The fables of Phaedrus.

The five books

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Book I

The prologue.

The matter which Æsop, the inventor of Fables, has provided, I have polished in Iambic verse.
The advantages of this little work are twofold—that it excites laughter, and by counsel guides the life of man. But if any one shall think fit to cavil, because not only wild beasts, but even trees speak, let him remember that we are disporting in fables.

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The Wolf and the Lamb.

Driven by thirst, a Wolf and a Lamb had come to the same stream; the Wolf stood above, and the Lamb at a distance below. Then, the spoiler, prompted by a ravenous maw, alleged a pretext for a quarrel. “Why,” said he, “have you made the water muddy for me while I am drinking?” The Fleece-bearer, trembling, answered: “Prithee, Wolf, how can I do what you complain of? The water is flowing downwards from you to where I am drinking.”
The other, disconcerted by the force of truth, exclaimed: “Six months ago, you slandered me.” “Indeed,” answered the Lamb, “I was not born then.” “By Hercules,” said the Wolf, “then ’twas your father slandered me;” and so, snatching him up, he tore him to pieces, killing him unjustly.

This Fable is applicable to those men who, under false pretences, oppress the innocent.

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The Frogs asking for a king.

When AthensI was flourishing under just laws, liberty grown wanton embroiled the city, and license relaxed the reins of ancient discipline.
Upon this, the partisans of factions conspiring, Pisistratus the TyrantI seized the citadel.
When the Athenians were lamenting their sad servitude (not that he was cruel, but because every burden is grievous to those who are unused to it), and began to complain, Æsop related a Fable to the following effect:

The Frogs, roaming at large in their marshy fens, with loud clamour demanded of Jupiter a king, who, by his authority, might check their dissolute manners.
The Father of the Gods smiled, and gave them a little Log, which, on being thrown among them startled the timorous race by the noise and sudden commotion in the bog. When it had lain for some time immersed in the mud, one of them by chance silently lifted his head above the water, and having taken a peep at the king, called up all the rest. Having got the better of their fears, vying with each other, they swim towards him, and the insolent mob leap upon the Log.
After defiling it with every kind of insult, they sent to Jupiter, requesting another king, because the one that had been given them was useless.
Upon this, he sent them a Water Snake, who with his sharp teeth began to gobble them up one after another. Helpless they strive in vain to escape death; terror deprives them of voice.
By stealth, therefore, they send through Mercury a request to Jupiter, to succour them in their distress. Then said the God in reply: Since you would not be content with your good fortune, continue to endure your bad fortune.

Do you also, O fellow-citizens, said Æsop, submit to the present evil, lest a greater one befall you.

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The vain Jackdaw and the Peacock.

That one ought not to plume oneself on the merits which belong to another, but ought rather to pass his life in his own proper guise, Æsop has given us this illustration:

A Jackdaw, swelling with empty pride, picked up some feathers which had fallen from a Peacock, and decked himself out therewith; upon which, despising his own kind, he mingled with a beauteous flock of Peacocks.
They tore his feathers from off the impudent bird, and put him to flight with their beaks.
The Jackdaw, thus roughly handled, in grief hastened to return to his own kind; repulsed by whom, he had to submit to sad disgrace. Then said one of those whom he had formerly despised: “If you had been content with our station, and had been ready to put up with what nature had given, you would neither have experienced the former affront, nor would your ill fortune have had to feel the additional pang of this repulse.” 

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The Dog carrying some meat across a river.

He who covets what belongs to another, deservedly loses his own.

As a Dog, swimming through a river, was carrying a piece of meat, he saw his own shadow in the watery mirror; and, thinking that it was another booty carried by another dog, attempted to snatch it away; but his greediness was disappointed, he both dropped the food which he was holding in his mouth, and was after all unable to reach that at which he grasped.

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The Cow, the She-goat, the Sheep and the Lion.

An alliance with the powerful is never to be relied upon: the present Fable testifies the truth of my maxim.

A Cow, a She-Goat, and a Sheep patient under injuries, were partners in the forests with a Lion. When they had captured a Stag of vast bulk, thus spoke the Lion, after it had been divided into shares: “Because my name is Lion, I take the first; the second you will yield to me because I am courageous; then, because I am the strongest, the third will fall to my lot; if anyone touches the fourth, woe betide him.”

Thus did unscrupulousness seize upon the whole prey for itself.

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The Frogs’ complaint against the Sun.

Æsop, on seeing the pompous wedding of a thief, who was his neighbour, immediately began to relate the following story:

Once on a time, when the Sun was thinking of taking a wife, the Frogs sent forth their clamour to the stars.
Disturbed by their croakings, Jupiter asked the cause of their complaints. Then said one of the inhabitants of the pool: “As it is, by himself he parches up all the standing waters, and compels us unfortunates to languish and die in our scorched abode. What is to become of us, if he beget children?”

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Vulpis ad personam tragicam

A Fox, by chance, casting his eyes on a Tragic Mask: “Ah,” said she, “great as is its beauty, still it has no brains.”

This is meant for those to whom fortune has granted honor and renown, leaving them void of common sense.

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The Wolf and the Crane

He who expects a recompense for his services from the dishonest commits a twofold mistake; first, because he assists the undeserving, and in the next place, because he cannot be gone while he is yet safe.

A bone that he had swallowed stuck in the jaws of a Wolf. Thereupon, overcome by extreme pain, he began to tempt all and sundry by great rewards to extract the cause of misery. At length, on his taking an oath, a Crane was prevailed on, and, trusting the length of her neck to his throat, she wrought, with danger to herself, a cure for the Wolf. When she demanded the promised reward for this service, “You are an ungrateful one,” replied the Wolf, “to have taken your head in safety out of my mouth, and then to ask for a reward.”

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The Sparrow and the Hare

Let us show, in a few lines, that it is unwise to be heedless of ourselves, while we are giving advice to others.

A Sparrow upbraided a Hare that had been pounced upon by an Eagle, and was sending forth piercing cries. “Where now,” said he, “is that fleetness for which you are so remarkable? Why were your feet thus tardy?” While he was speaking, a Hawk seizes him unawares, and kills him, shrieking aloud with vain complaints.
The Hare, almost dead, as a consolation in his agony, exclaimed: “You, who so lately, free from care, were ridiculing my misfortunes, have now to deplore your own fate with as woful cause.”

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The Wolf, the Fox and the Ape

Whoever has once become notorious by base fraud, even if he speaks the truth, gains no belief. To this, a short Fable of Æsop bears witness.

A Wolf indicted a Fox upon a charge of theft; the latter denied that she was amenable to the charge. Upon this, the Ape sat as judge between them; and when each of them had pleaded his cause, the Ape is said to have pronounced this sentence: “You, Wolf, appear not to have lost what you demand; I believe that you, Fox, have stolen what you so speciously deny.”

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The Ass and the Lion hunting

A dastard, who in his talk brags of his prowess, and is devoid of courage, imposes upon strangers, but is the jest of all who know him.

A Lion having resolved to hunt in company with an Ass, concealed him in a thicket, and at the same time enjoined him to frighten the wild beasts with his voice, to which they were unused, while he himself was to catch them as they fled. Upon this, Long-ears, with all his might, suddenly raised a cry, and terrified the beasts with this new cause of astonishment. While, in their alarm, they are flying to the well-known outlets, they are overpowered by the dread onset of the Lion; who, after he was wearied with slaughter, called forth the Ass from his retreat, and bade him cease his clamour.
On this the other, in his insolence, inquired: “What think you of the assistance given by my voice?” “Excellent!” said the Lion, “so much so, that if I had not been acquainted with your spirit and your race, I should have fled in alarm like the rest.”

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The Stag at the stream

This story shows that what you contemn is often found of more utility than what you load with praises.

A Stag, when he had drunk at a stream, stood still, and gazed upon his likeness in the water. While there, in admiration, he was praising his branching horns, and finding fault with the extreme thinness of his legs, suddenly roused by the cries of the huntsmen, he took to flight over the plain, and with nimble course escaped the dogs. Then a wood received the beast; in which, being entangled and caught by his horns, the dogs began to tear him to pieces with savage bites. While dying, he is said to have uttered these words: “Oh, how unhappy am I, who now too late find out how useful to me were the things that I despised; and what sorrow the things I used to praise, have caused me.”

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The Cobbler turned Physician

A bungling Cobbler, broken down by want, having begun to practise physic in a strange place, and selling his antidote under a feigned name, gained some reputation for himself by his delusive speeches.

Upon this, the King of the city, who lay ill, being afflicted with a severe malady, asked for a cup, for the purpose of trying him; and then pouring water into it, and pretending that he was mixing poison with the fellow’s antidote, ordered him to drink it off, in consideration of a stated reward. Through fear of death, the cobbler then confessed that not by any skill in the medical art, but through the stupidity of the public, he had gained his reputation. The King, having summoned a council, thus remarked: “What think you of the extent of your madness, when you do not hesitate to trust your lives to one to whom no one would trust his feet to be fitted with shoes?”

This, I should say with good reason, is aimed at those through whose folly impudence makes a profit.

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The Ass and the Old Shepherd

In a change of government, the poor change nothing beyond the name of their master. That this is the fact this little Fable shows.

A timorous Old Man was feeding an Ass in a meadow. Frightened by a sudden alarm of the enemy, he tried to persuade the Ass to fly, lest they should be taken prisoners. But he leisurely replied: “Pray, do you suppose that the conqueror will place double panniers upon me?” The Old Man said, “No.” “Then what matters it to me, so long as I have to carry my panniers, whom I serve?”

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The Fox and the Raven

He who is delighted at being flattered with artful words, generally pays the ignominious penalty of a late repentance.

As a Raven, perched in a lofty tree, was about to eat a piece of cheese, stolen from a window, a Fox espied him, and thereupon began thus to speak: “O Raven, what a glossiness there is upon those feathers of yours! What grace you carry in your shape and air! If you had a voice, no bird whatever would be superior to you.” On this, the other, while, in his folly, attempting to show off his voice, let fall the cheese from his mouth, which the crafty Fox with greedy teeth instantly snatched up. Then, too late, the Raven, thus, in his stupidity overreached, heaved a bitter sigh.

By this story it is shown, how much ingenuity avails, and how wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.

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The Stag, the Sheep, and the Wolf

When a rogue offers his name as surety in a doubtful case, he has no design to act straight-forwardly, but is looking to mischief.

A Stag asked a Sheep for a measure of wheat, a Wolf being his surety. The other, however, suspecting fraud, replied: “The Wolf has always been in the habit of plundering and absconding; you, of rushing out of sight with rapid flight: where am I to look for you both when the day comes?”

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The aged lion, the wild boar, the bull and the ass

Whoever has fallen from a previous high estate, is in his calamity the butt even of cowards.

As a Lion, worn out with years, and deserted by his strength, lay drawing his last breath, a Wild Boar came up to him, with flashing tusks, and with a blow revenged an old affront. Next, with hostile horns, a Bull pierced the body of his foe. An Ass, on seeing the wild beast maltreated with impunity, tore up his forehead with his heels. On this, expiring, he said: “I have borne, with indignation, the insults of the brave; but in being inevitably forced to bear with you, disgrace to nature! I seem to die a double death.”

 

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The man and the weasel

A Weasel, on being caught by a Man, wishing to escape impending death: “Pray,” said she, “do spare me, for ’tis I who keep your house clear of troublesome mice.” The Man made answer: “If you did so for my sake, it would be a reason for thanking you, and I should have granted you the pardon you entreat. But, inasmuch as you do your best that you may enjoy the scraps which they would have gnawed, and devour the mice as well, don’t think of placing your pretended services to my account;” and so saying, he put the wicked creature to death.

Those persons ought to recognize this as applicable to themselves, whose object is private advantage, and who boast to the unthinking of an unreal merit.

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The Sheep, the Dog, and the Wolf

Liars generally pay the penalty of their guilt.

A Dog, who was a false accuser, having demanded of a Sheep a loaf of bread, which he affirmed he had entrusted to her charge; a Wolf, summoned as a witness, affirmed that not only one was owing but ten. Condemned on false testimony, the Sheep had to pay what she did not owe. A few days after, the Sheep saw the Wolf lying in a pit. “This,” said she, “is the reward of villany, sent by the Gods.”

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The Woman in Labour

No one returns with good will to the place which has done him a mischief.

Her months completed, a Woman in labour lay upon the ground, uttering woful moans. Her Husband entreated her to lay her body on the bed, where she might with more ease deposit her ripe burden. “I feel far from confident,” said she, “that my pains can end in the place where they originated.”

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The Bitch and her Whelps

The fair words of a wicked man are fraught with treachery, and the subjoined lines warn us to shun them.

A Bitch, ready to whelp, having entreated another that she might give birth to her offspring in her kennel, easily obtained the favour. Afterwards, on the other asking for her place back again, she renewed her entreaties, earnestly begging for a short time, until she might be enabled to lead forth her whelps when they had gained sufficient strength. This time being also expired, the other began more urgently to press for her abode: “If” said the tenant, “you can be a match for me and my litter, I will depart from the place.”

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The hungry Dogs

An ill-judged project is not only without effect, but also lures mortals to their destruction.

Some Dogs espied a raw hide sunk in a river. In order that they might more easily get it out and devour it, they fell to drinking up the water; they burst, however, and perished before they could reach what they sought.

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The aged Lion, the Wild Boar, the Bull, and the Ass

Whoever has fallen from a previous high estate, is in his calamity the butt even of cowards.

As a Lion, worn out with years, and deserted by his strength, lay drawing his last breath, a Wild Boar came up to him, with flashing tusks, and with a blow revenged an old affront. Next, with hostile horns, a Bull pierced the body of his foe. An Ass, on seeing the wild beast maltreated with impunity, tore up his forehead with his heels. On this, expiring, he said: “I have borne, with indignation, the insults of the brave; but in being inevitably forced to bear with you, disgrace to nature! I seem to die a double death.”

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The Man and the Weasel

A Weasel, on being caught by a Man, wishing to escape impending death: “Pray,” said she, “do spare me, for ’tis I who keep your house clear of troublesome mice.” The Man made answer: “If you did so for my sake, it would be a reason for thanking you, and I should have granted you the pardon you entreat. But, inasmuch as you do your best that you may enjoy the scraps which they would have gnawed, and devour the mice as well, don’t think of placing your pretended services to my account;” and so saying, he put the wicked creature to death.

Those persons ought to recognize this as applicable to themselves, whose object is private advantage, and who boast to the unthinking of an unreal merit.

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The Faithful Dog

The man who becomes liberal all of a sudden, gratifies the foolish, but for the wary spreads his toils in vain.

A Thief one night threw a crust of bread to a Dog, to try whether he could be gained by the proffered victuals: “Hark you,” said the Dog, “do you think to stop my tongue so that I may not bark for my master’s property? You are greatly mistaken. For this sudden liberality bids me be on the watch, that you may not profit by my neglect.”

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The Frog and the Ox

The needy man, while affecting to imitate the powerful, comes to ruin.

Once on a time, a Frog espied an Ox in a meadow, and moved with envy at his vast bulk, puffed out her wrinkled skin, and then asked her young ones whether she was bigger than the Ox. They said “No.” Again, with still greater efforts, she distended her skin, and in like manner enquired which was the bigger; they said: “The Ox.” At last, while, full of indignation, she tried, with all her might, to puff herself out, she burst her body on the spot.

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The Dog and the Crocodile

Those who give bad advice to discreet persons, both lose their pains, and are laughed to scorn.

It has been related, that Dogs drink at the river Nile running along, that they may not be seized by the Crocodiles. Accordingly, a Dog having begun to drink while running along, a Crocodile thus addressed him: “Lap as leisurely as you like; drink on; come nearer, and don’t be afraid,” said he. The other replied: “Egad, I would do so with all my heart, did I not know that you are eager for my flesh.”

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The Fox and the Stork

Harm should be done to no man; but if any one do an injury, this Fable shows that he may be visited with a like return.

A Fox is said to have given a Stork the first invitation to a banquet, and to have placed before her some thin broth in a flat dish, of which the hungry Stork could in no way get a taste. Having invited the Fox in return, she set before him a narrow-mouthed jar, full of minced meat and, thrusting her beak into it, satisfied herself, while she tormented her guest with hunger; who, after having in vain licked the neck of the jar, as we have heard, thus addressed the foreign bird “Every one is bound to bear patiently the results of his own example.”

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The Dog, the Treasure, and the Vulture

This Fable may be applied to the avaricious, and to those, who, born to a humble lot, affect to be called rich.

Grubbing up human bones, a Dog met with a Treasure; and, because he had offended the Gods the Manes, a desire for riches was inspired in him, that so he might pay the penalty due to the holy character of the place. Accordingly, while he was watching over the gold, forgetful of food, he was starved to death; on which a Vulture, standing over him, is reported to have said: “O Dog, you justly meet your death, who, begotten at a cross-road, and bred up on a dunghill, have suddenly coveted regal wealth.”

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The Fox and the Eagle

Men, however high in station, ought to be on their guard against the lowly; because, to ready address, revenge lies near at hand.

An Eagle one day carried off the whelps of a Fox, and placed them in her nest before her young ones, for them to tear in pieces as food. The mother, following her, began to entreat that she would not cause such sorrow to her miserable suppliant. The other despised her, as being safe in the very situation of the spot. The Fox snatched from an altar a burning torch, and surrounded the whole tree with flames, intending to mingle anguish to her foe with the loss of her offspring. The Eagle, that she might rescue her young ones from the peril of death, in a suppliant manner restored to the Fox her whelps in safety.

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The Ass deriding the Boar

Fools often, while trying to raise a silly laugh, provoke others by gross affronts, and cause serious danger to themselves.

An Ass meeting a Boar: “Good morrow to you, brother,” says he. The other indignantly rejects the salutation, and enquires why he thinks proper to utter such an untruth. The Ass, with legs crouching down, replies: “If you deny that you are like me, at all events I have something very like your snout.” The Boar, just on the point of making a fierce attack, suppressed his rage, and said: “Revenge were easy for me, but I decline to be defiled with such dastardly blood.”

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The Frogs frightened at the Battle of the Bulls

When the powerful are at variance, the lowly are the sufferers.

A Frog, viewing from a marsh, a combat of some Bulls: “Alas!” said she, “what terrible destruction is threatening us.” Being asked by another why she said so, as the Bulls were contending for the sovereignty of the herd, and passed their lives afar from them: “Their habitation is at a distance,” said she, “and they are of a different kind; still, he who is expelled from the sovereignty of the meadow, will take to flight, and come to the secret hiding-places in the fens, and trample and crush us with his hard hoof. Thus does their fury concern our safety.”

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The Kite and the Pigeons

He who entrusts himself to the protection of a wicked man, while he seeks assistance, meets with destruction.

Some Pigeons, having often escaped from a Kite, and by their swiftness of wing avoided death, the spoiler had recourse to stratagem, and by a crafty device of this nature, deceived the harmless race. “Why do you prefer to live a life of anxiety, rather than conclude a treaty, and make me your king, who can ensure your safety from every injury?” They, putting confidence in him, entrusted themselves to the Kite, who, on obtaining the sovereignty, began to devour them one by one, and to exercise authority with his cruel talons. Then said one of those that were left: “Deservedly are we smitten.”

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Book II

The prologue.

The plan of Æsop is confined to instruction by examples; nor by Fables is anything else aimed at than that the errors of mortals may be corrected, and persevering industry exert itself. Whatever the playful invention, therefore, of the narrator, so long as it pleases the ear, and answers its purpose, it is recommended by its merits, not by the Author’s name.

For my part, I will with all care follow the method of the sage; but if I should think fit to insert something of my own, that variety of subjects may gratify the taste, I trust, Reader, you will take it in good part; provided that my brevity be a fair return for such a favour: of which, that my praises may not be verbose, listen to the reason why you ought to deny the covetous, and even to offer to the modest that for which they have not asked.

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Cæsar to the chamberlain.

There is a certain set of busybodies at Rome, hurriedly running to and fro, busily engaged in idleness, out of breath about nothing at all, with much ado doing nothing, a trouble to themselves, and most annoying to others. It is my object, by a true story, to reform this race, if indeed I can: it is worth your while to attend.

Tiberius Cæsar, when on his way to Naples, came to his country-seat at Misenum, which, placed by the hand of Lucullus on the summit of the heights, beholds the Sicilian sea in the distance, and that of Etruria close at hand. One of the highly girt Chamberlains, whose tunic of Pelusian linen was nicely smoothed from his shoulders downwards, with hanging fringes, while his master was walking through the pleasant shrubberies, began with bustling officiousness to sprinkle the parched ground with a wooden watering-pot; but only got laughed at. Thence, by short cuts to him well known, he runs before into another walk,laying the dust. Cæsar takes notice of the fellow, and discerns his object. Just as he is supposing that there is some extraordinary good fortune in store for him: “Come hither,” says his master; on which he skips up to him, quickened by the joyous hope of a sure reward. Then, in a jesting tone, thus spoke the mighty majesty of the prince: “You have not profited much; your labour is all in vain; manumission stands at a much higher price with me.”

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The eagle, the cat, and the wild sow.

An Eagle had made her nest at the top of an oak; a Cat who had found a hole in the middle, had kittened there; a Sow, a dweller in the woods, had laid her offspring at the bottom. Then thus does the Cat with deceit and wicked malice, destroy the community so formed by accident. She mounts up to the nest of the Bird: “Destruction,” says she, “is preparing for you, perhaps, too, for wretched me; for as you see, the Sow, digging up the earth every day, is insidiously trying to overthrow the oak, that she may easily seize our progeny on the ground.” Having thus spread terror, and bewildered the Eagle’s senses, the Cat creeps down to the lair of the bristly Sow: “In great danger,” says she, “are your offspring; for as soon as you go out to forage with your young litter, the Eagle is ready to snatch away from you your little pigs.” Having filled this place likewise with alarm, she cunningly hides herself in her safe hole. Thence she wanders forth on tiptoe by night, and having filled herself and her offspring with food, she looks out all day long, pretending alarm. Fearing the downfall, the Eagle sits still in the branches; to avoid the attack of the spoiler, the Sow stirs not abroad. Why make a long story? They perished through hunger, with their young ones, and afforded the Cat and her kittens an ample repast.

Silly credulity may take this as a proof how much evil a double-tongued man may often contrive.

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The eagle, the crow, and the tortoise.

No one is sufficiently armed against the powerful; but if a wicked adviser joins them, nothing can withstand such a combination of violence and unscrupulousness.

An Eagle carried a Tortoise aloft, who had hidden her body in her horny abode, and in her concealment could not, while thus sheltered, be injured in any way. A Crow came through the air, and flying near, exclaimed: “You really have carried off a rich prize in your talons; but if I don’t instruct you what you must do, in vain will you tire yourself with the heavy weight.” A share being promised her, she persuades the Eagle to dash the hard shell from the lofty stars upon a rock, that, it being broken to pieces, she may easily feed upon the meat. Induced by her words, the Eagle attends to her suggestion, and at the same time gives a large share of the banquet to her instructress.

Thus she who had been protected by the bounty of nature, being an unequal match for the two, perished by an unhappy fate.

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The epilogue.

The Athenians erected a statue to the genius of Æsop, and placed him, though a slave, upon an everlasting pedestal, that all might know that the way to fame is open to all, and that glory is not awarded to birth but to merit. Since another has prevented me from being the first, I have made it my object, a thing which still lay in my power, that he should not be the only one. Nor is this envy, but emulation; and if Latium shall favour my efforts, she will have still more authors whom she may match with Greece. But if jealousy shall attempt to detract from my labours, still it shall not deprive me of the consciousness of deserving praise. If my attempts reach your ears, and your taste relishes these Fables, as being composed with skill, my success then banishes every complaint. But if, on the contrary, my learned labours fall into the hands of those whom a perverse nature has brought to the light of day, and who are unable to do anything except carp at their betters, I shall endure my unhappy destiny with strength of mind, until Fortune is ashamed of her own injustice.

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The lion, the robber and the traveller

While a Lion was standing over a Bullock, which he had brought to the ground, a Robber came up, and demanded a share. “I would give it you,” said the Lion, “were you not in the habit of taking without leave;” and so repulsed the rogue.
By chance, a harmless Traveller was led to the same spot, and on seeing the wild beast, retraced his steps; on which the Lion kindly said to him: “You have nothing to fear; boldly take the share which is due to your modesty.”
Then having divided the carcase, he sought the woods, that he might make room for the Man.

A very excellent example, and worthy of all praise; but covetousness is rich and modesty in want.

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The man and the dog.

A Man, torn by the bite of a savage Dog, threw a piece of bread, dipt in his blood, to the offender; a thing that he had heard was a remedy for the wound. Then said Æsop: “Don’t do this before many dogs, lest they devour us alive, when they know that such is the reward of guilt.”

The success of the wicked is a temptation to many.

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The mules and the robbers.

Laden with burdens, two Mules were travelling along; the one was carrying baskets with money, the other sacks distended with store of barley. The former, rich with his burden, goes exulting along, with neck erect, and tossing to-and-fro upon his throat his clear-toned bell: his companion follows, with quiet and easy step. Suddenly some Robbers rush from ambush upon them, and amid the slaughter pierce the Mule with a sword, and carry off the money; the valueless barley they neglect. While, then, the one despoiled was bewailing their mishaps: “For my part,” says the other, “I am glad I was thought so little of; for I have lost nothing, nor have I received hurt by a wound.”

According to the moral of this Fable, poverty is safe; great riches are liable to danger.

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The stag and the oxen.

A Stag, aroused from his woodland lair, to avoid impending death threatened by huntsmen, repaired with blind fear to the nearest farm-house, and hid himself in an ox-stall close at hand. Upon this, an Ox said to him, as he concealed himself: “Why, what do you mean, unhappy one, in thus rushing of your own accord upon destruction, and trusting your life to the abode of man?” To this he suppliantly replied: “Do you only spare me; the moment an opportunity is given I will again rush forth.” Night in her turn takes the place of day; the Neat-herd brings fodder, but yet sees him not. All the farm servants pass and repass every now and then; no one perceives him; even the Steward passes by, nor does he observe anything. Upon this, the stag, in his joy, began to return thanks to the Oxen who had kept so still, because they had afforded him hospitality in the hour of adversity. One of them made answer: “We really do wish you well; but if he, who has a hundred eyes, should come, your life will be placed in great peril.” In the meanwhile the Master himself comes back from dinner; and having lately seen the Oxen in bad condition, comes up to the rack: “Why,” says he, “is there so little fodder? Is litter scarce? What great trouble is it to remove those spiders’ webs?” While he is prying into every corner, he perceives too the branching horns of the Stag, and having summoned the household, he orders him to be killed, and carries off the prize.

This Fable signifies that the master sees better than any one else in his own affairs.

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The two women of different ages beloved by the middle-aged man

That the men, under all circumstances, are preyed upon by the women, whether they love or are beloved, this truly we learn from examples.

A Woman, not devoid of grace, held enthralled a certain Man of middle age, concealing her years by the arts of the toilet: a lovely Young creature, too, had captivated the heart of the same person. Both, as they were desirous to appear of the same age with him, began, each in her turn, to pluck out the hair of the Man. While he imagined that he was made trim by the care of the women, he suddenly found himself bald; for the Young Woman had entirely pulled out the white hairs, the Old Woman the black ones.

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Book III

THE PROLOGUE.
To Eutychus

If you have a desire, Eutychus, to read the little books of Phædrus, you must keep yourself disengaged from business, that your mind, at liberty, may relish the meaning of the lines. “But,” you say, “my genius is not of such great value, that a moment of time should be lost for it to my own pursuits.” There is no reason then why that should be touched by your hands which is not suited for ears so engaged. Perhaps you will say, “some holidays will come, which will invite me to study with mind unbent.” Will you rather, I ask you, read worthless ditties, than bestow attention upon your domestic concerns, give moments to your friends, your leisure to your wife, relax your mind, and refresh your body, in order that you may return more efficiently to your wonted duties? You must change your purpose and your mode of life, if you have thoughts of crossing the threshold of the Muses. I, whom my mother brought forth on the Pierian hill, upon which hallowed Mnemosyne, nine times fruitful, bore the choir of Muses to thundering Jove: although I was born almost in the very school itself, and have entirely erased all care for acquiring wealth from my breast, and with the approval of many have applied myself to these pursuits, am still with difficulty received into the choir of the Poets. What do you imagine must be the lot of him who seeks, with ceaseless vigilance, to amass great wealth, preferring the sweets of gain to the labours of learning?

But now, come of it what may (as Sinon said when he ur honor and your goodness. If you read it, I shall rejoice; but if otherwise, at least posterity will have something with which to amuse themselves.

Now will I explain in a few words why Fabulous narrative was invented. Slavery, subject to the will of another, because it did not dare to say what it wished, couched its sentiments in Fables, and by pleasing fictions eluded censure. In place of its foot-path I have made a road, and have invented more than it left, selecting some points to my own misfortune. But if any other than Sejanus had been the informer, if any other the witness, if any other the judge, in fine, I should confess myself deserving of such severe woes; nor should I soothe my sorrow with these expedients. If any one shall make erroneous surmises, and apply to himself what is applicable to all in common, he will absurdly expose the secret convictions of his mind. And still, to him I would hold myself excused; for it is no intention of mine to point at individuals, but to describe life itself and the manners of mankind. Perhaps some one will say, that I undertake a weighty task. If Æsop of Phrygia, if Anacharsis of Scythia could, by their genius, found a lasting fame, why should I who am more nearly related to learned Greece, forsake in sluggish indolence the glories of my country? especially as the Thracian race numbers its own authors, and Apollo was the parent of Linus, a Muse of Orpheus, who with his song moved rocks and tamed wild beasts, and held the current of Hebrus in sweet suspense. Away then, envy! nor lament in vain, because to me the customary fame is due.

I have urged you to read these lines; I beg that you will give me your sincere opinion of them with your well-known candour.

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Epilogue.

There are yet remaining Fables for me to write, but I purposely abstain; first, that I may not seem troublesome to you, whom a multiplicity of matters distract; and next, that, if perchance any other person is desirous to make a like attempt, he may still have something left to do; although there is so abundant a stock of matter that an artist will be wanting to the work, not work to the artist. I request that you will give the reward to my brevity which you promised; make good your word. For life each day is nearer unto death; and the greater the time that is wasted in delays, the less the advantage that will accrue to me. If you dispatch the matter quickly, the more lasting will be my enjoyment; the sooner I receive your favours, the longer shall I have the benefit thereof. While there are yet some remnants of a wearied life, there is room for your goodness; in aftertimes your kindness will in vain endeavour to aid me, infirm with old age; for then I shall have ceased to be able to enjoy your kindness, and death, close at hand, will be claiming its due. I deem it foolish to address my entreaties to you, when your compassion is so ready, spontaneously, to render assistance. A criminal has often gained pardon by confessing; how much more reasonably ought it to be granted to the innocent? It is your province now to judge of my cause; it will fall to others by-and-by; and again by a like revolution, the turn of others will come. Pronounce the sentence, as religion—as your oath permits; and give me reason to rejoice in your decision. My feelings have passed the limits they had proposed; but the mind is with difficulty restrained, which, conscious of unsullied integrity, is exposed to the insults of spiteful men. “Who are they?” you will ask: they will be seen in time. For my part, so long as I shall continue in my senses, I shall take care to recollect that “it is a dangerous thing for a man of humble birth to murmur in public.”

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Socrates to his friends.

The name of a friend is common; but fidelity is rarely found.

Socrates having laid for himself the foundation of a small house (a man, whose death I would not decline, if I could acquire similar fame, and like him I could yield to envy, if I might be but acquitted when ashes); one of the people, no matter who, amongst such passing remarks as are usual in these cases, asked: “Why do you, so famed as you are, build so small a house?”

“I only wish,” he replied, “I could fill it with real friends.”

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The bees and the drones, the wasp sitting as judge.

Some Bees had made their combs in a lofty oak. Some lazy Drones asserted that these belonged to them. The cause was brought into court, the Wasp sitting as judge; who, being perfectly acquainted with either race, proposed to the two parties these terms: “Your shape is not unlike, and your colour is similar; so that the affair clearly and fairly becomes a matter of doubt. But that my sacred duty may not be at fault through insufficiency of knowledge, each of you take hives, and pour your productions into the waxen cells; that from the flavour of the honey and the shape of the comb, the maker of them, about which the present dispute exists, may be evident.” The Drones decline; the proposal pleases the Bees. Upon this, the Wasp pronounces sentence to the following effect: “It is evident who cannot, and who did, make them; wherefore, to the Bees I restore the fruits of their labours.”

This fable I should have passed by in silence, if the Drones had not refused the proposed stipulation.

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The brother and sister.

Warned by this lesson, often examine yourself.

A certain Man had a very ugly Daughter, and also a Son, remarkable for his handsome features. These, diverting themselves, as children do, chanced to look into a mirror, as it lay upon their mother’s chair. He praises his own good looks; she is vexed, and cannot endure the raillery of her boasting brother, construing everything (and how could she do otherwise?) as a reproach against herself. Accordingly, off she runs to her Father, to be avenged on him in her turn, and with great rancour, makes a charge against the Son, how that he, though a male, has been meddling with a thing that belongs to the women. Embracing them both, kissing them, and dividing his tender affection between the two, he said: “I wish you both to use the mirror every day: you, that you may not spoil your beauty by vicious conduct; you, that you may make amends by your virtues for your looks.”

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The butcher and the ape.

A man seeing an Ape hanging up at a Butcher’s among the rest of his commodities and provisions, enquired how it might taste; on which the Butcher, joking, replied: “Just as the head is, such, I warrant, is the taste.”

This I deem to be said more facetiously than correctly; for on the one hand I have often found the good-looking to be very knaves, and on the other I have known many with ugly features to be most worthy men.

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The cock and the pearl.

A young Cock, while seeking for food on a dunghill, found a Pearl, and exclaimed: “What a fine thing are you to be lying in so unseemly a place. If any one sensible of your value had espied you here, you would long ago have returned to your former brilliancy. And it is I who have found you, I to whom food is far preferable! I can be of no use to you or you to me.”

This I relate for those who have no relish for me.

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The dog and the wolf.

I will shew in a few words how sweet is Liberty.

A Wolf, quite starved with hunger, chanced to meet a well-fed Dog, and as they stopped to salute each other, “Pray,” said the Wolf, “how is it that you are so sleek? or on what food have you made so much flesh? I, who am far stronger, am perishing with hunger.” The Dog frankly replied: “You may enjoy the same condition, if you can render the like service to your master.” “What is it?” said the other. “To be the guardian of his threshold, and to protect the house from thieves at night.” “I am quite ready for that,” said the Wolf; “at present I have to endure snow and showers, dragging on a wretched existence in the woods. How much more pleasant for me to be living under a roof, and, at my ease, to be stuffed with plenty of victuals.” “Come along, then, with me,” said the Dog. As they were going along, the Wolf observed the neck of the Dog, where it was worn with the chain. “Whence comes this, my friend?” “Oh, it is nothing.” “Do tell me, though.” “Because I appear to be fierce, they fasten me up in the day-time, that I may be quiet when it is light, and watch when night comes; unchained at midnight, I wander wherever I please. Bread is brought me without my asking; from his own table my master gives me bones; the servants throw me bits, and whatever dainties each person leaves; thus, without trouble on my part, is my belly filled.” “Well, if you have a mind to go anywhere, are you at liberty?” “Certainly not,” replied the Dog. “Then, Dog, enjoy what you boast of; I would not be a king, to lose my liberty.”

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The dog to the lamb.

A Dog said to a Lamb bleating among some She-Goats: “Simpleton, you are mistaken; your mother is not here;” and pointed out some Sheep at a distance, in a flock by themselves. “I am not looking for her,” said the Lamb, “who, when she thinks fit, conceives, then carries her unknown burden for a certain number of months, and at last empties out the fallen bundle; but for her who, presenting her udder, nourishes me, and deprives her young ones of milk that I may not go without.” “Still,” said the Dog, “she ought to be preferred who brought you forth.” “Not at all: how was she to know whether I should be born black or white? However, suppose she did know; seeing I was born a male, truly she conferred a great obligation on me in giving me birth, that I might expect the butcher every hour. Why should she, who had no power in engendering me, be preferred to her who took pity on me as I lay, and of her own accord shewed me a welcome affection? It is kindliness makes parents, not the ordinary course of Nature.”

By these lines the author meant to show that men are averse to fixed rules, but are won by kind services.

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The eunuch to the abusive man.

A Eunuch had a dispute with a scurrilous fellow, who, in addition to obscene remarks and insolent abuse, reproached him with the misfortune of his mutilated person. “Look you,” said the Eunuch, “this is the only point as to which I am effectually staggered, forasmuch as I want the evidences of integrity. But why, simpleton, do you charge me with the faults of fortune? That alone is really disgraceful to a man, which he has deserved to suffer.”

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The fly and the mule.

A Fly sat on the pole of a chariot, and rebuking the Mule: “How slow you are,” said she; “will you not go faster? Take care that I don’t prick your neck with my sting.” The Mule made answer: “I am not moved by your words, but I fear him who, sitting on the next seat, guides my yoke with his pliant whip, and governs my mouth with the foam-covered reins. Therefore, cease your frivolous impertinence, for I well know when to go at a gentle pace, and when to run.”

In this Fable, he may be deservedly ridiculed, who, without any strength, gives utterance to vain threats.

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The grasshopper and the owl.

He who does not conform to courtesy, mostly pays the penalty of his superciliousness.

A Grasshopper was making a chirping that was disagreeable to an Owl, who was wont to seek her living in the dark, and in the day-time to take her rest in a hollow tree. She was asked to cease her noise, but she began much more loudly to send forth her note; entreaties urged again only set her on still more. The Owl, when she saw she had no remedy, and that her words were slighted, attacked the chatterer with this stratagem: “As your song, which one might take for the tones of Apollo’s lyre, will not allow me to go to sleep, I have a mind to drink some nectar which Pallas lately gave me; if you do not object, come, let us drink together.” The other, who was parched with thirst, as soon as she found her voice complimented, eagerly flew up. The Owl, coming forth from her hollow, seized the trembling thing, and put her to death.

Thus what she had refused when alive, she gave when dead.

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The old woman and the cask.

An Old Woman espied a Cask, which had been drained to the dregs, lying on the ground, and which still spread forth from its ennobled shell a delightful smell of the Falernian lees. After she had greedily snuffed it up her nostrils with all her might; “O delicious fragrance,” said she, “how good I should say were your former contents, when the remains of them are such!”

What this refers to let him say who knows me.

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The panther and the shepherd.

Repayment in kind is generally made by those who are despised.

A Panther had once inadvertently fallen into a pit. The rustics saw her; some belaboured her with sticks, others pelted her with stones; while some, on the other hand, moved with compassion, seeing that she must die even though no one should hurt her, threw her some bread to sustain existence. Night comes on apace; homeward they go without concern, making sure of finding her dead on the following day. She, however, after having recruited her failing strength, with a swift bound effected her escape from the pit, and with hurried pace hastened to her den. A few days intervening, she sallies forth, slaughters the flocks, kills the shepherds themselves, and laying waste every side, rages with unbridled fury. Upon this those who had shown mercy to the beast, alarmed for their safety, made no demur to the loss of their flocks, and begged only for their lives. But she thus answered them: “I remember him who attacked me with stones, and him who gave me bread; lay aside your fears; I return as an enemy to those only who injured me.”

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The peacock to Juno.

A Peacock came to Juno, complaining sadly that she had not given to him the song of the Nightingale; that it was the admiration of every ear, while he himself was laughed at the very instant he raised his voice. The Goddess, to console him, replied: “But you surpass the nightingale in beauty, you surpass him in size; the brilliancy of the emerald shines upon your neck; and you unfold a tail begemmed with painted plumage.” “Wherefore give me,” he retorted, “a beauty that is dumb, if I am surpassed in voice?” “By the will of the Fates,” said she, “have your respective qualities been assigned; beauty to you, strength to the Eagle, melody to the Nightingale, to the Raven presages, unpropitious omens to the Crow; all of these are contented with their own endowments.”

Covet not that which has not been granted you, lest your baffled hopes sink down to useless repinings.

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The poet, on believing, and not believing.

It is dangerous alike to believe or to disbelieve. Of either fact, I will briefly lay before you an instance.

Hippolytus met his death, because his step-mother was believed: because Cassandra was not believed, Troy fell. Therefore, we ought to examine strictly into the truth of a matter, rather than suffer an erroneous impression to pervert our judgment. But, that I may not weaken this truth by referring to fabulous antiquity, I will relate to you a thing that happened within my own memory.

A certain married Man, who was very fond of his Wife, having now provided the white toga for his Son, was privately taken aside by his Freedman, who hoped that he should be substituted as his next heir, and who, after telling many lies about the youth, and still more about the misconduct of the chaste Wife, added, what he knew would especially grieve one so fond, that a gallant was in the habit of paying her visits, and that the honor of his house was stained with base adultery. Enraged at the supposed guilt of his Wife, the husband pretended a journey to his country-house, and privately stayed behind in town; then at night he suddenly entered at the door, making straight to his Wife’s apartment, in which the mother had ordered her son to sleep, keeping a strict eye over his ripening years. While they are seeking for a light, while the servants are hurrying to and fro, unable to restrain the violence of his raging passion, he approaches the bed, and feels a head in the dark. When he finds the hair cut close, he plunges his sword into the sleeper’s breast, caring for nothing, so he but avenge his injury. A light being brought, at the same instant he beholds his son, and his chaste wife sleeping in her apartment; who, fast locked in her first sleep, had heard nothing: on the spot he inflicted punishment on himself for his guilt, and fell upon the sword which a too easy belief had unsheathed. The accusers indicted the woman, and dragged her to Rome, before the Centumviri. Innocent as she was, dark suspicion weighed heavily against her, because she had become possessor of his property: her patrons stand and boldly plead the cause of the guiltless woman. The judges then besought the Emperor Augustus that he would aid them in the discharge of their oath, as the intricacy of the case had embarrassed them. After he had dispelled the clouds raised by calumny, and had discovered a sure source of truth: “Let the Freedman,” said he, “the cause of the mischief, suffer punishment; but as for her, at the same instant bereft of a son, and deprived of a husband, I deem her to be pitied rather than condemned. If the father of the family had thoroughly enquired into the charge preferred, and had shrewdly sifted the lying accusations, he would not, by a dismal crime, have ruined his house from the very foundation.”

Let the ear despise nothing, nor yet let it accord implicit belief at once: since not only do those err whom you would be far from suspecting, but those who do not err are sometimes falsely and maliciously accused.

This also may be a warning to the simple, not to form a judgment on anything according to the opinion of another; for the different aims of mortals either follow the bias of their goodwill or their prejudice. He alone will be correctly estimated by you, whom you judge of by personal experience.

These points I have enlarged upon, as by too great brevity I have offended some.

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The trees under the protection of the gods.

The Gods in days of yore made choice of such Trees as they wished to be under their protection. The Oak pleased Jupiter, the Myrtle Venus, the Laurel Phœbus, the Pine Cybele, the lofty Poplar Hercules. Minerva, wondering why they had chosen the barren ones, enquired the reason. Jupiter answered: “That we may not seem to sell the honor for the fruit.” “Now, so heaven help me,” said she, “let any one say what he likes, but the Olive is more pleasing to me on account of its fruit.” Then said the Father of the Gods and the Creator of men: “O daughter, it is with justice that you are called wise by all; unless what we do is useful, vain is our glory.”

This little fable admonishes us to do nothing that is not profitable.

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Æsop and the farmer.

One taught by experience is proverbially said to be more quick-witted than a wizard, but the reason is not told; which, now for the first time, shall be made known by my Fable.

The ewes of a certain Man who reared flocks, brought forth lambs with human heads. Dreadfully alarmed at the prodigy, he runs full of concern to the soothsayers. One answers that it bears reference to the life of the owner, and that the danger must be averted with a victim. Another, no wiser, affirms that it is meant that his wife is an adultress, and his children are spurious; but that it can be atoned for by a victim of greater age. Why enlarge? They all differ in opinions, and greatly aggravate the anxiety of the Man. Æsop being at hand, a sage of nice discernment, whom nature could never deceive by appearances, remarked:— “If you wish, Farmer, to take due precautions against this portent, find wives for your shepherds.”

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Æsop and the insolent man.

Success leads many astray to their ruin.

An Insolent Fellow threw a stone at Æsop. “Well done,” said he, and then gave him a penny, thus continuing: “Upon my faith I have got no more, but I will show you where you can get some; see, yonder comes a rich and influential man; throw a stone at him in the same way, and you will receive a due reward.” The other, being persuaded, did as he was advised. His daring impudence, however, was disappointed of its hope, for, being seized, he paid the penalty on the cross.

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Æsop at play.

An Athenian seeing Æsop in a crowd of boys at play with nuts, stopped and laughed at him for a madman. As soon as the Sage,—a laugher at others rather than one to be laughed at,—perceived this, he placed an unstrung bow in the middle of the road: “Hark you, wise man,” said he, “unriddle what I have done.” The people gather round. The man torments his invention a long time, but cannot make out the reason of the proposed question. At last he gives up. Upon this, the victorious Philosopher says: “You will soon break the bow, if you always keep it bent; but if you loosen it, it will be fit for use when you want it.”

Thus ought recreation sometimes to be given to the mind, that it may return to you better fitted for thought.

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Æsop's answer to the inquisitive man.

When Æsop was the only servant of his master, he was ordered to prepare dinner earlier than usual. Accordingly, he went round to several houses, seeking for fire, and at last found a place at which to light his lantern. Then as he had made a rather long circuit, he shortened the way back, for he went home straight through the Forum. There a certain Busybody in the crowd said to him: “Æsop, why with a light at mid-day?” “I’m in search of a man,” said he; and went hastily homewards.

If the inquisitive fellow reflected on this answer, he must have perceived that the sage did not deem him a man, who could so unseasonably rally him when busy.

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Book IV

PROLOGUE.
To Particulo.

When I had determined to put an end to my labours, with the view that there might be material enough left for others, in my mind I silently condemned my resolve. For even if there is any one desirous of the like fame, how will he guess what it is I have omitted, so as to wish to hand down that same to posterity; since each man has a turn of thinking of his own, and a tone peculiar to himself.
It was not, therefore, any fickleness, but assured grounds, that set me upon writing again. Wherefore, Particulo, as you are amused by Fables (which I will style “Æsopian,” not “those of Æsop;” for whereas he published but few, I have brought out a great many, employing the old style, but with modern subjects), now at your leisure you shall peruse a Fourth Book. If envy shall choose to carp at it, so long as it cannot imitate, why let it carp.
I have gained glory enough, in that you, and others like to you, have quoted my words in your writings, and have thought me worthy of being long remembered. Why should I stand in need of the applause of the illiterate?

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A thief pillaging the altar of jupiter.

A Thief lighted his Lamp at the altar of Jupiter, and then plundered it by the help of its own light. Just as he was taking his departure, laden with the results of his sacrilege, the Holy Place suddenly sent forth these words: “Although these were the gifts of the wicked, and to me abominable, so much so that I care not to be spoiled of them, still, profane man, thou shalt pay the penalty with thy life, when hereafter, the day of punishment, appointed by fate, arrives. But, that our fire, by means of which piety worships the awful Gods, may not afford its light to crime, I forbid that henceforth there shall be any such interchange of light.” Accordingly, to this day, it is neither lawful for a lamp to be lighted at the fire of the Gods, nor yet a sacrifice kindled from a lamp.

No other than he who invented this Fable, could explain how many useful lessons it affords. In the first place, it teaches that those whom you yourself have brought up, may often be found the most hostile to you: then again, it shows that crimes are punished not through the wrath of the Gods, but at the time appointed by the Fates: lastly, it warns the good to use nothing in common with the wicked.

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Epilogue.

There are still remaining many things which I might say, and there is a copious abundance of subjects; but though witticisms, well-timed, are pleasing; out of place, they disgust. Wherefore, most upright Particulo (a name destined to live in my writings, so long as a value shall continue to be set upon the Latin literature), if you like not my genius, at least approve my brevity, which has the more just claim to be commended, seeing how wearisome Poets usually are.

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Of the vices of men.

Jupiter has loaded us with a couple of Wallets: the one, filled with our own vices, he has placed at our backs, the other, heavy with those of others, he has hung before.

From this circumstance, we are not able to see our own faults: but as soon as others make a slip, we are ready to censure.

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Phædrus.

Although malice may dissemble for the present, I am still perfectly aware what judgment it will think proper to arrive at. Whatever it shall here deem worthy to be transmitted to posterity, it will say belongs to Æsop; if it shall be not so well pleased with any portion, it will, for any wager, contend that the same was composed by me. One who thus thinks, I would refute once for all by this my answer: whether this work is silly, or whether it is worthy of praise, he was the inventor: my hand has brought it to perfection. But let us pursue our purpose in the order we proposed.

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Prometheus.

Prometheus made the woman's tongue by redeploying her private parts. This is where the obscene practice [fellatio?] finds its affinity.

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Simonides preserved by the gods.

I have said, above, how greatly learning is esteemed among men: I will now hand down to posterity how great is the honor paid to it by the Gods.

Simonides, the very same of whom I have before made mention, agreed, at a fixed price, to write a panegyric for a certain Pugilist, who had been victorious: accordingly he sought retirement. As the meagreness of his subject cramped his imagination, he used, according to general custom, the license of the Poet, and introduced the twin stars of Leda, citing them as an example of similar honours. He finished the Poem according to contract, but received only a third part of the sum agreed upon. On his demanding the rest: “They,” said he, “will give it you whose praises occupy the other two-thirds; but, that I may feel convinced that you have not departed in anger, promise to dine with me, as I intend to-day to invite my kinsmen, in the number of whom I reckon you.” Although defrauded, and smarting under the injury, in order that he might not, by parting on bad terms, break off all friendly intercourse, he promised that he would. At the hour named he returned, and took his place at table. The banquet shone joyously with its cups; the house resounded with gladness, amid vast preparations, when, on a sudden, two young men, covered with dust, and dripping with perspiration, their bodies of more than human form, requested one of the servants to call Simonides to them, and say that it was of consequence to him to make no delay. The man, quite confused, called forth Simonides; and hardly had he put one foot out of the banquetting room, when suddenly the fall of the ceiling crushed the rest, and no young men were to be seen at the gate.

When the circumstances of the story I have told were made known, all were persuaded that the personal intervention of the Divinities had saved the Poet’s life by way of reward.

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The Monkey Tyrant

There were two men travelling together: one was a liar and the other always told the truth. Their journey led them to the land of the monkeys. There was a whole crowd of monkeys there and one of them noticed the travellers. The monkey who was clearly their leader ordered that the men be detained. Since he wanted to know what the men thought of him, he commanded all rest of the monkeys to stand before him in a long line to his right and to his left, while a seat was prepared for him to sit on (this monkey had once seen the emperor, so he was ordering his monkeys to line up for him in the same way). The men were then told to come forward into the midst of the monkeys. The chief monkey said, 'Who am I?' The liar said, 'You are the emperor!' Then the monkey asked, 'And those whom you see standing before me: who are they?' The man answered, 'They are your noble companions, your chancellors, your officials and the commanders of your armies!' Because these lies flattered the monkey and his troops, he ordered that the man be showered with presents. All the monkeys were fooled by his flattery. Meanwhile, the man who always told the truth thought to himself, 'If that liar received such rewards for telling lies, then surely I will receive an even greater reward for telling the truth.' The chief monkey said to the second man, 'Now you tell me who I am, and who are these whom you see standing before me?' And the man who always loved the truth and never lied said to the monkey, 'You are simply a monkey, and all of these similar simians are monkeys as well!' The chief monkey immediately ordered the monkeys to attack the man with their teeth and claws because he had spoken the truth.

For wicked people who love to tell lies and to make trouble, attacking honesty and truth.

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The ant and the fly.

An Ant and a Fly were contending with great warmth which was of the greater importance. The Fly was the first to begin: “Can you possibly compare with my endowments? When a sacrifice is made, I am the first to taste of the entrails that belong to the Gods. I pass my time among the altars, I wander through all the temples; soon as I have espied it, I seat myself on the head of a king; and I taste of the chaste kisses of matrons. I labour not, and yet enjoy the nicest of things: what like to this, good rustic, falls to your lot?” “Eating with the Gods,” said the Ant, “is certainly a thing to be boasted of; but by him who is invited, not him who is loathed as an intruder. You talk about kings and the kisses of matrons. While I am carefully heaping up a stock of grain for winter, I see you feeding on filth about the walls. You frequent the altars; yes, and are driven away as often as you come. You labour not; therefore it is that you have nothing when you stand in need of it. And, further, you boast about what modesty ought to conceal. You tease me in summer; when winter comes you are silent. While the cold is shrivelling you up and putting you to death, a well-stored abode harbours me. Surely I have now pulled down your pride enough.”

A Fable of this nature distinctly points out the characters of those who set themselves off with unfounded praises, and of those whose virtues gain solid fame.

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The ass and the priests of cybele.

He who has been born to ill luck, not only passes an unhappy life, but even after death the cruel rigour of destiny pursues him.

The Galli, priests of Cybele, were in the habit, on their begging excursions, of leading about an Ass, to carry their burdens. When he was dead with fatigue and blows, his hide being stripped off, they made themselves tambourines therewith. Afterwards, on being asked by some one what they had done with their favourite, they answered in these words: “He fancied that after death he would rest in quiet; but see, dead as he is, fresh blows are heaped upon him.”

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The battle of the mice and the weasels.

When the Mice, overcome by the army of the Weasels, (whose History is painted in our taverns), took to flight, and crowded in trepidation about their narrow lurking-holes, with difficulty getting in, they managed, however, to escape death. Their Leaders, who had fastened horns to their heads, in order that they might have a conspicuous sign for their troops to follow in battle, stuck fast at the entrance, and were captured by the enemy. The victor, sacrificing them with greedy teeth, plunged them into the Tartarean recesses of his capacious paunch.

Whenever a people is reduced to the last extremity, the high position of its chiefs is in danger; the humble commonalty easily finds safety in obscurity.

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The embassy of the dogs to jupiter.

The Dogs once sent Ambassadors to Jupiter, to entreat of him a happier lot in life, and that he would deliver them from the insulting treatment of man, who gave them bread mixed with bran, and satisfied their most urgent hunger with filthy offal. The ambassadors set out, but with no hasty steps, while snuffing with their nostrils for food in every filth. Being summoned, they fail to make their appearance. After some difficulty Mercury finds them at last, and brings them up in confusion. As soon, however, as they saw the countenance of mighty Jove, in their fright they bewrayed the whole palace. Out they go, driven away with sticks; but great Jove forbade that they should be sent back. The Dogs, wondering that their Ambassadors did not return, and suspecting that they had committed something disgraceful, after a while ordered others to be appointed to aid them. Rumour soon betrayed the former Ambassadors. Dreading that something of a similar nature may happen a second time, they stuff the Dogs behind with perfumes, and plenty of them. They give their directions; the Ambassadors are dispatched; at once they take their departure. They beg for an audience, and forthwith obtain it. Then did the most mighty Father of the Gods take his seat on his throne, and brandish his thunders; all things began to shake. The Dogs in alarm, so sudden was the crash, in a moment let fall the perfumes with their dung. All cry out, that the affront must be avenged. But before proceeding to punishment, thus spoke Jupiter:— “It is not for a King to send Ambassadors away, nor is it a difficult matter to inflict a proper punishment on the offence; but by way of judgment this is the reward you shall have. I don’t forbid their return, but they shall be famished with hunger, lest they be not able to keep their stomachs in order. And as for those who sent such despicable Ambassadors as you, they shall never be free from the insults of man.”
And so it is, that even now the Dogs of the present day are in expectation of their Ambassadors. When one of them sees a strange Dog appear, he snuffs at his tail.

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The evils of wealth.

Hercules and Plutus.

Riches are deservedly despised by a man of worth, because a well-stored chest intercepts praise from its true objects.

When Hercules was received into heaven as the reward of his virtues, and saluted in turn the Gods who were congratulating him, on Plutus approaching, who is the child of Fortune, he turned away his eyes. His father, Jupiter, enquired the reason: “I hate him,” says he, “because he is the friend of the wicked, and at the same time corrupts all by presenting the temptation of gain.”

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The fox and the dragon.

While a Fox, digging a lair, was throwing out the earth, and making deeper and more numerous burrows, she came to the farthest recesses of a Dragon’s den, who was watching some treasure hidden there. As soon as the Fox perceived him, she began:— “In the first place, I beg that you will pardon my unintentional intrusion; and next, as you see clearly enough that gold is not suited to my mode of life, have the goodness to answer me: what profit do you derive from this toil, or what is the reward, so great that you should be deprived of sleep, and pass your life in darkness?” “None at all,” replied the other; “but this task has been assigned me by supreme Jove.” “Then you neither take anything for yourself, nor give to another?” “Such is the will of the Fates.” “Don’t be angry then, if I say frankly: the man is born under the displeasure of the Gods who is like you.”

As you must go to that place to which others have gone before, why in the blindness of your mind do you torment your wretched existence? To you I address myself, Miser, joy of your heir, who rob the Gods of their incense, yourself of food; who hear with sorrow the musical sound of the lyre; whom the joyous notes of the pipes torment; from whom the price of provisions extorts a groan; who, while adding some farthings to your estate, offend heaven by your sordid perjuries; who are for cutting down every expense at your funeral, for fear Libitina should be at all a gainer at the expense of your property.

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The fox and the goat.

As soon as a crafty man has fallen into danger, he seeks to make his escape by the sacrifice of another.

A Fox, through inadvertence, having fallen into a well, and being closed in by the sides which were too high for her, a Goat parched with thirst came to the same spot, and asked whether the water was good, and in plenty. The other, devising a stratagem, replied: “Come down, my friend: such is the goodness of the water, that my pleasure in drinking cannot be satisfied.” Longbeard descended; then the Fox, mounting on his high horns, escaped from the well, and left the Goat to stick fast in the enclosed mud.

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The fox and the grapes.

Urged by hunger, a Fox, leaping with all her might, tried to reach a cluster of Grapes upon a lofty vine. When she found she could not reach them, she left them, saying: “They are not ripe yet; I don’t like to eat them while sour.”

Those who disparage what they cannot perform, ought to apply this lesson to themselves.

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The horse and the wild boar.

While a Wild Boar was wallowing, he muddied the shallow water, at which a Horse had been in the habit of quenching his thirst. Upon this, a disagreement arose. The Horse, enraged with the beast, sought the aid of man, and, raising him on his back, returned against the foe. After the Horseman, hurling his javelins, had slain the Boar, he is said to have spoken thus: “I am glad that I gave assistance at your entreaties, for I have captured a prey, and have learned how useful you are;” and so compelled him, unwilling as he was, to submit to the rein. Then said the Horse, sorrowing: “Fool that I am! while seeking to revenge a trifling matter, I have met with slavery.”

This Fable will admonish the passionate, that it is better to be injured with impunity, than to put ourselves in the power of another.

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The lion reigning.

Nothing is more advantageous to a man than to speak the truth; a maxim that ought indeed to be approved of by all; but still sincerity is frequently impelled to its own destruction.

When the lion made himself king of the beasts, he wanted to be known for his fairness, so he gave up his old habits and contented himself with a limited diet just as the other animals did, committed to dispensing justice with complete honesty. As time went by, however, the lion's resolution began to waver. Since he was not able to alter his natural inclinations, he began to take certain animals aside in private and ask them whether or not his breath smelled bad. It was a clever strategy: the animals who said that it smelled bad and the animals who said it did not were all killed just the same and the lion was thus able to satisfy his appetite. After he had slaughtered a number of the animals in this way, the lion turned to the monkey and asked how his breath smelled. The monkey exclaimed that the lion's breath smelled of cinnamon, as if it were the very altar of the gods. The lion was ashamed to slaughter someone who said such nice things, so he changed his tactics and fooled the monkey with a newly devised stratagem. The lion pretended that he was sick. The doctors came right away, of course, and when they checked the lion's veins and found that his pulse was normal, they ordered him to eat some food that would be light on his stomach, thus alleviating his nausea. 'Kings may eat what they like,' admitted the lion. 'And I've never tried monkey meat... I would like to have a taste of that.' No sooner said than done: the obsequious monkey was quickly killed so that the lion could eat him immediately.

The penalty for speaking and for keeping silent is one and the same.

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The man and the snake.

He who gives relief to the wicked has to repent it before long.

A Man took up a Snake stiffened with frost, and warmed her in his bosom, being compassionate to his own undoing; for when she had recovered, she instantly killed the Man. On another one asking her the reason of this crime, she made answer: “That people may learn not to assist the wicked.”

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The mountain in labour.

A Mountain was in labour, sending forth dreadful groans, and there was in the districts the highest expectation. After all, it brought forth a Mouse.

This is designed for you, who, when you have threatened great things, produce nothing.

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The pilot and the mariners.

On a certain man complaining of his adverse fortune, Æsop, for the purpose of consoling him, invented this Fable.

A ship which had been tossed by a fierce tempest (while the passengers were all in tears, and filled with apprehensions of death) on the day suddenly changing to a serene aspect, began to be borne along in safety upon the buoyant waves, and to inspire the mariners with an excess of gladness. On this, the Pilot, who had been rendered wise by experience, remarked: “We ought to be moderate in our joy, and to complain with caution; for the whole of life is a mixture of grief and joy.”

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The poet’s defence against the censurers of his fables.

You, fastidious critic, who carp at my writings, and disdain to read trifles of this kind, endure with some small patience this little book, while I smooth down the severity of your brow, and Æsop comes forward in a new and more lofty style.

Would that the pine had never fallen on the summits of Pelion under the Thessalian axe! and that Argus had never, with the aid of Pallas, invented a way boldly to meet certain death, in the ship which, to the destruction of Greeks and Barbarians, first laid open the bays of the inhospitable Euxine. For both had the house of the proud Æetes to lament it, and the realms of Pelias fell by the guilt of Medea, who, after concealing by various methods the cruelty of her disposition, there effected her escape, by means of the limbs of her brother, and here embrued the hands of the daughters of Pelias in their father’s blood.
What think you of this? “This, too, is mere folly,” say you, “and is an untrue story; for long before this, Minos, of more ancient date, subjected the Ægæan seas with his fleet, and by seasonable correction, punished piratical attacks.” What then can I possibly do for you, my Cato of a Reader, if neither Fables nor Tragic Stories suit your taste? Do not be too severe upon all literary men, lest they repay you the injury with interest.

This is said to those who are over-squeamish in their folly, and, to gain a reputation for wisdom, would censure heaven itself.

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The same (Prometheus)

Someone asked Aesop why lesbians and fairies had been created, and old Aesop explained, 'The answer lies once again with Prometheus, the original creator of our common clay (which shatters as soon as it hits a bit of bad luck). All day long, Prometheus had been separately shaping those natural members which Shame conceals beneath our clothes, and when he was about to apply these private parts to the appropriate bodies Bacchus unexpectedly invited him to dinner. Prometheus came home late, unsteady on his feet and with a good deal of heavenly nectar flowing through his veins. With his wits half asleep in a drunken haze he stuck the female genitalia on male bodies and male members on the ladies. This is why modern lust revels in perverted pleasures.'

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The she-goats and their beards.

The She-Goats having obtained of Jupiter the favour of a beard, the He-Goats, full of concern, began to be indignant that the females rivalled them in their dignity. “Suffer them,” said the God, “to enjoy their empty honours, and to use the badge that belongs to your rank, so long as they are not sharers in your courage.”

This Fable teaches you to bear that those who are inferior to you in merit should be like you in outside appearances.

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The shipwreck of simonides.

A learned man has always a fund of riches in himself.

Simonides, who wrote such excellent lyric poems, the more easily to support his poverty, began to make a tour of the celebrated cities of Asia, singing the praises of victors for such reward as he might receive. After he had become enriched by this kind of gain, he resolved to return to his native land by sea; (for he was born, it is said, in the island of Ceos). Accordingly he embarked in a ship, which a dreadful tempest, together with its own rottenness, caused to founder at sea. Some gathered together their girdles, others their precious effects, which formed the support of their existence. One who was over inquisitive, remarked: “Are you going to save none of your property, Simonides?” He made reply: “All my possessions are about me.” A few only made their escape by swimming, for the majority, being weighed down by their burdens, perished. Some thieves make their appearance, and seize what each person has saved, leaving them naked. Clazomenæ, an ancient city, chanced to be near; to which the shipwrecked persons repaired. Here a person devoted to the pursuits of literature, who had often read the lines of Simonides, and was a very great admirer of him though he had never seen him, knowing from his very language who he was, received him with the greatest pleasure into his house, and furnished him with clothes, money, and attendants. The others meanwhile were carrying about their pictures, begging for victuals. Simonides chanced to meet them; and, as soon as he saw them, remarked: “I told you that all my property was about me; what you endeavoured to save is lost.”

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The viper and the file.

Let him who with greedy teeth attacks one who can bite harder, consider himself described in this Fable.

A Viper came into a smith’s workshop; and while on the search whether there was anything fit to eat, fastened her teeth upon a File. That, however, disdainfully exclaimed “Why, fool, do you try to wound me with your teeth, who am in the habit of gnawing asunder every kind of iron?”

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The weasel and the mice.

This way of writing seems to you facetious; and no doubt, while we have nothing of more importance, we do sport with the pen. But examine these Fables with attention, and what useful lessons will you find concealed under them! Things are not always what they seem; first appearances deceive many: few minds understand what skill has hidden in an inmost corner. That I may not appear to have said this without reason, I will add a Fable about the Weasel and the Mice.

A Weasel, worn out with years and old age, being unable to overtake the active Mice, rolled herself in flour, and threw herself carelessly along in a dark spot. A Mouse, thinking her food, jumped upon her, and, being caught, was put to death: another in like manner perished, and then a third. Some others having followed, an old brindled fellow came, who had escaped snares and mouse-traps full oft; and viewing from afar the stratagem of the crafty foe: “So fare you well,” said he, “you that are lying there, as you are flour.”

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Æsop interpreting a will.

I will show to posterity, by a short story, that there is often more merit in one man than in a multitude.

A Person, at his death, left three Daughters; one handsome, and hunting for the men with her eyes; the second, an industrious spinner of wool, frugal, and fond of a country life; the third, given to wine, and very ugly. Now the old man made their Mother his heir, on this condition, that she should distribute his whole fortune equally among the three, but in such a manner that they should not possess or enjoy what was given them; and further, that as soon as they should cease to have the property which they had received, they should pay over to their Mother a hundred thousand sesterces. The rumour spreads all over Athens. The anxious Mother consults the learned in the law. No one can explain in what way they are not to possess what has been given, or have the enjoyment of it; and then again, in what way those who have received nothing, are to pay money. After a long time had been wasted, and still the meaning of the will could not be understood, the Parent, disregarding the strict letter of the law, consulted equity. For the Wanton, she sets aside the garments, female trinkets, silver bathing-vessels, eunuchs, and beardless boys: for the Worker in wool, the fields, cattle, farm, labourers, oxen, beasts of burden, and implements of husbandry: for the Drinker, a store-room, well stocked with casks of old wine, a finely finished house, and delightful gardens. When she was intending to distribute what was thus set apart for each, and the public approved, who knew them well; Æsop suddenly stood up in the midst of the multitude, and exclaimed: “O! if consciousness remained to their buried father, how would he grieve that the people of Athens are unable to interpret his will!”
On this, being questioned, he explained the error of them all: “The house and the furniture, with the fine gardens, and the old wines, give to the Worker in wool, so fond of a country life. The clothes, the pearls, the attendants, and other things, make over to her who spends her life in luxury. The fields, the vines, and the flocks, with the shepherds, present to the Wanton. Not one will be able to retain possession of what is alien to her taste. The Ungainly one will sell her wardrobe to procure wine; the Wanton will part with the lands to procure fine clothes; and she who delights in cattle, and attends to her spinning, will get rid of her luxurious abode at any price. Thus, no one will possess what was given, and they will pay to their Mother the sum named from the price of the things, which each of them has sold.”

Thus did the sagacity of one man find out what had baffled the superficial enquiries of many.

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Book V

PROLOGUE.

If I shall anywhere insert the name of Æsop, to whom I have already rendered every honor that was his due, know that it is for the sake of his authority, just as some statuaries do in our day, who obtain a much greater price for their productions, if they inscribe the name of Praxiteles on their marbles, and Myron on their polished silver. Therefore let these Fables obtain a hearing. Carping envy more readily favours the works of antiquity than those of the present day. But now I turn to a Fable, with a moral to the purpose.

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Demetrius and Menander

Demetrius, who was called Phalereus, unjustly took possession of the sovereignty of Athens. The mob, according to their usual practice, rush from all quarters vying with each other, and cheer him, and wish him joy. Even the chief men kiss the hand by which they are oppressed, while they silently lament the sad vicissitudes of fortune. Moreover, those who live in retirement, and take their ease, come creeping in last of all, that their absence may not injure them. Among these Menander, famous for his Comedies (which Demetrius, who did not know him, had read, and had admired the genius of the man), perfumed with unguents, and clad in a flowing robe, came with a mincing and languid step. As soon as the Tyrant caught sight of him at the end of the train: “What effeminate wretch,” said he, “is this, who presumes to come into my presence?” Those near him made answer: “This is Menander the Poet.” Changed in an instant, he exclaimed: “A more agreeable looking man could not possibly exist.”

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Princeps the Flute Player

When a weak mind, beguiled by frivolous applause, has once given way to insolent self-sufficiency, such foolish vanity is easily exposed to ridicule.

Princeps, the Flute-player, was pretty well known, being accustomed to accompany Bathyllus with his music on the stage. It chanced that, at a representation, I don’t well remember what it was, while the flying-machine was being whirled along, he fell heavily, through inadvertence, and broke his left leg, when he would much rather have parted with two right ones. He was picked up and carried to his house groaning aloud. Some months pass by before his cure is completed. As is the way with the spectators, for they are a merry race, the man began to be missed, by whose blasts the vigour of the dancer was wont to be kept at full stretch.

A certain Nobleman was about to exhibit a show, just when Princeps was beginning to walk abroad. With a present and entreaties he prevailed upon him merely to present himself on the day of the show. When the day came a rumour about the Flute-player ran through the theatre. Some affirmed that he was dead, some that he would appear before them without delay. The curtain falling, the thunders rolled, and the Gods conversed in the usual form. At this moment the Chorus struck up a song unknown to him who had so recently returned; of which the burthen was this: “Rejoice, Rome, in security, for your prince [Princeps] is well.” All rise with one consent and applaud. The Flute-player kisses hands, and imagines that his friends are congratulating him. The Equestrian order perceive the ridiculous mistake, and with loud laughter encore the song. It is repeated. My man now throws himself sprawling at full length upon the stage. Ridiculing him, the Knights applaud; while the people fancy he is only asking for a chaplet. When, however, the reality came to be known throughout all the tiers, Princeps, his leg bound up with a snow-white fillet, clad in snow-white tunic, and snow-white shoes, while pluming himself on the honors really paid to the Deified House, was thrust out headlong by common consent.

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The Bald Man and the Fly

A Fly bit the bare pate of a Bald Man; who, endeavouring to crush it, gave himself a heavy blow. Then said the Fly jeeringly: “You wanted to revenge the sting of a tiny insect with death; what will you do to yourself, who have added insult to injury?” The Man made answer: “I am easily reconciled to myself, because I know that there was no intention of doing harm. But you, worthless insect, and one of a contemptible race, who take a delight in drinking human blood, I could wish to destroy you, even at a heavier penalty.”

This Fable teaches that pardon is to be granted to him who errs through mistake. But him who is designedly mischievous, I deem to be deserving of any punishment.

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The Buffoon and Countryman

Men are in the habit of erring through prejudice; and while they stand up in defence of their erroneous notions, are wont to be driven by plain facts to confession of their mistakes.

A rich Man, about to entertain the people with grand shows, invited all, by the promise of a reward, to exhibit whatever new piece of ingenuity any one could. The Performers came to the contest for fame, among whom a Buffoon, well known for his drollery, said that he had a kind of entertainment which had never yet been brought out at any theatre. The rumour, spreading, brought together the whole city; and the places, empty shortly before, sufficed not for the multitude. But as soon as he appeared on the stage, alone, and without any apparatus, any stage-assistants, the very intenseness of expectation produced silence. Suddenly, he dropped down his head towards his bosom, and so well did he imitate the voice of a pig with his own, that they concluded there was a real one under his cloak, and ordered it to be shaken out. This being done, as soon as they found that nothing was discovered, they loaded the Man with many praises, and bestowed upon him the greatest applause.

A Countryman seeing this take place: “Egad,” said he, “he shan’t surpass me;” and immediately gave out that he would do the same thing still better on the following day. A still greater crowd assembled. Prejudice had already taken possession of their minds, and they took their seats, determined to deride, and not as unbiassed spectators. Both Performers come forth. First, the Buffoon grunts away, and excites their applause, and awakens their acclamations. Next, the Countryman, pretending that he concealed a pig beneath his clothes (which, in fact, he did; but quite unsuspected, because they had found none about the other), twitched the ear of the real pig, which he was concealing, and with the pain forced from it its natural cry. The people shouted with one voice that the Buffoon had given a much more exact imitation, and ordered the Countryman to be driven from the stage. On this, he produced the pig itself from the folds of his cloak, and convicting them of their disgraceful mistake by a manifest proof: “Look,” said he, “this shows what sort of judges you are.”

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The Bull and the Calf

When a Bull was struggling with his horns in a narrow passage, and could hardly effect an entrance to the manger, a Calf began to point out in what way he might turn himself: “Hush,” said the Bull, “I knew that before you were born.”

Let him who would instruct a wiser man, consider this as said to himself.

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The Emblem of Opportunity

A Bald Man, balancing on a razor’s edge, fleet of foot, his forehead covered with hair, his body naked—if you have caught him, hold him fast; when he has once escaped, not Jupiter himself can overtake him: he is the emblem how shortlived is Opportunity.

The ancients devised such a portraiture of Time, to signify that slothful delay should not hinder the execution of our purposes.

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The Huntsman and the Dog

A Dog, who had always given satisfaction to his master by his boldness against swift and savage beasts, began to grow feeble under increasing years. On one occasion, being urged to the combat with a bristling Boar, he seized him by the ear; but, through the rottenness of his teeth, let go his prey. Vexed at this, the Huntsman upbraided the Dog. Old Barker replied: “It is not my courage that disappoints you, but my strength. You commend me for what I have been; and you blame me that I am not what I was.”

You, Philetus, may easily perceive why I have written this.

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The Man and the Ass

A Man having sacrificed a young boar to the god Hercules, to whom he owed performance of a vow made for the preservation of his health, ordered the remains of the barley to be set for the Ass. But he refused to touch it, and said: “I would most willingly accept your food, if he who had been fed upon it had not had his throat cut.”

Warned by the significance of this Fable, I have always been careful to avoid the gain that exposed to hazard. “But,” say you, “those who have got riches by rapine, are still in possession of them.” Come, then, let us enumerate those, who, being detected, have come to a bad end; you will find that those so punished constitute a great majority.

Rashness brings luck to a few, misfortune to most.

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The Travellers and the Robber

Two Soldiers having fallen in with a Robber, one fled, while the other stood his ground, and defended himself with a stout right-hand. The Robber slain, his cowardly companion comes running up, and draws his sword; then throwing back his travelling cloak, says: “Let’s have him;” “I’ll take care he shall soon know whom he attacks.” On this, he who had vanquished the robber made answer: “I wish you had seconded me just now at least with those words; I should have been still more emboldened, believing them true; now keep your sword quiet, as well as your silly tongue, that you may be able to deceive others who don’t know you. I, who have experienced with what speed you take to your heels, know full well that no dependence is to be placed upon your valour.”

This story may be applied to him who is courageous in prosperity, in times of danger takes to flight.

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The Two Bald Men

A Bald Man chanced to find a comb in the public road. Another, equally destitute of hair, came up: “Come,” said he, “shares, whatever it is you have found.” The other showed the booty, and added withal: “The will of the Gods has favoured us, but through the malignity of fate, we have found, as the saying is, a coal instead of a treasure.”

This complaint befits him whom hope has disappointed.

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Appendix

APPENDIX PEROTTINA

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A Cock carried in a Litter by Cats

An extreme feeling of Security often leads Men into Danger.

A Cock had some Cats to carry him in his litter: a Fox on seeing him borne along in this pompous manner, said: “I advise you to be on your guard against treachery, for if you were to examine the countenances of those creatures, you would pronounce that they are carrying a booty, not a burden.” As soon as the savage brotherhood began to be hungry, they tore their Master to pieces, and went shares in the proceeds of their guilt.

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Epilogue.

Of those who read this book.

Whatever my Muse has here written in sportive mood, both malice and worth equally join in praising; but the latter with candour, while the other is secretly annoyed.

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Juno, Venus, and the Hen

On the Lustfulness of Women.

When Juno was praising her own chastity, Venus did not lose the opportunity of a joke, and, to show that there was no female equal to herself in that virtue, is said to have asked this question of the Hen: “Tell me, will you, with how much food could you be satisfied?” The hen replied: “Whatever you give me will be enough; but still you must let me scratch a bit with my feet.” “To keep you from scratching,” said the Goddess, “is a measure of wheat enough?” “Certainly; indeed it is too much; but still do allow me to scratch.” “In fine,” said Venus, “what do you require, on condition of not scratching at all?” Then at last the hen confessed the weak point in her nature: “Though a whole barn were open for me, still scratch I must.” Juno is said to have laughed at the joke of Venus, for by the Hen she meant the Female Sex.

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Mercury and the two Women

Another Fable on the same subject.

Once on a time, two Women had given their guest, Mercury, a mean and sordid entertainment; one of the women had a little son in the cradle, while the profession of a Courtesan had its charms for the other. In order, therefore that he might give a suitable return for their services, when about to depart, and just crossing the threshold, he said: “In me you behold a God; I will give you at once whatever each may wish.” The Mother makes her request, and asks that she may immediately see her Son graced with a beard; the Courtesan requests that whatever she touches may follow her. Mercury flies away—the women return in-doors: behold the infant, with a beard, is crying aloud. The Courtesan happened to laugh heartily at this, on which the humours of the head filled her nostrils, as is often the case. Intending therefore to blow her nose, she seized it with her hand, and drew out its length to the ground; and thus, while laughing at another, she became herself a subject for laughter.

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Pompeius Magnus and his Soldier

How difficult it is to understand a man.

A Soldier of Pompeius Magnus, a man of huge bulk, by talking mincingly and walking with an affected gait, had acquired the character of an effeminate wretch, and that most fully established. Lying in wait by night for the beasts of burden of his General, he drives away the mules laden with garments and gold, and a vast weight of silver. A rumour of what has been done gets abroad; the soldier is accused, and carried off to the Prætorium. On this, Magnus says to him: “How say you? Have you dared to rob me, comrade?” The soldier forthwith spits into his left hand, and scatters about the spittle with his fingers. “Even thus, General,” says he, “may my eyes drip out, if I have seen or touched your property.” Then Magnus, a man of easy disposition, orders the false accusers to be sent about their business, and will not believe the man guilty of so great audacity.

Not long afterwards a barbarian, confiding in his strength of hand, challenges one of the Romans. Each man fears to accept the challenge, and the leaders of highest rank mutter among themselves. At length, this effeminate wretch in appearance, but Mars in prowess, approached the General, who was seated on his tribunal, and, with a lisping voice, said “May I?” But Magnus, getting angry, as well he might, the matter being so serious, ordered him to be turned out. Upon this, an aged man among the Chieftain’s friends, remarked: “I think it would be better for this person to be exposed to the hazards of Fortune, since in him our loss would be but small, than a valiant man, who, if conquered through some mischance, might entail upon you a charge of rashness.” Magnus acquiesced, and gave the Soldier permission to go out to meet the champion, whose head, to the surprise of the army, he whipped off sooner than you could say it, and returned victorious. Thereupon said Pompeius: “With great pleasure I present you with the soldier’s crown, because you have vindicated the honor of the Roman name; nevertheless,” said he, “may my eyes drip out” (imitating the unseemly act with which the Soldier had accompanied his oath), “if you did not carry off my property from among the baggage.”

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Prometheus and Cunning

On Truth and Falsehood.

When once Prometheus, the framer of a new race, had formed Truth from fine earth, that she might be able to dispense justice among mankind, being suddenly summoned by the messenger of great Jove, he left his workshop in charge of treacherous Cunning, whom he had lately received in apprenticeship. The latter, inflamed by zeal, with clever hand formed an image of similar appearance, corresponding stature, and like in every limb, so far as the time permitted. When nearly the whole had now been wondrously set up, he found he had no clay to make the feet. His master came back, and Cunning, confused by fear at his quick return, sat down in his own place. Prometheus, admiring so strong a resemblance, wished the merit to appear to belong to his own skill, and therefore placed the two images together in the furnace. When they were thoroughly baked, and life had been breathed into them, hallowed Truth moved on with modest gait; but her imperfect copy remained fixed on the spot. Thence the spurious image, the result of the stealthy work, was called Mendacity, because they say, she has no feet,—an assertion with which I readily agree.

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The Ape and the Fox

The Greedy Man is not willing to give even from his superabundance.

An Ape asked a Fox for a part of her tail, that he might decently cover his naked hinder parts therewith; but the ill-natured creature replied: “Although it grow even longer than it is, still I will sooner drag it through mud and brambles, than give you ever so small a part thereof.”

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The Ass and the Lyre

How Genius is often wasted through Misfortune.

An Ass espied a Lyre lying in a meadow: he approached and tried the strings with his hoof; they sounded at his touch. “By my faith, a pretty thing,” said he; “it happens unfortunately that I am not skilled in the art. If any person of greater skill had found it, he might have charmed my ears with divine notes.”

So Genius is often wasted through Misfortune.

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The Author

We must not require what is unreasonable.

If Nature had formed the human race according to my notions, it would have been far better endowed: for she would have given us every good quality that indulgent Fortune has bestowed on any animal: the strength of the Elephant, and the impetuous force of the Lion, the age of the Crow, the majestic port of the fierce Bull, the gentle tractableness of the fleet Horse; and Man should still have had the ingenuity that is peculiarly his own. Jupiter in heaven laughs to himself, no doubt, he who, in his mighty plan, denied these qualities to men, lest our audacity should wrest from him the sceptre of the world. Contented, therefore, with the gifts of unconquered Jove, let us pass the years of our time allotted by fate, nor attempt more than mortality permits.

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The Author

On the Oracle of Apollo.

Phœbus! who dost inhabit Delphi and the beauteous Parnassus, say what is most useful to us. Why do the locks of the holy prophetess stand erect; the tripods shake; the holy shrines resound; the laurels, too, quiver, and the very day grow pale? Smitten by the Divinity, the Pythia utters these words, and the warning of the Delian God instructs the nations: “Practise virtue; pay your vows to the Gods above; defend your country, your parents, your children, and your chaste wives with arms; repel the foe with the sword; assist your friends; spare the wretched; favour the good; meet the treacherous face to face; punish offences; chastise the impious; inflict vengeance on those who, by base adultery, defile the marriage couch; beware of the wicked; trust no man too far.” Thus having said, the Maiden falls frenzied to the ground: frenzied, indeed, for what she said, she said in vain.

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The Beaver

Many would escape, if for the sake of safety they would disregard their comforts.

The Beaver (to which the talkative Greeks have given the name of Castor, thus bestowing upon an animal the name of a God—they who boast of the abundance of their epithets) when can no longer escape the dogs, is said to bite off his testicles, because he is aware that it is for them he is sought; a thing which I would not deny being done through an instinct granted by the Gods; for as soon as the Huntsman has found the drug, he ceases his pursuit, and calls off the dogs.

If men could manage, so as to be ready to part with what they own, in order to live in safety for the future, there would be no one to devise stratagems to the detriment of the naked body.

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The Butterfly and the Wasp

Not past but present Fortune must be regarded.

A Butterfly seeing a Wasp flying by: “Oh, sad is our lot,” said she, “derived from the depths of hell, from the recesses of which we have received our existence. I, eloquent in peace, brave in battle, most skilled in every art, whatever I once was, behold, light and rotten, and mere ashes do I fly. You, who were a Mule with panniers, hurt whomsoever you choose, by fixing your sting in him.” The Wasp, too, uttered these words, well suited to her disposition: “Consider not what we were, but what we now are.”

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The Chariot Horse sold for the Mill

Whatever happens, we must bear it with equanimity.

A certain Man withdrew from his chariot a Horse, ennobled by many victories, and sold him for the mill. As he was being led out of doors from the mill-stones to water, he saw his fellows going towards the Circus, to celebrate the joyous contests at the games. With tears starting forth, he said, “Go on and be happy; celebrate without me the festive day in the race; at the place to which the accursed hand of the thief has dragged me, will I lament my sad fate.”

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The Crow and the Sheep

Many are in the habit of injuring the weak and cringing to the powerful.

An pestilent Crow had taken her seat upon a Sheep; which after carrying her a long time on her back and much against her inclination, remarked: “If you had done thus to a Dog with his sharp teeth, you would have suffered for it.” To this the rascally Crow replied: “I despise the defenceless, and I yield to the powerful; I know whom to vex, and whom to flatter craftily; by these means I put off my old age for years.”

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The Father of a Family and Æsop

How a bad-tempered Son may be tamed.

A Father of a family had a passionate Son, who, as soon as he had got out of his fathers sight, inflicted many a blow upon the servants, and gave loose to the impetuous temper of youth. Æsop consequently told this short story to the old man.

A certain Man was yoking an old Ox along with a Calf; and when the Ox shunning to bear the yoke with a neck so unfit for it, alleged the failing strength of his years: “You have no reason to fear,” said the Countryman, “I don’t do this that you may labour, but that you may tame him, who with his heels and horns has made many lame.” Just so, unless you always keep your son by you, and by your management restrain his temper, take care that the broils in your house don’t increase to a still greater degree. Gentleness is the remedy for a bad temper.

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The Ground-Swallow and the Fox

Confidence is not to be placed in the wicked.

A Bird which the Rustics call a Ground-Swallow (terraneola), because it makes its nest in the ground, chanced to meet a wicked Fox, on seeing whom she soared aloft on her wings. “Save you,” said the other; “why, pray, do you fly from me, as though I had not abundance of food in the meadows,—crickets, beetles, and plenty of locusts. You have nothing to fear, I beg to assure you; I love you dearly for your quiet ways, and your harmless life.” The Bird replied: “You speak very fairly, indeed; however, I am not near you, but up in the air; I shall therefore proceed, and that is the way in which I trust my life to you.”

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The Hare and the Herdsman

Many are kind in words, faithless at heart.

A Hare was flying from the Huntsman with speedy foot, and being seen by a Herdsman, as she was creeping into a thicket: “By the Gods of heaven, I beg of you,” said she, “and by all your hopes, do not betray me, Herdsman; I have never done any injury to this field.” “Don’t be afraid,” the Countryman replied, “remain concealed without apprehension.” And now the Huntsman coming up, enquired: “Pray, Herdsman, has a Hare come this way?” “She did come, but went off that way to the left;” he answered, winking and nodding to the right. The Huntsman in his haste did not understand him, and hurried out of sight.

Then said the Herdsman: “Are you not glad that I concealed you?” “I don’t deny,” said she, “that to your tongue I owe most sincere thanks, and I return them, but I wish you may be deprived of your perfidious eyes.”

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The Hungry Bear

Hunger sharpens the wits.

If at any time sustenance is wanting to the Bear in the woods, he runs to the rocky shore, and, grasping a rock, gradually lets down his shaggy thighs into the water; and as soon as the Crabs have stuck to the long hair, betaking himself to shore, the crafty fellow shakes off his sea-spoil, and enjoys the food that he has collected in every quarter. Thus even in Fools does hunger sharpen the wits.

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The Philosopher and the Victor in the Gymnastic Games

How Boastfulness may sometimes be checked.

A Philosopher chancing to find the Victor in a gymnastic contest too fond of boasting, asked him whether his adversary had been the stronger man. To this the other replied: “Don’t mention it; my strength was far greater.” “Then, you simpleton,” retorted the Philosopher, “what praise do you deserve, if you, being the stronger, have conquered one who was not so powerful? You might perhaps have been tolerated if you had told us that you had conquered one who was your superior in strength.”

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The Rich Suitor and the Poor One

Fortune sometimes favours Men beyond their hopes and expectations.

Two Youths were courting a Maiden at the same time; the Rich man got the better of the birth and good looks of the Poor one. When the appointed day for the nuptials had arrived, the woe-begone Lover, because he could not endure his grief, betook himself to some gardens near at hand; a little beyond which, the splendid villa of the Rich man was about to receive the Maiden from her mother’s bosom, as his house in the city seemed not to be roomy enough. The marriage procession is arranged, a great crowd flocks to the scene, and Hymenæus gives the marriage torch. Now an Ass, which used to gain a living for the Poor man, was standing at the threshold of a gate; and it so happens the maidens lead him along, that the fatigues of the way may not hurt the tender feet of the Bride. On a sudden, by the pity of Venus, the heavens are swept by winds, the crash of thunder resounds through the firmament, and brings on a rough night with heavy rain; light is withdrawn from their eyes, and at the same moment a storm of hail, spreading in all directions, beats upon them, frightening and scattering them on all sides, compelling each to seek safety for himself in flight. The Ass runs under the well-known roof close at hand, and with a loud voice gives notice of his presence. The servants run out of doors, behold with admiration the beautiful Maiden, and then go and tell their master. He, seated at table with a few companions, was consoling his passion with repeated draughts. When the news was brought him, exulting with delight, both Bacchus and Venus exhorting him, he celebrated his joyous nuptials amid the applauses of his comrades. The bride’s parents sought their daughter through the crier, while the intended Husband grieved at the loss of his Wife. After what had taken place became known to the public, all agreed in approving of the favour shown by the Gods of heaven.

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The Runaway Slave and Æsop

There is no necessity to add evil to evil.

A Slave, when running away from a Master of severe disposition, met Æsop, to whom he was known as a neighbour: “Why are you in such a hurry?” said Æsop. “I’ll tell you candidly, father,” said the other, “for you are worthy to be called by that name, as our sorrows are safely entrusted to you. Stripes are in superabundance; victuals fail: every now and then I am sent to the farm as a slave to the rustics there: if he dines at home I am kept standing by him all night, or if he is invited out, I remain until daylight in the street. I have fairly earned my liberty; but with grey hairs I am still a slave. If I were conscious to myself of any fault, I should bear this patiently: I never have had a bellyful, and, unhappy that I am, I have to put up with a severe master besides. For these reasons, and for others which it would take too long to recount, I have determined to go wherever my feet may carry me.” “Listen then,” said Æsop; “When you have committed no fault, you suffer these inconveniences as you say: what if you had offended? What do you suppose you would then have had to suffer?”

By such advice he was prevented from running away.

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The Serpent and the Lizard

When the Lion’s skin fails, the Fox’s must be employed; that is to say, when strength fails, we must employ craftiness.

A Serpent chanced to catch a Lizard by the tail; but when she tried to devour it with open throat, it snatched up a little twig that lay close at hand, and, holding it transversely with pertinacious bite, checked the greedy jaws, agape to devour it, by this cleverly contrived impediment. So the Serpent dropped the prey from her mouth unenjoyed.

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The Servant and the Master

There is no curse more severe than a bad conscience.

A Servant having been guilty of a secret offence in debauching the wife of his master, on the latter coming to know of it, he said, in the presence of those standing by: “Are you quite pleased with yourself? For, when you ought not, you do please yourself; but not with impunity, for when you ought to be pleased, you cannot be.”

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The Shepherd and the She-Goat

Nothing is secret which shall not be made manifest.

A Shepherd had broken the horn of a She-Goat with his staff, and began to entreat her not to betray him to his Master. “Although unjustly injured,” said she, “still, I shall be silent; but the thing itself will proclaim your offence.”

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The Sow bringing forth and the Wolf

We must first make trial of a Man before we entrust ourselves to him.

A Sow was lying and groaning, her travail coming on; a Wolf came running to her aid, and, offering his assistance, said that he could perform the duties of midwife. She, however, understanding the treachery of the wicked animal, rejected the suspicious services of the evil-doer, and said: “If you keep at a greater distance it is enough.”

But had she entrusted herself to the perfidious Wolf, she would have had just as much pain to cry for, and her death into the bargain.

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The Traveller and the Raven

Men are very frequently imposed upon by words.

A Man while going through the fields along his solitary path, heard the word “Hail!” whereat he stopped for a moment, but seeing no one, went on his way. Again the same sound saluted him from a hidden spot; encouraged by the hospitable voice, he stopped short, that whoever it was might receive the like civility. When, looking all about, he had remained long in perplexity, and had lost the time in which he might have walked some miles, a Raven showed himself, and hovering above him, continually repeated “Hail!” Then, perceiving that he had been deluded: “Perdition seize you,” said he, “most mischievous bird, to have thus delayed me when I was in such a hurry.”

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The Widow and the Soldier

The great Inconstancy and Lustfulness of Women.

A certain Woman had for some years lost her beloved Husband, and had placed his body in a tomb; and as she could by no means be forced from it, and passed her life in mourning at the sepulchre, she obtained a distinguished character for strict chastity. In the meantime, some persons who had plundered the temple of Jupiter suffered the penalty of crucifixion. In order that no one might remove their remains, soldiers were appointed as guards of the dead bodies, close by the monument in which the woman had shut herself up. Some time after, one of the Guards, being thirsty, asked, in the middle of the night, for some water, of a servant-maid, who chanced just then to be assisting her mistress, who was going to rest; for she had been watching by a lamp, and had prolonged her vigils to a late hour. The door being a little open, the Soldier peeps in, and beholds a Woman, emaciated indeed, but of beauteous features. His smitten heart is immediately inflamed, and he gradually burns with unchaste desires. His crafty shrewdness invents a thousand pretences for seeing her more frequently. Wrought upon by daily intercourse, by degrees she became more complaisant to the stranger, and soon enthralled his heart by a closer tie. While the careful Guard is here passing his nights, a body is missed from one of the crosses. The Soldier in his alarm relates to the Woman what has happened; but the chaste Matron replies: “You have no grounds for fear;” and gives up the body of her Husband to be fastened to the cross, that he may not undergo punishment for his negligence.

Thus did profligacy usurp the place of honour.

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The Young Man and the Courtesan

Many things are pleasing which still are not to our advantage.

While a perfidious Courtesan was fawning upon a Youth, and he, though wronged by her many a time and oft, still showed himself indulgent to the Woman, the faithless Creature thus addressed him: “Though many contend for me with their gifts, still do I esteem you the most.” The Youth, recollecting how many times he had been deceived, replied: “Gladly, my love, do I hear these words; not because you are constant, but because you administer to my pleasures.”

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The signification of the Punishments of Tartarus

The meaning is to be considered, not the mere words.

The story of Ixion, whirling round upon the wheel, teaches us what a rolling thing is fortune. Sisyphus, with immense labour, pushing the stone up the lofty hill, which ever, his labour lost, rolls back from the top, shows that men’s miseries are endless. When Tantalus is athirst, standing in the midst of the river, the greedy are described, whom a sufficiency of blessings surrounds, but none can they enjoy. The wicked Danaïds carry water in urns, and cannot fill their pierced vessels; just so, whatever you bestow on luxury, will flow out beneath. Wretched Tityus is stretched over nine acres, presenting for dire punishment a liver that ever grows again: by this it is shown that the greater the extent of land a man possesses, the heavier are his cares. Antiquity purposely wrapped up the truth, in order that the wise might understand—the ignorant remain in error.

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Æsop and his Mistress

How injurious it often is to tell the Truth.

Æsop being in the service of an Ugly Woman, who wasted the whole day in painting herself up, and used fine clothes, pearls, gold, and silver, yet found no one who would touch her with a finger: “May I say a few words?” said he. “Say on,” she replied. “Then I think,” said he, “that you will effect anything you wish, if you lay aside your ornaments.” “Do I then seem to you so much preferable by myself?” said she. “Why, no; if you don’t make presents, your bed will enjoy its repose.” “But your sides,” she replied, “shan’t enjoy their repose;” and ordered the talkative Slave to be flogged. Shortly after a thief took away a silver bracelet. When the Woman was told that it could not be found, full of fury she summoned all her slaves, and threatened them with a severe flogging if they did not tell the truth. “Threaten others,” said Æsop, “indeed you won’t trick me, mistress; I was lately beaten with the whip because I told the truth.”

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Æsop and the Author

On a bad Author who praised himself.

A Person had recited some worthless composition to Æsop, in which he had inordinately bragged about himself. Desirous, therefore, to know what the Sage thought thereof: “Does it appear to you,” said he, “that I have been too conceited? I have no empty confidence in my own capacity.” Worried to death with the execrable volume, Æsop replied: “I greatly approve of your bestowing praise on yourself, for it will never be your lot to receive it from another.”

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