Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/Fable XLVI to XLIX

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3925573Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists — Fable XLVI to XLIXRoger L'Estrange

Fab. XLVI.

An Axe and a Forrest.

A Carpenter that had got the Iron-Work of an Axe all-ready, went to the Next Forrest to beg only so much Wood as would make a Handle to't. The Matter seem'd so small that the Request was Easily Granted; but when the Timber-Trees came to find that the Whole Wood was to be Cut down by the Help of This Handle; There's No Remedy, they cry'd, but Patience, when People are undone by their own Folly.


A Tree and a Wedge.

A Workman was Cutting down a Tree to make Wedges of it. Well! says the Tree, I cannot but be extremely Troubled at the Thought of what I'm now a doing; And I do not so much Complain neither, of the Axe that does the Execution, as of the Man that Guides it; but it is My Misery that I am to be Destroy'd by the Fruit of my own Body.


The Eagle and Arrow.

AN Eagle that was Watching upon a Rock once for a Hare, had the Ill Hap to be Struck with an Arrow. This Arrow, it seems, was Feather'd from her own Wing, Which very Consideration went nearer her Heart, she said, than Death it self.

Fab. XLIX.

A Thrush taken with Birdlime.

IT was the Fortune of a Poor Thrush, among other Birds, to be taken with a Bush of Lime-Twigs, and the Miserable Creature Reflecting upon it, that the Chief Ingredient in the Birdlime came out of her own Guts: I am not half so much Troubled, says the Thrush, at the Thought of Dying, as at the Fatality of Contributing to my Own Ruine.

The Moral of the Four Fables above.

Nothing goes nearer a Man in his Misfortunes, then to find himself Undone by his Own Folly, or but any way Accessory to his own Ruine.


The Fables of the Ax-Handle, and the Wedge, serve to Precaution us not to put our selves Needlesly upon an After Game, but to Weigh before hand what we Say, and Do. We should have a Care how we Arm our Enemies against our Selves; for there's Nothing goes Nearer a Man than to be Undone by his Own Improvidence; and Nothing afterward more Ridiculous, then to Blame Fortune for our own Faults: Though we are so Fram'd by Nature, in respeft of our Souls and Bodies, that One Part of a Man is still Wounded by the Other. Nothing so much Troubled the Eagle and the Thrush, as the Thought of assisting to their own Destruction.

There's No living in This World without an Exchange of Civil Offices, and the Need we have One of Another, goes a Great Way toward the Making of us Love One Another. How is this Amity, and Communication to be entertain'd now, but by the Commerce of Giving and Receiving? Reason, and Experience, are Sufficient to convince us of the Necessity of such a Correspondence; And this Fiction of the Axe and the Forrest, and so of the Tree and the Wedge, shews us the Danger of it too, if it be not Manag'd with a Provident Respect to All the Niceties of Circumstance, and Contingency in the Case. People have got a Custom, 'tis true, of Computing upon the Present Need, and Value of Things, without ever heeding the Consequences of them: As if all our Askings, and our Grantings were to be Governed by the Standard of the Market. 'Tis so pityful a Bus'ness, says One, and it was so small a Thing, says Another; And yet this Pityful Busness, and this Small Thing proves at last to be as much as a Man's Life, Honor, and Estate is Worth. Alas! What's a Handle for an Axe, out of a whole Forrest! What's the Writing of a Man's Name, or the saying Ay, or No to a Question? And yet the very Safety and Honour of our Prince and Country, and the Summ of our Well-being lies many a time at Stake upon the Issue of doing either the One or the Other. Nay and let the People we have to do withal be never so Just and Honest, it is yet a Temerity, and a Folly Inexcusable, to Deliver up our selves Needlesly into Anothers Power: For He that does any thing Rashly, must: be taken in Equity of Construction to do it willingly: For he was Free to Deliberate or Not : 'Tis Good Advice, to Consider, First, what the Thing is that is Desired. 2. The Character of the Person that Asks. 3. What use may be made on't to the Detriment of him that Grants the Request, and so to Resolve how far in Duty, Humanity, Prudence, Justice, and Respect, we are to Comply with it. Wheresoever there is a Moral Right on the One Hand, No Secondary Interest can Discharge it on the Other. A Pris'ner upon Parole must surrender himself upon Demand, though he Die for't. A Man may Contribute to his own Ruin Several Ways; but in Cases not to be Foreseen, and so not to be Prevented, it may be his Misfortune, and the Man not to blame. We are not to omit Precaution however, for fear an Ill Use should be made of Those Things that we do, even with a Good Intention; but we are still to Distinguish betwixt what may Possibly, and what will Probably be done, according to the Belt Measures we can take of the End of Asking; for there would be No Place left for the Functions of Humane Society, if the Possibility of Abusing a Kindness, should wholly Divert us from the Exercise of Charity and Good Nature. There may be Great Mischief Wrought yet, without any thing of a Previous Malice, and it may be Hazardous to Yield, even where the Proposal is wholly Innocent. There may be other Propositions again, that were Originally Design'd for Snares, to the Short-sighted and Credulous, Now 'tis the Art of Life, Critically to Discern the One Case from, the Other.

There needs Little more to be said to the Emblems of the Eagle and the Thrush, than to observe, that both by Chance, and by Nature, we are made Accessary to our Own Ruines: and That's enough to Trouble a Body, though not to Condemn him.