Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists/Fable XVI

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3929835Fables of Æsop and Other Eminent Mythologists — Fable XVI: A Lion and a MouseRoger L'Estrange

Fab. XVI.

A Lion and a Mouse.

UPon the Roaring of a Beast in the Wood, a Mouse ran presently out to see what News: and what was it, but a Lion Hamper'd in a Net! This Accident brought to her mind, how that she her self, but some few Days before, had fall'n under the Paw of a Certain Generous Lion, that let her go again. Upon a Strict Enquiry into the Matter, she found This to be That very Lion; and so let her self presently to Work upon the Couplings of the Net; Gnaw'd the Threds to pieces, and in Gratitude Deliver'd her Preserver.

The Moral.

Without Good Nature, and Gratitude, Men had as good live in a Wilderness as in a Society. There is no Subject so Inconsiderable, but his Prince, at some time or Other, may have Occasion for him, and it holds through the Whole Scale of the Creation, that the Great and the Little have Need one of Another.


There is Nothing so Little, but Greatness may come to Stand in need on't, and therefore Prudence and Discretion ought to have a place in Clemency, as well as in Piety and Justice. 'Tis Doing as we would be done by; and the Obligation is yet Stronger, when there is Gratitude, as well as Honour and Good Nature in the Case. The Generosity of the Lion, and the Gratitude of the Mouse; The Power, the Dignity, and the Eminence of the One, and the Meanness of the Other; do all Concur to the making of this a very Instructive Fable. Who would have thought that Providence should ever have lay'd the Life of a Lion at the Mercy of a Mouse? But the Divine Wisdom that brings the Greatest Ends to pass by the most Despicable Means, Orders the Reward of Virtue, and the punishment of Vice, by Ways only known to it self, in token of an Approbation of the One, and a Dislike of the Other.

Here's a Recommendation of Clemency and Wisdom, Both in One; for the Lion, in sparing the Life of the Mouse, sav'd his Own; and has left us in this Fable, an Instance of a Grateful Beast, that will stand upon Record to the Confusion of many an Ungrateful Man, that is to say, against those that in their Prosperity forget the Friends, that to their Loss and Hazard, flood by and succour'd them in their Adversity. This is a Sin of so odious and Dangerous an Example, that it puts even Piety, and Gratitude it self out of Countenance. And then the Tenderness on the other side, is Matter of Interest, and ordinary Prudence, as well as of Virtue. If this Lion had kill'd the Mouse, what would the other Mice have said or Done afterward, when they should have found the same Lion in the Toil? [Have a care Good People; for this is He that killed our Sister, and we cannot save His Life, without Hazarding our Own. If the Huntsmen Kill Him, we are sure He'll never Kill Us; Beside that we shall have one Enemy the fewer for't, when he's gone.] Now the Reason Æsop's Mouse here, works quite Another way. This Lion, (says he) gave Me my Life, when he had it at Mercy, and it is now My Turn, and Duty, to do what I can to preserve His. No Flesh, in fine, can be so Great, as not to tremble under the Force and Consequences of this President.