The Ant and the Fly

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the ante and of the flye

To make boost and auauntynge is but vayne glorye and folye / wherof Esope recyteth suche a fable / Of the ante of formyce and of the flye / whiche stryued to gyder / for to wete whiche was the most noble of them bothe / & the flye sayd to the formyce / Come hyder formyce / wylt thow compare thy self to me that dwelle in the kynges places and palays / and ete and drynke at theyr table / And also I kysse bothe kynge and qeune / and the most fayre maydens / And thow poure and myschaunt beest thow arte euer within the erthe / And thenne the formyce ansuerd to the flye / Now knowe I wel thy vanyte and folye / For thow auauntest the of that wherof thow sholdest disprayse the / For fro alle places where as thow goost or flyest / thow arte hated chaced and put oute / and lyuest in grete daunger / for assone as the wynter shalle come thow shalt deye / And I shal abyde on lyue alone within my chambre or hole / where as I drynke and ete at my playsyr / For the wynter shalle not forgyue to the thy mysdede / but he shalle slee the /

And thus he that wylle mocque or dispreyse somme other / he ought fyrst to loke and behold on hym self wel / For men sayn comynly / who that beholdeth in the glas / wel he seeth hym self / And who seeth hym self / wel he knoweth hym self / And who that knoweth hym self wel / lytel he preyseth hym self / And who that preyseth hym self lytyll / he is ful wyse and sage

L'Estrange's translation (1692)[edit]


There happen’d a warm Dispute betwixt an Ant and a Fly. Why, where’s the Honour, or the Pleasure in the World, says the Fly, that I have not my Part in? Are not all Temples and Places open to me? Am I not the Taster to Gods and Princes in all their Sacrifices and Entertainments? Am I not serv’d in Gold and Silver? And is not my Meat and Drink still of the best? And all this, without either Money or Pains? I trample upon Crowns, and kiss what Ladies Lips I please. And what have you now to pretend to all this while? Why, says the Ant, you value your self upon the Access you have to the Altars of the Gods, the Cabinets of Princes, and to all publick Feasts and Collations: And what’s all this but the Access of the Intruder, not of a Guest; for People are so far from liking your Company, that they kill ye as fast as they can catch ye. You are a Plague to ‘em where-ever you come. Your very Breath has Maggots in’t, and for the Kiss you brag of, what is it but the Perfume of the last Dunghill you touch’d upon, once remov’d? For my Part, I live upon what’s my own, and work honestly in the Summer to maintain my self in the Winter; whereas the whole Course of your scandalous Life is only cheating or sharping, one half of the Year, and starving the other.

THE MORAL. Here’s an Emblem of Industry, and Luxury, set forth at large; with the sober Advantages, and the scandalous Excesses of the one and of the other.