it, and it was settled among them that the plain homely Ash should furnish what was wanted. No sooner had the Woodman fitted the staff to his purpose, than he began laying about him on all sides, felling the noblest Trees in the wood. The Oak now seeing the whole matter too late, whispered to the Cedar, "The first concession has lost all; if we had not sacrificed our humble neighbour, we might have yet stood for ages ourselves."

When the rich surrender the rights of the poor, they give a handle to be used against their own privileges.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 5; Thomas James' translation.)


A SNAIL, happening to find a mirror, was fascinated by its brightness, and climbing upon its glittering surface began to lick it lovingly, thinking that he could in no better way show his admiration than by thus dimming its splendour with a trail of slime.

A Monkey, seeing the mirror thus disfigured, said:

"Those who allow themselves to be trampled under foot by their inferiors deserve all the indignity that they suffer."

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 8.)


ALION, roaming through a forest, trod upon a thorn, and soon after came up towards a Shepherd, and fawned upon him, wagging his tail, as if he would say, "I am a suppliant, and seek your aid." The Shepherd boldly examined, and discovered the thorn, and placing his foot upon his lap, pulled it out and relieved the Lion of his pain, who returned into the forest. Some time after the Shepherd being imprisoned on a false accusation, is condemned "to be cast to the Lions," as the punishment of his imputed crime. The Lion, on being released from his cage, recognizes the Shepherd as the man who healed him, and, instead of attacking him, approaches and places his foot upon his lap. The King, as soon as he heard the tale, ordered the Lion to be set free again in the forest, and the Shepherd to be pardoned and restored to his friends.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 15; Townsend's translation.)


A HORSE, proud of his fine trappings, met an Ass on the highway. The Ass being heavily laden moved slowly out of the way. "Hardly," said the Horse, "can I resist kicking you with my heels." The Ass held his peace, and made only a silent appeal to the justice of the gods. Not long afterwards the Horse, having become broken-winded, was sent by his owner to the farm. The Ass seeing him drawing a farm-wagon, thus derided him: "Where, O boaster, are now all thy gay trappings, thou who art thyself reduced to the condition you so lately treated with contempt?"

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 17; Townsend's translation.)


ONCE upon a time there was a fierce war waged between the Birds and the Beasts. For a long while the issue of the battle was uncertain, and the Bat, taking advantage of his ambiguous nature, kept aloof and remained neutral. At length when the Beasts seemed to prevail, the Bat joined their forces and appeared active in the fight; but a rally being made by the Birds, which proved successful, he was found at the end of the day among the ranks of the winning party. A peace being speedily concluded, the Bat's conduct was condemned alike by both parties, and being acknowledged by neither, and so excluded from the terms of the truce, he was obliged to skulk off as best he could, and has ever since lived in holes and corners, never daring to show his face except in the duskiness of twilight.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 18; Townsend's translation.)


TWO men, one of whom always spoke the truth and the other told nothing but lies, were travelling together, and by chance came to the land of Apes. One of the Apes, who had raised himself to be king, commanded them to be laid hold of, and brought before him, that he might know what was said of him among men. He ordered at the same time that all the Apes should be arranged in a long row on his right hand and on his left, and that a throne should be placed for him, as was the custom among men. After these preparations, he signified his will that the two men should be brought before him, and greeted them with this salutation: "What sort of a King do I seem to you to be, strangers?" The lying Traveller replied, "You seem to me a most mighty King." "And what is your estimate of those you see around me?" "These," he made answer, "are worthy companions of yourself, fit at least to be ambassadors and leaders of armies." The Ape and all his court, gratified with the lie, commanded a handsome present to be given to the flatterer. On this the truthful Traveller thought within himself, "If so great a reward be given for a lie, with what gift may not I be rewarded, if, according to my custom, I shall tell the truth?" The Ape quickly turned to him. "And pray how do I and these my friends around me seem to you?" "Thou art," he said, "a most excellent Ape, and all these thy companions after thy example are excellent Apes too." The King of the Apes, enraged at hearing these truths, gave him over to the teeth and claws of his companions.

A smooth lie wins favour with evil natures, where the honest truth may cause a good man's downfall.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 24; Townsend's translation.)


ONE day when the Stork had come to a favourite pool, he saw a Goose repeatedly diving under the water, and asked why she did so. She replied:

"It is a habit with us Geese, for we find much of our food in the mud at the bottom of the pool, and at the same time we safely escape the attack of Hawks when they swoop down upon us."

"I am much stronger than any Hawk," the Stork replied. "If you will form a friendship with me, you may safely laugh at your enemy."

The credulous Goose eagerly accepting the protection offered her, straightway waddled out into the fields. Before long a Hawk passing that way and swooping down seized the Goose in his cruel talons. As the Stork flew safely away the unhappy Goose called after him: "Whoever trusts himself to a feeble protector deserves to come to a bad end."

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 26.)


A TROUBLESOME Crow seated herself on the back of a Sheep. The Sheep, much against his will, carried her backward and forward for a long time, and at last said, "If you had treated a dog in this way, you would have had your deserts from his sharp teeth." To this the Crow replied, "I despise the weak, and yield to the strong. I know whom I may bully, and whom I must flatter; and I thus prolong my life to a good old age."

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 27; Townsend's translation.)


THE Ass one day begged the Horse for a small share of his hay. "Gladly," said the Horse, "if there were any to spare,—and a generous one too, as befits my own dignity. But as soon as I get back to our stable to-night I will see that you have a bag full of oats." The Ass replied: "Since you refuse me a small favour now, how can I believe that you will do me a bigger one by-and-by?"

Those who offer big promises in place of small help will prove to be unwilling givers.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 29.)


AS a Camel plodded on through the desert, weighted down with many burdens, a Flea perched contentedly on his back, greatly enjoying her exalted position. After they had journeyed a long distance and towards sunset reached the halting-place, the Flea at once skipped nimbly to the ground.

"Did you see," she asked, "how quickly I got down, so as not to tire your poor back a moment longer?"

"Thank you," replied the Camel, "but to tell the truth, I did not feel your weight while you were on my back, nor do I notice the difference, now that you are down!"

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 31.)


AN Eagle, overwhelmed with sorrow, sat upon the branches of a tree, in company with a Kite. "Why," said the Kite, "do I see you with such a rueful look?" "I seek," she replied, "for a mate suitable for me, and am not able to find one." "Take me," returned the Kite, "I am much stronger than you are." "Why, are you able to secure the means of living by your plunder?" "Well, I have often caught and carried away an ostrich in my talons." The Eagle, persuaded by these words, accepted him as her mate. Shortly after the nuptials, the Eagle said, "Fly off, and bring me back the ostrich you promised me." The Kite, soaring aloft into the air, brought back the shabbiest possible mouse, foul-smelling from the length of time it had lain about the fields. "Is this," said the Eagle, "the faithful fulfilment of your promise to me?" The Kite replied, "That I might attain to your royal hand, there is nothing that I would not have promised, however much I knew that I must fail in the performance."

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix I, No. 34.)


ONCE when the Birds had all gathered together in a certain spot, they saw a man sowing his field with flax. When the Swallow saw that the other Birds paid no attention to this, she called them all to her and gave them this advice:

"A great danger threatens us if we let this seed grow and ripen!" The other Birds all laughed at her. When the flax had begun to sprout, the Swallow again warned them: "Destruction is approaching," she cried. "Fall to work and uproot these fatal seeds; for if we let them grow, nets will be made from the flax, and we shall fall victims to man's cleverness!" But the other Birds still laughed at the Swallow's words, and foolishly spurned her wise counsels. Soon afterwards the cautious Swallow went and made her home among men, building her nest in safety among the rafters of a barn. But the other Birds, who had scorned her sage advice, were caught and perished in the nets woven from the flax.

The foolish turn a deaf ear to wise counsel.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix II, No. 12.)


A PARTRIDGE was once perched on an upper branch of a tree, when a Fox came up and at once addressed her as follows: "Beautiful Partridge, how lovely are your features! Your beak is like coral, and your legs outrival the brilliance of royal purple. If only you were asleep, you would be more beautiful still." The trusting bird, like a little simpleton, at once closed her eyes; whereupon the Fox swiftly leaped high in the air and caught her in his mouth. The Partridge, lamenting her fate, poured forth a broken, tearful prayer: "Oh, Fox I beseech you by the fame of your artful ways eat me if you will but first praise me once again before I die!" The Fox moved by this prayer opened his mouth and the Partridge quickly made her escape. "Why did I have to speak?" lamented the disappointed Fox; and the Partridge replied, "Why did I have to close my eyes when I was not even sleepy?"

This fable is for those who talk when there is no need, and for those who sleep when they should keep watch.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix II, No. 13.)


A SLAVE, well known in the neighbourhood, was running away from a cruel master, when he fell in with Æsop. "Why so frightened?" asked the latter.

"I will tell you the truth. Father Æsop,—for you have well earned that name, because we can all safely confide our troubles to you. I am tired of beatings, and there is no end to the blows. Besides that, I am put to the hardest sort of work. If my master feasts at home, I wait upon him all night long; if he is invited out, I watch till day-break in the roadway. I have earned my liberty, and I am treated like a dog. If I felt that it was my own fault, I would bear it patiently. Unhappy creature that I am, not only am I half starved, but I must suffer besides this unending cruelty. It is for these reasons, which have taken me so long to tell, that I have decided to run away, wherever my feet will take me."

"Now, listen," answered Æsop. "You have suffered all these hardships, although you have done nothing wrong. How much worse suffering do you think awaits you, if you run away?" The slave took the advice and returned to his master.

If you already have troubles, it is foolish to seek more.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix II, No. 19.)


A COCK once employed several Cats to carry his litter when he appeared in public. When the Fox saw him proudly borne along, she murmured to herself, "I warn you, friend Cock, to be on your guard. For if you study the faces of those Cats, they look as though they were carrying off a captured prey, and not an unwelcome burden." Before long, the Cats, becoming hungry, made short work of their master, and divided the object of their crime between them.

A false sense of security often leads to danger.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix II, No. 16.)


ONE autumn, when the crop of woodland berries had begun to fail, a hungry Bear made his way down to the rocky seashore, and seizing a big stone between his hairy limbs slowly lowered himself into the water. Before long a number of crabs had laid fast hold upon the thick fur of his hide, whereupon the Bear climbed back upon dry land, shook off the haul of sea-food he had netted, and settled down to enjoy their tender meat at his leisure.

Even the dullest brains are sharpened by hunger.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix II, No. 21.)


A SNAKE, happening one day upon a Lizard, seized hold of it and prepared to swallow it down his rapacious throat. The Lizard, however, quickly snatched up a small stick that lay near and held it cross-wise between its clenched teeth. The ends of the stick, catching the corners of the greedy jaws, neatly turned the trick upon the Snake, who, half choked, must needs let his victim escape unhurt. A quick wit often makes up for lack of strength.

(Phædrus, Fables, Appendix II, No. 23.)