The Ass and the Lapdog

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The Ass and the Lapdog
by Aesop

Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the asse and of the yong dogge

None ought to entermete hym of that what he can not do wherof Esope recyted suche a fable / Of an asse whiche was in the hows of a lord / whiche lord had a lytyll dogge / whiche he loued wel / and gaf hym mete and ete vpon his table / And the lytyll dogge lyked and chered / and lepte vpon his gowne / And to alle them that were in the hows he made chere / wherfor the asse was enuyous and sayd in hym self / yf my lord and his meyny loue this myschaunt beste by cause that he chereth and maketh feste to euery body / by gretter reason they ought to loue me yf I make chere to them / Thenne sayd he in hym self / Fro hensforth I shalle take my disporte and shalle make Ioye and playe with my lord / and wyth his meyny / And ones as the asse was in this thoughte and ymagynacion / hit happed that he sawe his lord whiche entryd in to his hows / the asse beganne thenne to daunse and to make feest and songe with his swete voys / and approched hym self toward his lord & went & lepte vpon his shoulders / and beganne to kysse and to lykke hym / The lord thenne beganne to crye oute with a hyghe voys and sayd / lete this fowl and payllard / whiche hurteth and byteth me sore / be bete and putt awey / The lordes seruauntes thenne toke anone grete staues / and beganne to smyte vpon the poure asse / and so sore corryged and bete hym / that after he had no luste ne courage to daunse / ne make to none chere ne feste /

And therfore none ought to entermete hym self for to doo a thynge / whiche as for hym impossyble is to be done / For the vnwyse displeseth there / where as he supposeth to please

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


A Gentleman had got a Favorite-Spaniel, that would be still toying and leaping upon him, licking his Cheeks, and playing a thousand pretty Gamboles, which the Master was well enough pleas’d withal. The wanton Humour succeeded so well with the Puppy, that an Ass in the House would needs go the same gamesome way to work, to curry favour for himself too; but he was quickly given to understand, with a good Cudgel, the difference betwixt the one Play-Fellow and the other.

THE MORAL People that Live by Example, should do well to look very narrowly into the Force and Authority of the President, without saying or doing things at a venture: For that may become one Man, which would be absolutely intolerable in another, under different Circumstances.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Ass and the Lapdog

A Man had an Ass, and a Maltese Lapdog, a very great beauty. The Ass was left in a stable and had plenty of oats and hay to eat, just as any other Ass would. The Lapdog knew many tricks and was a great favorite with his master, who often fondled him and seldom went out to dine without bringing him home some tidbit to eat. The Ass, on the contrary, had much work to do in grinding the corn-mill and in carrying wood from the forest or burdens from the farm. He often lamented his own hard fate and contrasted it with the luxury and idleness of the Lapdog, till at last one day he broke his cords and halter, and galloped into his master's house, kicking up his heels without measure, and frisking and fawning as well as he could. He next tried to jump about his master as he had seen the Lapdog do, but he broke the table and smashed all the dishes upon it to atoms. He then attempted to lick his master, and jumped upon his back. The servants, hearing the strange hubbub and perceiving the danger of their master, quickly relieved him, and drove out the Ass to his stable with kicks and clubs and cuffs. The Ass, as he returned to his stall beaten nearly to death, thus lamented: "I have brought it all on myself! Why could I not have been contented to labor with my companions, and not wish to be idle all the day like that useless little Lapdog!"

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Ass and the Lapdog

A Farmer one day came to the stables to see to his beasts of burden: among them was his favourite Ass, that was always well fed and often carried his master. With the Farmer came his Lapdog, who danced about and licked his hand and frisked about as happy as could be. The Farmer felt in his pocket, gave the Lapdog some dainty food, and sat down while he gave his orders to his servants. The Lapdog jumped into his master's lap, and lay there blinking while the Farmer stroked his ears. The Ass, seeing this, broke loose from his halter and commenced prancing about in imitation of the Lapdog. The Farmer could not hold his sides with laughter, so the Ass went up to him, and putting his feet upon the Farmer's shoulder attempted to climb into his lap. The Farmer's servants rushed up with sticks and pitchforks and soon taught the Ass that

Clumsy jesting is no joke.