The Fisherman Piping

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The Fisherman Piping
by Aesop

Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of a fyssher

Alle thynges which ben done & made in theyr tyme & season ben wel made / as by this present fable it appereth Of a fyssher whiche somtyme touched his bagpype nyhe the Ryuer for to make the fysshe to daunse / And whan he sawe that for none songe that he coude pype / the fysshes wold not daunse / As wroth dyd cast his nettes in to the Ryuer / & toke of fysshe grete quantite / And whanne he had drawe oute his nettes oute of the water / the fysshe beganne to lepe and to daunse / and thenne he sayd to them / Certaynly hit appiereth now wel / that ye be euylle beestes / For now whanne ye be taken / ye lepe and daunse / And whanne I pyped and played of my muse or bagpype ye dayned / ne wold not daunse /

Therfore hit appiereth wel that the thynges whiche ben made in season / ben wel made and done by reason

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


A Fisherman that understood Piping better than Netting, set himself down upon the side of a River, and touch’d his Flute, but not a Fish came near him. Upon this, he laid down his Pipe and cast his Net, which brought him a very great Draught. The Fish fell a frisking in the Net, and the Fisherman observing it; what Sots are these (says he) that would not dance when I play’d to ‘em, and will be dancing now without Musick!

THE MORAL. There are certain Rules and Methods for the doing of all Things in this World; and therefore let every Man stick to the Business he understands, and was brought up to, without making one Profession interfere with another.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Fisherman Piping

A fisherman skilled in music took his flute and his nets to the seashore. Standing on a projecting rock, he played several tunes in the hope that the fish, attracted by his melody, would of their own accord dance into his net, which he had placed below. At last, having long waited in vain, he laid aside his flute, and casting his net into the sea, made an excellent haul of fish. When he saw them leaping about in the net upon the rock he said: "O you most perverse creatures, when I piped you would not dance, but now that I have ceased you do so merrily."

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Fisher

A Fisher once took his bagpipes to the bank of a river, and played upon them with the hope of making the fish rise; but never a one put his nose out of the water. So he cast his net into the river and soon drew it forth filled with fish. Then he took his bagpipes again, and, as he played, the fish leapt up in the net. "Ah, you dance now when I play," said he.

"Yes," said an old Fish:

"When you are in a man's power you must do as he bids you."