Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/Fable CLXXXX
A Wild Afs and a Tame.
AS a Tame Ass was Airing himself in a Pleasant Meadow, with a Coat and Carcass in very Good Plight, up comes a Wild one to him from the next Wood, with this short Greeting. Brother (says he) I Envy your Happiness; and so he left him; It was his Hap some short time after this Encounter, to see his Tame Brother, Groaning under a Unmerciful Pack, and a Fellow at his Heels Goading him forward. He Rounds him in the Ear upon’t, and Whispers him, My Friend (says he) your Condition is not I Perceive, what I took it to be, for a body may buy Gold too Dear: And I am not for Purchasing Good Looks and Provender at this Rate.
THIS is to Caution us against running the Risque of Disappointments that are greater then the Present Inconveniences; and where the Misery, and Hazzard, docs more then Countervail the Benefit.
In the Fable of the Horse and the Ass, (Numb. 38.) The Ass finds himself Mistaken in his Opinion, both of the Foundation of Happiness, and of the Stability of it. His Mistake in This, looks another way; for he took his Brother to be Happy when he was not so: Even according to his own Standard: But we are too too apt to think other People more Happy, and our selves Less, then in Truth, They, or We are: Which Savours of a Malevolence on the One hand, and an Ingratitude on the Other. Nay it falls out many times, that the Envious Persons are rather to be Envy'd of the Two. What had the Wild Ass here to Complain of, or the Tame One to be Envy’d for: The Former was but in the Plight that Wild Asses usually are; and in truth ought to be. When they are in the Woods they are at Home, and a Forrest-Life, to them, is but according to Nature. As to the State and Rudeness of his Body, ‘tis but Answerable to the Condition of his Lot. The Tame Ass, 'tis true, was Better Fed, but then he was Harder Wrought, and in the Carrying of Packs, he did but serve Mankind in the Trade that Providence had Assign’d him; for he was made for Burdens. 'Tis a Fine Thing to be Fat and Smooth; but 'tis a Finer Thing to Live at Liberty and Ease.
To speak Properly, and to the Point, there is no such Thing as Happiness or Misery in this World (commonly so Reputed) but by Comparison; neither is there any Man so Miserable, as not to be Happy, or so Happy as not to be Miserable, in some Respect or Other: Only we are apt to Envy our Neighbours the Possession of Those Advantages that we Want, without ever giving Thanks for the Blessings that They Want, and We ourselves Enjoy. Now This Mixture in the Distributions of Providence, duly Consider'd, serves to make us Easy, as well as Necessary One to Another; and so to Unite us in a Consistence both of Friendship, and of Civil Convenience: For it is no less Requisite to Maintain a Truck in the Matter of Moral Offices, and Natural Faculties, then in the Common Bus'ness of Negotiation, and Commerce; and Humane Society can no more Subsist without the One, then without the Other. One Man furnishes Brains, Another Mony, a Third, Power, Credit, Mediation, Intelligence, Advice, Labour, Industry: (to say Nothing of a Thousand other Instances Reducible to This Head) so that the Rule of Communication holds as well betwixt Man and Man; as betwixt Country and Country; What One has Not, Another Has, and there is not That Man Living, but in some Case, or Other, stands in Need of his Neighbour, Take away This Correspondence, and the very Frame of all Political Bodies drops to pieces. Every thing is Best in fine, As God has Made it, and where God has Plac'd it. The Tame Ass Wrought Hard, for his Fine Coat, and the Wild one Far’d Hard, to Bailance the Comfort of his Freedom.