Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/Fable I
A Cock and a Diamond.
AS a Cock was turning up a Dunghill, he spy'd a Diamond. Well (says he to himself) this sparkling Foolery now to a Lapidary in my place, would have been the Making of him; but as to any Use or Purpose of mine, a Barley Corn had been worth Forty on't.
The Moralists will have Wisdom and Virtue to be meant by the Diamond; the World and the Pleasures of it, by the Dunghill; and by the Cock, a Voluptuous Man, that Abandons himself to his Lusts, without any regard, either to the Study, the Practice, or the Excellency of Better Things.
Now, with favour of the Ancients, this Fable seems to me, rather to hold forth an Emblem of Industry and Moderation. The Cock lives by his honest Labor, and maintains his Family out of it; His Scraping upon the Dunghill, is but Working in his Calling: The precious Stone is only a gawdy Temptation that Fortune throws in his way to divert him from his Business and his Duty. He would have been glad, he says, of a Barley-Corn instead on't; and so casts it aside as a thing not worth heeding. What is all this now, but the passing of a true Estimate upon the matter in question, in preferring that which Providence has made and pronounc'd to be the Staff of Life, before a glittering Gew-Gaw, that has no other Value, then what Vanity, Pride, and Luxury, have set upon't? The Price of the Market to a Jeweller in his Trade, is one thing, but the intrinsick Worth of a thing, to a Man of Sense, and Judgment, is another. Nay, that very Lapidary himself, with a coming Stomach, and in the Cock's place, would have made the Cock's Choice. The Doctrin, in short, may be this; That we are to prefer things necessary, before things superfluous; the Comforts and the Blessings of Providence, before the dazling and the splendid Curiosities of Mode and Imagination: and finally, that we are not to govern our Lives by Fancy, but by Reason.