The Frogs Asking for a King

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Caxton's translation (1484)[edit]

Of the frogges and of Iupyter

No thyng is so good as to lyue Iustly and at lyberte For fredome and lyberte is better than ony gold or syluer / wherof Esope reherceth to vs suche a fable / There were frogges whiche were in dyches and pondes at theyre lyberte / they alle to gyder of one assente & of one wylle maade a request to Iupiter that he wold gyue them a kynge / And Iupyter beganne therof to merueylle / And for theyre kyng he casted to them a grete pyece of wood / whiche maade a grete sowne and noyse in the water / wherof alle the frogges had grete drede and fered moche / And after they approched to theyr kynge for to make obeyssaunce vnto hym / And whanne they perceyued that hit was but a pyece of wood / they torned ageyne to Iupiter prayenge hym swetely that he wold gyue to them another kynge / And Iupiter gaf to them the Heron for to be theyr kynge / And thenne the Heron beganne to entre in to the water / and ete them one after other / And whanne the frogges sawe that theyr kyng destroyed / and ete them thus / they beganne tendyrly to wepe / sayeng in this manere to the god Iupiter / Ryght hyghe and ryght myghty god Iupiter please the to delyuere vs fro the throte of this dragon and fals tyraunt whiche eteth vs the one after another / And he sayd to them / the kynge whiche ye haue demaunded shalle be your mayster /

For whan men haue that / which men oughte to haue / they ought to be ioyeful and glad And he that hath lyberte ought to kepe hit wel / For nothyng is better than lyberte / For lyberte shold not be wel sold for alle the gold and syluer of all the world

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


In the days of old, when the Frogs were all at liberty in the Lakes, and grown quite weary of living without Government, they petition’d Jupiter for a King, to the end that there might be some Distinction of good and Evil, by certain equitable Rules and Methods of Reward and Punishment. Jupiter, that knew the Vanity of their Hearts, threw them down a Log for their Governor; which upon the first Dash, frighted the whole Mobile of them into the Mud for the very fear on’t. This Panick Terror kept them in Awe for a while, till in good time one Frog, bolder than the rest, put up his Head, and look’d about him, to see how Squares went with their New King. Upon this, he calls his Fellow-Subjects together, opens the Truth of the Case, and nothing would serve them then, but riding a-top of him; insomuch that the Dread they were in before, is now turn’d into Insolence and Tumult. This King, they said, was too tame for them, and Jupiter must needs be entreated to send ‘em another: He did so; but Authors are divided upon it, whether ‘twas a Stork or a Serpent; though whether of the two soever it was, he left them neither Liberty nor Property, but made a Prey of his Subjects. Such was their Condition, in fine, that they sent Mercury to Jupiter yet once again for another King, whose Answer was this: They that will not be contented when they are well, must be patient when things are amiss with them; and People had better rest where they are, than go farther and fare worse.

THE MORAL The Mobile are uneasy without a Ruler: They are as restless with one; and oftner they shift, the worse they are: so that Government or no Government, a King of God’s making or of the Peoples, or none at all, the Multitude are never to be satisfied.

Townsend's translation (1887)[edit]

The Frogs Asking for a King

The Frogs, grieved at having no established Ruler, sent ambassadors to Jupiter entreating for a King. Perceiving their simplicity, he cast down a huge log into the lake. The Frogs were terrified at the splash occasioned by its fall and hid themselves in the depths of the pool. But as soon as they realized that the huge log was motionless, they swam again to the top of the water, dismissed their fears, climbed up, and began squatting on it in contempt. After some time they began to think themselves ill-treated in the appointment of so inert a Ruler, and sent a second deputation to Jupiter to pray that he would set over them another sovereign. He then gave them an Eel to govern them. When the Frogs discovered his easy good nature, they sent yet a third time to Jupiter to beg him to choose for them still another King. Jupiter, displeased with all their complaints, sent a Heron, who preyed upon the Frogs day by day till there were none left to croak upon the lake.

Jacobs' translation (1894)[edit]

The Frogs Desiring a King

The Frogs were living as happy as could be in a marshy swamp that just suited them; they went splashing about caring for nobody and nobody troubling with them. But some of them thought that this was not right, that they should have a king and a proper constitution, so they determined to send up a petition to Jove to give them what they wanted. "Mighty Jove," they cried, "send unto us a king that will rule over us and keep us in order." Jove laughed at their croaking, and threw down into the swamp a huge Log, which came down - kerplash! - into the swamp. The Frogs were frightened out of their lives by the commotion made in their midst, and all rushed to the bank to look at the horrible monster; but after a time, seeing that it did not move, one or two of the boldest of them ventured out towards the Log, and even dared to touch it; still it did not move. Then the greatest hero of the Frogs jumped upon the Log and commenced dancing up and down upon it, thereupon all the Frogs came and did the same; and for some time the Frogs went about their business every day without taking the slightest notice of their new King Log lying in their midst. But this did not suit them, so they sent another petition to Jove, and said to him, "We want a real king; one that will really rule over us." Now this made Jove angry, so he sent among them a big Stork that soon set to work gobbling them all up. Then the Frogs repented when too late.

Better no rule than cruel rule.