The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Fables of Phædrus, by Phaedrus This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: The Fables of Phædrus Literally translated into English prose with notes Author: Phaedrus Translator: Henry Thomas Riley Christopher Smart Release Date: May 18, 2008 [EBook #25512] Language: English Character set encoding: UTF-8 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS *** Produced by Louise Hope, Carl Hudkins and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)
Œ, œ (“oe” ligature) Μωμεῖσθαι
If any of these characters do not display properly, or if the apostrophes and quotation marks in this paragraph appear as garbage, you
may have an incompatible browser or unavailable fonts. First, make surethat the browser’s “character set” or “file encoding” is set to Unicode (UTF-8). You may also need to change your browser’s default font.
The text is taken from an omnibus volume that also contained Riley’s translation of the six surviving plays of Terence. The full title page has been retained for completeness, but the sections of the Preface and Contents that apply only to Terence have been omitted.
Footnotes have been renumbered within each Book. Footnote tags that were missing in the original are underlined without further annotation. The name is spelled “Æsop” in Riley, “Esop”
in Smart and in the Contents. Inconsistencies in fable numbering are described at the beginning of the Table of Contents.
A few typographical errors have been corrected. They are marked in the text with .
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN. 1887.
In the Translation of Phædrus, the Critical Edition by Orellius, 1831, has been used, and in the Æsopian
Fables, the text of the Parisian Edition of Gail, 1826. The Notes will, it is believed, be found to embody the little that is known of the
contemporary history of the Author.
H. T. R.
The Table of Contents refers primarily to the Riley text. Fables
I.xxix, III.iii, and several Fables in Book IV are missing in
Smart; Riley’s Fable IV.i, “The Ass and the Priests of Cybele”, is Smart’s III.xix. Where Smart’s numbers are different, they
are shown with .
In the text, Book III, Fable xi is “The Eunuch to the Abusive Man”; all following fables in Riley are
numbered one higher than in the Table of Contents. This fable is missing from Smart but the number X is skipped, as was number I.xviii.
|Fable I.||The Wolf and the Lamb||365||473|
|II.||The Frogs asking for a King||366||474|
|III.||The vain Jackdaw and the Peacock||367||475|
|IV.||The Dog carrying some Meat across a River||368||476|
|V.||The Cow, the She-Goat, the Sheep, and the Lion||368||476|
|VI.||The Frogs’ complaint against the Sun||369||476|
|VII.||The Fox and the Tragic Mask||369||477|
|VIII.||The Wolf and the Crane||370||477|
|IX.||The Sparrow and the Hare||370||478|
|X.||The Wolf, the Fox, and the Ape||371||478|
|XI.||The Ass and the Lion hunting||371||478|
|XII.||The Stag at the Stream||372||479|
|XIII.||The Fox and the Raven||372||480|
|XIV.||The Cobbler turned Physician||373||480|
|XV.||The Ass and the Old Shepherd||373||481|
|XVI.||The Stag, the Sheep, and the Wolf||374||481|
|XVII.||The Sheep, the Dog, and the Wolf||374||482|
|The Woman in Labour||375||—|
|XIX.||The Bitch and her Whelps||375||482|
|XX.||The hungry Dogs||376||483|
|XXI.||The aged Lion, the Wild Boar, the Bull, and the Ass||376||483|
|XXII.||The Man and the Weasel||376||483|
|XXIII.||The Faithful Dog||377||484|
|XXIV.||The Frog and the Ox||378||484|
|XXV.||The Dog and the Crocodile||377||485|
|XXVI.||The Fox and the Stork||378||485|
|XXVII.||The Dog, the Treasure, and the Vulture||379||486|
|XXVIII.||The Fox and the Eagle||380||486|
|XXIX.||The Ass deriding the Boar||380||—|
|The Frogs frightened at the Battle of the Bulls||380||487|
|The Kite and the Pigeons||381||487|
|Fable I.||The Lion, the Robber, and the Traveller||383||488|
|II.||Two Women of different Ages beloved by the Middle-aged
|III.||The Man and the Dog||384||489|
|IV.||The Eagle, the Cat, and the Sow||384||490|
|V.||Cæsar to the Chamberlain||385||491|
|VI.||The Eagle, the Crow, and the Tortoise||386||492|
|VII.||The Mules and Robbers||387||492|
|VIII.||The Stag and the Oxen||387||493|
|Prologue, to Eutychus||390||497|
|Fable I.||The Old Woman and the Cask||393||498|
|II.||The Panther and Shepherd||394||498|
|III.||Esop and the Farmer||395||—|
|The Butcher and the Ape||395||499|
|Esop and the Insolent Man||395||499|
|The Fly and the Mule||396||499|
|The Dog and the Wolf||397||500|
|The Brother and Sister||398||501|
|Socrates to his Friends||398||502|
|The Poet on Believing and not Believing||399||502|
|XI.||The Eunuch to the Abusive Man||401||—|
|The Cock and the Pearl||401||504|
|The Bees and the Drones, the Wasp sitting as judge||402||505|
|Esop at play||402||505|
|The Dog to the Lamb||403||506|
|The Grasshopper and the Owl||404||507|
|The Trees under the Protection of the Gods||405||508|
|The Peacock to Juno||405||509|
|Esop’s Answer to the Inquisitive Man||406||509|
|The Ass and the Priests of Cybele||410||509|
|The Weasel and the Mice||411||510|
|The Fox and the Grapes||411||511|
|The Horse and the Wild Boar||411||511|
|Esop interpreting a Will||412||512|
|The Battle of the Mice and the Weasels||413||514|
|The Poet’s Defence against the Censurers of his Fables||414||514|
|The Viper and the File||415||515|
|The Fox and the Goat||415||516|
|Of the Vices of Men||416||516|
|A Thief pillaging the Altar of Jupiter||416||517|
|Hercules and Plutus||417||517|
|XIII.||The Lion reigning||417||—|
|The She-Goats and their Beards||418||518|
|The Pilot and the Mariners||419||518|
|XVII.||The Embassy of the Dogs to Jupiter||419||—|
|The Man and the Snake||420||519|
|The Fox and the Dragon||421||519|
|The Shipwreck of Simonides||422||520|
|The Mountain in Labour||423||522|
|The Ant and the Fly||424||522|
|Simonides preserved by the Gods||425||523|
|Fable I.||Demetrius and Menander||427||527|
|II.||The Travellers and the Robber||428||528|
|III.||The Bald Man and the Fly||429||529|
|IV.||The Man and the Ass||429||529|
|V.||The Buffoon and Countryman||429||530|
|VI.||The Two Bald Men||431||532|
|VII.||Princeps the Flute Player||431||532|
|VIII.||The Emblem of Opportunity||433||534|
|IX.||The Bull and the Calf||433||534|
|X.||The Huntsman and the Dog||433||535|
|The New Fables—attributed to Phædrus.|
|Fable I.||The Ape and the Fox||435|
|III.||Mercury and the two Women||436|
|IV.||Prometheus and Cunning||437|
|VI.||The signification of the Punishments of Tartarus||438|
|VIII.||Æsop and the Author||439|
|IX.||Pompeius Magnus and his Soldier||440|
|X.||Juno, Venus, and the Hen||441|
|XI.||The Father of a Family and Æsop||442|
|XII.||The Philosopher and the Victor in the Gymnastic Games||442|
|XIII.||The Ass and the Lyre||443|
|XIV.||The Widow and the Soldier||443|
|XV.||The Rich Suitor and the Poor One||444|
|XVI.||Æsop and his Mistress||445|
|XVII.||A Cock carried in a Litter by Cats||446|
|XVIII.||The Sow bringing forth and the Wolf||446|
|XIX.||The Runaway Slave and Æsop||447|
|XX.||The Chariot Horse sold for the Mill||447|
|XXI.||The Hungry Bear||448|
|XXII.||The Traveller and the Raven||449|
|XXIII.||The Shepherd and the She-Goat||449|
|XXIV.||The Serpent and the Lizard||449|
|XXV.||The Crow and the Sheep||450|
|XXVI.||The Servant and the Master||450|
|XXVII.||The Hare and the Herdsman||450|
|XXVIII.||The Young Man and the Courtesan||451|
|XXX.||The Butterfly and the Wasp||452|
|XXXI.||The Ground-Swallow and the Fox||453|
|Æsopian Fables—the authors of which are not known.|
|Fable I.||The Sick Kite||454|
|II.||The Hares tired of Life||454|
|III.||Jupiter and the Fox||455|
|IV.||The Lion and the Mouse||455|
|V.||The Man and the Trees||456|
|VI.||The Mouse and the Frog||456|
|VII.||The Two Cocks and the Hawk||456|
|VIII.||The Snail and the Ape||457|
|IX.||The City Mouse and the Country Mouse||457|
|X.||The Ass fawning upon his Master||458|
|XI.||The Crane, the Crow, and the Countryman||459|
|XII.||The Birds and the Swallow||459|
|The Partridge and the Fox||460|
|XIV.||The Ass, the Ox, and the Birds||461|
|XV.||The Lion and the Shepherd||461|
|XVI.||The Goat and the Bull||462|
|XVII.||The Horse and the Ass||462|
|XVIII.||The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat||463|
|XIX.||The Nightingale, the Hawk, and the Fowler||463|
|XX.||The Wolf, the Fox, and the Shepherd||464|
|XXI.||The Sheep and the Wolves||464|
|XXII.||The Ape and the Fox||465|
|XXIII.||The Wolf, the Huntsman, and the Shepherd||465|
|XXIV.||The Truthful Man, the Liar, and the Apes||466|
|XXV.||The Man and the Lion||467|
|XXVI.||The Stork, the Goose, and the Hawk||467|
|XXVII.||The Sheep and the Crow||468|
|XXVIII.||The Ant and the Grasshopper||468|
|XXIX.||The Horse and the Ass||469|
|XXX.||The Old Lion and the Fox||469|
|XXXI.||The Camel and the Flea||469|
|XXXII.||The Kid and the Wolf||470|
|XXXIII.||The Poor Man and the Serpent||470|
|XXXIV.||The Eagle and the Kite||471|
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.
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.” “Indeedanswered
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.
When AthensI.1 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.2 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,I.3 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
“Do you also, O fellow-citizens,” said Æsop, “submit to the
present evil, lest a greater one befall you.”
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, swellingI.4 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
He who covets what belongs to another, deservedly loses his own.
As a Dog, swimmingI.5 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.
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 SheepI.6 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,I.7 the third
fall to my lot; if anyone touches the fourth, woe betide him.”
Thus did unscrupulousness seize upon the whole prey for itself.
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,I.8 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
A Fox, by chance, casting his eyes on a Tragic Mask: “Ah,” said she,
“great as is its beauty, still it has no brains.”I.9
370This is meant for those to whom fortune has granted honor and renown,
leaving them void of common sense.
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
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
Let us show, in a few lines, that it is unwise to be heedlessI.10 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.”
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
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
A dastard, who in his talk brags of his prowess, and is devoid of
courage,I.11 imposes upon strangers, but is the jest of all who
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.I.12 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
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.”
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,I.13 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 storyI.14 it is shown, how much ingenuity avails, and
how wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.
A bungling Cobbler, broken down by want, having begun to practise
physic in a strange place, and selling his antidoteI.15 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 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 livesI.16 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.
In a change of government, the poor change nothing beyond the name of
their master. That this is the fact this little Fable shows.
374A timorous Old Man was feeding an Ass 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?”
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 measureI.17 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?”I.18
Liars generallyI.19 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 , sent by the Gods.”
No one returns with good will to the place which has done him a
Her months completed,I.20 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.”
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,I.21 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
An ill-judged project is not only without effect, but also lures
mortals to their destruction.
376Some 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
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,I.22 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
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.
377Those persons ought to recognize this as applicable to themselves,
whose object is private advantage, and who boast to the unthinking of an
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
The needy man, while affecting to imitate the powerful, comes to
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:I.23 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.
Those who give bad advice to discreet persons, both lose their pains,
and are laughed to scorn.
378It has been related,I.24 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.”
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,I.25 full of minced meat:I.26 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:I.27 “Every one is bound
to bear patiently the results of his own example.”
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,I.28 a Dog met with a Treasure; and,
because he had offended the Gods the Manes,I.29 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
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
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 legsI.30 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
When the powerfulI.31 are at variance, the lowly are the
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
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.”
When Athens)—Ver. 1. This probably alludes to the
government of Solon, when Archon of Athens.
Pisistratus the Tyrant)—Ver. 5. From Suidas and Eusebius we
learn that Æsop died in the fifty-fourth Olympiad, while Pisistratus did
not seize the supreme power at Athens till the first year of the
fifty-fifth. These dates, however, have been disputed by many, and
partly on the strength of the present passage.
A Water-Snake)—Ver. 24. Pliny tells us that the “hydrus”
lives in the water, and is exceedingly venomous. Some Commentators think
that Phædrus, like Æsop, intends to conceal a political meaning under
this Fable, and that by the Water-Snake he means Caligula, and by the
Log, Tiberius. Others, perhaps with more probability, think that the
cruelty of Tiberius alone is alluded to in the mention of the snake.
Indeed, it is doubtful whether Phædrus survived to the time of Caligula:
and it is more generally believed that the First and Second Books were
written in the time of Augustus and Tiberius.
A Jackdaw, swelling)—Ver. 4. Scheffer thinks that Sejanus
is alluded to under this image.
As a Dog swimming)—Ver. 9. Lessing finds some fault with
the way in which this Fable is related, and with fair reason. The Dog
swimming would be likely to disturb the water to such a degree, that it
would be impossible for him to see with any distinctness the reflection
of the meat. The version which represents him as crossing a bridge is
certainly more consistent with nature.
And a Sheep)—Ver. 3. Lessing also censures this Fable on
the ground of the partnership being contrary to nature; neither the cow,
the goat, nor the sheep feed on flesh.
I am the strongest)—Ver. 9. Some critics profess to see no
difference between “sum fortis” in the eighth line, and “plus valeo”
here; but the former expression appears to refer to his courage, and the
latter to his strength. However, the second and third reasons are
nothing but reiterations of the first one, under another form. Davidson
remarks on this passage: “I am not certain that the Poet meant any
distinction; nay, there is, perhaps, a propriety in supposing that
he industriously makes the Lion plead twice upon the same title, to
represent more strongly by what unjust claims men in power often invade
the property of another.”
Taking a wife)—Ver. 3. It has been suggested by Brotier and
Desbillons, that in this Fable Phædrus covertly alludes to the marriage
which was contemplated by Livia, or Livilla, the daughter of the elder
Drusus and Antonia, and the wife of her first-cousin, the younger
Drusus, with the infamous Sejanus, the minister and favourite of
Tiberius, after having, with his assistance, removed her husband by
poison. In such case, the Frogs will represent the Roman people, the Sun
Sejanus, who had greatly oppressed them, and by Jupiter, Tiberius will
Has no brains)—Ver. 2. To make the sense of this remark of
the Fox the more intelligible, we must bear in mind that the ancient
masks covered the whole head, and sometimes extended down to the
shoulders; consequently, their resemblance to the human head was much
more striking than in the masks of the present day.
To be heedless)—Ver. 1. “Cavere” is a word of legal
signification, meaning to give advice to a person by way of assistance
or precaution, as a patron to his client.
Devoid of courage)—Ver. 1. Burmann suggests, with great
probability, that Phædrus had here in mind those braggart warriors, who
have been so well described by Plautus and Terence, under the characters
of Pyrgopolynices and Thraso.
This new cause of astonishment)Ver. 8. Never having
heard the voice of an ass in the forests before
From a window)—Ver. 3. Burmann suggests that the window of
a house in which articles of food were exposed for sale, is probably
By this story)—Ver. 13. Heinsius thinks this line and the
next to be spurious; because, though Phædrus sometimes at the beginning
mentions the design of his Fable, he seldom does so at the end. In this
conjecture he is followed by Bentley, Sanadon, and many others of the
Selling his antidote)—Ver. 3. “Antidotum” probably means a
universal remedy, capable of curing all natural diseases, as well as
neutralizing the effects of poison.
Trust your lives)—Ver. 15. He seems to pun upon the word
“capita,” as meaning not only “the life,” but “the head,” in
contradistinction to “the feet,” mentioned in the next line. As in
l. 2 we find that he came to a place where he was not known, we
must suppose that the Cobbler confessed to the King his former
For a measure)—Ver. 3. Properly “modius;” the principal dry
measure of the Romans. It was equal to one-third of the amphora, and
therefore to nearly two gallons English.
Day comes)—Ver. 6. “Quum dies adveniat,” a law term,
signifying “when the day of payment comes.”
Liars generally)—Ver. 1. It is supposed by some that this
Fable is levelled against the informers who infested Rome in the days of
Her months completed)—Ver. 2. Plutarch relates this, not as
a Fable, but as a true narrative.
Ready to whelp)—Ver. 3. Justin, B. I., c. 3,
mentions this Fable with some little variation, as being related by a
Ligurian to Comanus, the son of King Nannus, who had granted (about B.C.
540) some land to the Phocæans for the foundation of the city of
Massilia; signifying thereby that the natives would be quickly
dispossessed by the newcomers.
With flashing tusks)—Ver. 5. “Fulmineus,” “lightning-like,”
is an epithet given by Ovid and Statius also, to the tusks of the wild
boar; probably by reason of their sharpness and the impetuosity of the
blow inflicted thereby. Scheffer suggests that they were so called from
their white appearance among the black hair of the boar’s head.
Which was the bigger)—Ver. 8. “Quis major esset. Illi
dixerunt Bovem.” Bentley censures this line, and thinks it spurious. In
good Latin, he says “uter” would occupy the place of “quis,” and “bovem”
would be replaced by “bos.”
It has been related)—Ver. 3. Pliny, in his Natural History,
B. viii. c. 40, and Ælian, in his Various and Natural
Histories, relate the same fact as to the dogs drinking of the Nile. “To
treat a thing, as the dogs do the Nile,” was a common proverb with the
ancients, signifying to do it superficially; corresponding with our
homely saying, “To give it a lick and a promise.” Macrobius, in the
Saturnalia, B. i. c. 2, mentions a story, that after the
defeat at Mutina, when enquiry was made as to what had become of Antony,
one of his servants made answer: “He has done what the dogs do in Egypt,
he drank and ran away
Of minced meat)—Ver. 7. “Intritus cibus,” is thought here
to signify a peculiar dish, consisting of bread soaked in milk, cheese,
garlic, and other herbs.
Narrow-mouthed jar)—Ver. 8. The was a
long-necked bottle or flagon, made of earth, and much used for keeping
wine or fruit.
The foreign bird)—Ver. 11. Alluding probably to the
migratory habits of the stork, or the fact of her being especially a
native of Egypt.
Human bones)—Ver. 3. This plainly refers to the custom
which prevailed among the ancients, of burying golden ornaments, and
even money, with the dead; which at length was practised to such an
excess, that at Rome the custom was forbidden by law. It was probably
practised to a great extent by the people of Etruria; if we may judge
from the discoveries of golden ornaments frequently made in their
Gods the Manes)—Ver. 4. Perhaps by “Deos Manes” are meant
the good and bad Genii of the deceased.
The ass, with legs)—Ver. 7. This line is somewhat modified
in the translation.
When the powerful)—Ver. 1. This is similar to the line of
Horace, “Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.”
The plan of Æsop is confined to
instruction by examples; nor by Fables is anything elseII.1 aimed at
than that the errors of mortals may be corrected, and persevering
industryII.2 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
For my part, I will with all care follow the method of the sage;II.3 but if I should think fit to insert somethingII.4 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.
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.II.5
That the men, under all circumstances, are preyed upon by the women,
whether they love or are beloved, this truly we learn from
A Woman, not devoid of grace, held enthralled a certain Man of middle
age,II.6 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
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.
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
The success of the wicked is a temptation to many.
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
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.
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,II.7 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,II.8 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
sprinkleII.9 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,II.10 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 meII.11
No one is sufficiently armed against the powerful; but if a wicked
adviser joins them, nothing can withstand such a combination of violence
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.
387Thus she who had been protected by the bounty of nature, being an
unequal match for the two, perished by an unhappy fate.
Laden with burdens, two Mules were travelling along; the one was
carrying basketsII.13 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:II.14 his companion follows, with quiet and easy
step. Suddenly some Robbers rush from ambush upon them, and amid the
slaughterII.15 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.
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?”II.16 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.
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 anotherII.17 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 destinyII.18 with strength of mind, until Fortune is
ashamed of her own injustice.
Is anything else)—Ver. 2. Burmann thinks that the object of
the Author in this Prologue is to defend himself against the censures of
those who might blame him for not keeping to his purpose, mentioned in
the Prologue of the First Book, of adhering to the fabulous matter used
by Æsop, but mixing up with such stories narratives of events that had
happened in his own time.
Persevering industry)—Ver. 5. “Diligens industria.” An
industry or ingenuity that exerts itself in trying to discover the
meaning of his Fables.
Of the sage)—Ver. 8. Meaning Æsop.
To insert something)—Ver. 9. He probably alludes to such
contemporary narratives as are found in Fable v. of the present Book; in
Fable x. of the Third; in B. IV., Fables v., xxi., xxiv.; and
B. V., Fables i., v., vii.
Modesty in want)—Ver. 12. Martial has a similar passage,
B. iv., Epig. 9:—
“Semper eris pauper, si pauper es, Æmiliane,
Dantur opes nulli nunc nisi divitibus.”
Of middle age)—Ver 8. It has been a matter of doubt among
Commentators to which “ætatis mediæ” applies—the man or the woman.
But as she is called “anus,” “an Old
Woman,” in the last line, it is most probable that the man is meant.
The Latin language had two unrelated words spelled “anus”. The one
referenced here is “anūs” with long final u.
Country-seat at Misenum)—Ver. 8. This villa was situate on
Cape Misenum, a promontory of Campania, near Baiæ and Cumæ, so
called from Misenus, the trumpeter of Æneas, who was said to have been
buried there. The villa was originally built by C. Marius, and was
bought by Cornelia, and then by Lucullus, who either rebuilt it or added
extensively to it.
Of the chamberlains)—Ver. 11. The “atrienses” were a
superior class of the domestic slaves. It was their duty to take charge
of the “atrium,” or hall; to escort visitors or clients, and to explain
to strangers all matters connected with the pictures, statues, and other
decorations of the house.
To sprinkle)—Ver. 16. Burmann suggests that this duty did
not belong to the “atriensis,” who would consequently think that his
courteous politeness would on that account be still more pleasing to the
Another walk)—Ver. 18. The “xystus” was a level piece of
ground, in front of a portico, divided into flower-beds of various
shapes by borders of box.
Much higher price)—Ver. 25. He alludes to the Roman mode of
manumission, or setting the slaves at liberty. Before the master
presented the slave to the Quæstor, to have the “vindicta,” or lictor’s
rod, laid on him, he turned him round and gave him a blow on the face.
In the word “veneunt,” “sell,” there is a reference to the purchase of
their liberty by the slaves, which was often effected by means of their
“peculium,” or savings.
Literally: Whatever violence and unscrupulousness attack, comes
Carrying baskets)—Ver. 2. “Fisci” were baskets made of
twigs, or panniers, in which the Romans kept and carried about sums of
money. Being used especially in the Roman treasury, the word in time
came to signify the money itself. Hence our word “fiscal.”
Clear-toned bell)—Ver. 5. Scheffer and Gronovius think that
the bell was used, as in some countries at the present day, for the
purpose of warning those who came in an opposite direction to make room
where the path was narrow.
Amid the slaughter)—Ver. 8. He alludes no doubt to the
murder of the men conducting the mules by the Robbers.
Those spiders’ webs)—Ver. 23. The mode of clearing away the
spider webs may be seen described in the beginning of the “Stichus” of
Since another)—Ver. 5. He probably refers to Æsop: though
Heinsius thinks that he refers to C. Mecænas Melissus, mentioned by
Ovid, in his Pontic Epistles, B. iv., El. xvi., l. 30,
a freedman of Mecænas, who compiled a book of jests partly from the
Burmann, however, ridicules this supposition.
Unhappy destiny)—Ver. 17. The words “fatale exitium” have
been considered as being here inappropriately used. It is very doubtful
whether the last part of this Epilogue is genuine.
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,III.2 which
will invite me to study with mind unbent.” Will you rather,
I ask you, read worthless ditties,III.3 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,III.4 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
But now, come of it what may (as Sinon saidIII.5 when he
was brought before the King of Dardania), I will trace a third book
with the pen of Æsop, and dedicate it to you, in acknowledgment of your
honor and your goodness.III.6 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,III.7 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.III.8 But if any other than SejanusIII.9 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 ScythiaIII.10 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 opinionIII.11 of them with your
An Old Woman espied a Cask,III.12 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.III.13 After she had greedily snuffed it up her
nostrils with all her might; “O delicious fragrance,III.14” 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.III.15
Repayment in kind is generally made by those who are despised.
A PantherIII.16 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
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.”
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.III.17 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
A man seeing an Ape hanging up at a Butcher’s among the rest of his
commodities and provisions, enquired how it might taste;III.19 on
which the Butcher, joking, replied: “Just as the head is, such,
I warrant, is the taste.”
396This 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
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.III.20
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 yokeIII.21 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.
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.III.22” “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.”
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.III.23 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.”
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
acquittedIII.24 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
“I only wish,” he replied, “I could fill it with real
It is dangerous alike to believe or to disbelieve. Of either fact,
I will briefly lay before you an instance.
Hippolytus met his death,III.25 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
A certain married Man, who was very fond of his Wife, having now
provided the white togaIII.26 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,III.27 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.III.28 Innocent as she was, dark
suspicion weighed heavily against her, because she had become possessor
of his property: her patrons standIII.29 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 truthIII.30: “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
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
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.”III.31
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
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.III.32
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
This Fable I should have passed by in silence, if the Drones had not
refused the proposed stipulation.III.33
An Athenian seeing Æsop in a crowd of boys at play with nuts,III.34 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.
A Dog said to a LambIII.35 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?III.36 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.
He who does not conform to courtesy, mostly pays the penalty of his
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;III.37 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
Thus what she had refused when alive, she gave when dead.
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,”III.38 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.”III.39
This little Fable admonishes us to do nothing that is not
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
Covet not that which has not been granted you, lest your baffled
hopes sink down to useless repinings.
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,III.40 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,”III.41 said he;
and went hastily homewards.
If the 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.
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,III.43
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
provinceIII.44 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.III.45”
Eutychus)—Ver. 2. It is not known with certainty who this
Eutychus was to whom he addresses himself. It has been suggested that he
is the same person who is mentioned by Josephus, Antiq. B. xix.,
c. 4, as flourishing at the Court of Caligula, and who had
previously been a charioteer and inspector of buildings at the stables
of Claudius. He is also supposed, from the words of the Epilogue of this
Book, line 20-26, to have held more than one public office. It has been
suggested that he was the freedman of the Emperor Claudius or Augustus,
an inscription having been found in the tomb of the freedmen of the
latter to C. Julius Eutychus. But it is hardly probable that he is the
person meant; as there is little doubt that Phædrus wrote the present
Book of Fables long after the time of Augustus. Indeed it has been
suggested by some that he wrote it as late as the reign of Caligula.
Some holidays)—Ver. 8. The Romans had three kinds of public
“feriæ,” or holidays, which all belonged to the “dies nefasti,” or days
on which no public business could be done. These were the “feriæ
stativæ,” “conceptivæ,” and “imperativæ.” The first were held regularly,
and on stated days set forth in the Calendar. To these belonged the
Lupercalia, Carmentalia, and Agonalia. The “conceptivæ,” or “conceptæ,”
were moveable feasts held at certain seasons in every year, but not on
fixed days; the times for holding them being annually appointed by the
magistrates or priests. Among these were the “feriæ Latinæ,” Sementivæ,
Paganalia, and Compitalia. The “ imperativæ” were appointed to be held on
certain emergencies by order of the Consuls, Prætors, and Dictators; and
were in general held to avert national calamities or to celebrate great
Worthless ditties)—Ver. 10. “Nænia” were, properly, the
improvised songs that were sung at funerals by the hired mourners, who
were generally females. From their trivial nature, the word came to be
generally applied to all worthless ditties, and under this name Phædrus,
with all humility, alludes to his Fables.
On the Pierian Hill)—Ver. 17. Judging from this passage it
would appear that Phædrus was a Macedonian by birth, and not, as more
generally stated, a Thracian. Pieria was a country on the
south-east coast of Macedonia, through which ran a ridge of mountains,
a part of which were called Pieria, or the Pierian mountain. The
inhabitants are celebrated in the early history of the music and poesy
of Greece, as their country was one of the earliest seats of the worship
of the Muses, and Orpheus was said to have been buried there. It is most
probable that Phædrus was carried away in slavery to Rome in his early
years, and that he remembered but little of his native country.
As Sinon said)—Ver. 27. He here alludes to the words of
Sinon, the Grecian spy, when brought before Priam, in the Second Book of
“Cuncta equidem tibi, rex, fuerit quodcumque fatebor
Others, again, suppose that this was a proverbial expression in
general use at Rome. It is not improbable that it may have become so on
being adopted from the work of Virgil: “Come what may of it, as Sinon
And your goodness)—Ver. 30. “Honori et meritis dedicam
illum tuis.” We learn from ancient inscriptions that this was a
customary formula in dedications.
Slavery)—Ver. 34. He probably alludes to Æsop’s state of
slavery, in the service of the philosopher Xanthus.
To my own misfortune)—Ver. 40. He evidently alludes to some
misfortune which has befallen him in consequence of having alluded in
his work to the events of his own times. It has been suggested that he
fell under the displeasure of Tiberius and his minister Sejanus, in
consequence of the covert allusions made to them in Fables II and VI in
the First Book. This question is, however, involved in impenetrable
Than Sejanus)—Ver. 41. He means that Ælius Sejanus had
acted against him as both informer, witness, and judge; but that had an
honest man condemned him to the sufferings he then experienced, he
should not have complained. The nature of the punishment here alluded to
is not known.
Anacharsis of Scythia)—Ver. 52. A Scythian
philosopher, and supposed contemporary of Æsop. He came to Athens in
pursuit of knowledge while Solon was the lawgiver of that city. He is
said to have written works on legislation and the art of war.
Nearer to learned Greece)—Ver. 54. Alluding to Pieria, the
place of his birth. The people of Pieria were supposed to have been of
A cask)—Ver. 1. “Amphoram.” Properly, the “amphora,” or
earthen vessel with two handles, in which wine was usually kept.
Falernian )—Ver. 2. The Falernian wine held the second
rank in estimation among the Romans. The territory where it was grown
commenced at the “Pons Campanus,” and extended from the Massic Hills to
the river Vulturnus. Pliny mentions three kinds, the rough, the sweet,
and the thin. It is supposed to have been of an amber colour, and of
considerable strength. It was the custom to write the age of the wine
and the vintage on the “amphora,” or cask.
delicious fragrance)—Ver. 5. “Anima,” most probably
applies to the savour or smell of the wine; though some Commentators
have thought that she addresses the cask as “anima,” meaning “O dear
soul;” others, that she speaks of the wine as being the soul of life;
while Walchius seems to think that she is addressing her own soul, which
is quite cheered by the fumes.
Who knows me)—Ver. 7. Burmann thinks that the author
covertly hints here at the habits of the Emperor Tiberius in his old
age, who still hankered after those vicious indulgences which had been
his main pursuits in his former days; or else that the Poet simply
refers to human life, in the same spirit in which Seneca, Ep. lvii.,
calls old age, “fæx vitæ,” “the lees of life.” Others again suppose that
Phædrus alludes to his own old age, and means that those who knew him
when this Fable was written, may judge from their present acquaintance
with him what he must have been in his younger days. Heinsius thinks
that it refers to the present state of servitude of Phædrus, compared
with his former liberty; but, if he was manumitted, as generally
supposedby Augustus, and this Fable was not written till
after the death of Sejanus, that cannot be the case.
A Panther)—Ver. 2. Some have suggested, Burmann and Guyetus
in the number, that by the Panther is meant Tiberius, who, during his
banishment to the isle of Rhodes, occupied himself in studying how to
wreak his vengeance upon his enemies at Rome, and, with the fury of the
Panther, as soon as he had the opportunity, glutted his vengeance. This
notion, however, seems more ingenious than well founded.
Of greater age)—Ver. 11. “Majori hostiâ;” probably,
a sheep of two years old instead of a lamb.
For your shepherds)—Ver. 17. Plutarch introduces Thales in
his “Convivium Sapientium,” as telling a somewhat similar story. Phædrus
might, with better grace, have omitted this so-called Fable.
How it might taste)—Ver. 3. The Butcher puns upon the
twofold meaning of “sapio,” “to taste of,” or “have a flavour,” and “to
be wise.” The customer uses the word in the former sense, while the
Butcher answers it in the latter, and perhaps in the former as well;
“Such as the head is,” pointing to it, “I’ll warrant the wisdom of the
animal to be;” the words at the same time bearing the meaning of, “It
has an ape’s head, and therefore it can only taste like the head of an
ape.” “Sapor” ordinarily means “flavour,” or “taste;” but Cicero uses it
in the signification of wisdom or genius. Many other significations of
this passage have been suggested by the various Editors.
On the cross)—Ver. 10. The cross was especially used as an
instrument of punishment for malefactors of low station, and, as we see
here, sometimes on very trivial occasions.
Guides my yoke)—Ver. 6. “Jugum meum;” meaning, “me who bear
It is nothing)—Ver. 17. “Nihil est.” This was a form of
expression used when they wished to cut short any question, to
which they did not think fit to give a direct answer.
Their mother’s chair)—Ver. 4. The “cathedra” was properly a
soft or easy chair used in the “gynæcæa,” or women’s apartments. These
were of various forms and sizes, and had backs to them; it was
considered effeminate for the male sex to use them. “Sellæ” was the name
of seats common to both sexes. The use of the “speculum,” or mirror, was
also confined to the female sex; indeed, even Pallas or Minerva was
represented as shunning its use, as only befitting her more voluptuous
I might be acquitted)—Ver. 4. He alludes to the fate of
Socrates, who, after he was put to death by his countrymen, was publicly
pronounced to be innocent, and a statue was erected in his honour.
Met his death)—Ver. 3. The story of Hippolytus, who met his
death in consequence of the treachery of his step-mother Phædra, is
related at length in the Play of Euripides of that name, and in the
Fifteenth Book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The fate of Cassandra, the
daughter of Priam, who in vain prophesied the fall of Troy, is related
in the Second Book of the Æneid, l. 246, et seq.
The white toga)—Ver. 10. The “toga prætexta,” or Consular
robe, was worn by the male children of the Romans till their sixteenth
year; when they assumed the ordinary “toga,” which was called “pura,”
because it had no purple border, and was entirely white.
The hair cut close)—Ver. 27. This is appropriately
introduced, as the hair of youths was allowed to grow long until they
had reached the age of manhood, on which it was cut close, and
consecrated to the Gods.
The Centumviri)—Ver. 35. The “Centumviri” were a body of
105 officers, whose duty it was to assist the prætor in litigated
questions. They were sometimes called “judices selecti,” or
The patrons stand)—Ver. 37. The patrons stood while
pleading the causes of their clients, while the judges sat, as with
Sure source of truth)—Ver. 43. It is suggested that the
source of information here alluded to was the evidence of the slaves,
who had heard their master mention in his last moments the treachery of
his freedman. It is not probable that the freedman voluntarily came
forward, and declared the truth to Augustus. In l. 39, Augustus is
called “Divus,” as having been deified after his death. Domitian was the
first who was so called during his lifetime.
Deserved to suffer)—Ver. 7. Though this moral may apply to
all misfortunes in general, it is supposed by some of the Commentators
that by the insulter some individual notorious for his adulteries was
intended to be represented; who consequently merited by law to be
reduced to the same situation as the innocent Eunuch.
Have no relish for me)—Ver. 8. From this passage we may
infer either that Phædrus himself had many censurers at Rome, or that
the people in general were not admirers of Fables.
The proposed stipulation)—Ver. 17. It has been suggested
that Phædrus here alludes to some who had laid claim to the authorship
of his Fables, and had refused a challenge given by him, such as that
here given to the Drones, to test the correctness of their
At play with nuts)—Ver. 2. It is thought by Schwabe that
Phædrus wrote this Fable in defence of his early patron Augustus,
against those who censured him for the levity of his conduct in his old
age, as we learn from Suetonius that he amused himself with fishing,
playing with dice, pebbles, or nuts with boys. —For some account
of Roman games with nuts, see “The Walnut-tree,” a fragment of
Ovid, in vol. iii. p. 491, of Bohn’s Translation of that
To a Lamb)—Ver. 1. Burmann suggests that this Fable is
levelled against the cruelty of parents, who were much in the habit of
exposing their children, who were consequently far from indebted to
them. Schwabe conjectures that the system of employing wet-nurses is
intended here to be censured.
Black or white)—Ver. 10. This, though disregarded by the
mother, would be of importance to him, as the black lambs were first
selected for sacrifice.
Pallas lately gave me)—Ver. 13. The Owl was sacred to
So heaven help me)—Ver. 8. “Mehercule,” literally “By
Hercules.” This was a form of oath used generally by men, and Phædrus
has been censured for here putting it in the mouth of Minerva. Some
Commentators also think that he is guilty of a slight anachronism in
using the name of Hercules here to give emphasis to an asseveration; but
there does not appear to be any ground for so thinking, as the choice
must, of course, be supposed to have been made after his death and
deification. In the Amphitryon of Plautus, Mercury is represented as
swearing by Hercules before that God was born.
Vain is our glory)—Ver. 12. “Nisi utile est quod facimus,
stulta est gloria.” This line is said to have been found copied on a
marble stone, as part of a sepulchral inscription, at Alba Julia or
Weissenburg, in Transylvania.
Seeking for fire)—Ver. 3. Fire was kindled in general by
being kept smouldering in a log under the ashes, from day to day, for
culinary purposes; or else it was begged from a neighbour, as we learn
from the Aulularia of Plautus, A. I., Sc. ii., l. 12
et seq.; and so generally was this done that we find it stated in
the Trinummus, A. II., sc. ii., l. 53, that it was the
custom not to refuse fire when asked for even to an enemy.
In search of a man)—Ver 9. Meaning that he did not deem the
enquirer to be a man. The same story is told in Diogenes Laertius, of
Diogenes the Cynic.
This and the following Prologue seem better suited to their present
places than to the close of the Fourth Book, where in most of the
editions they appear.
Of a wearied life)—Ver. 15. It is impossible to say with
any certainty to what he refers; but the most probable conjecture is
that he has again got into trouble through his compositions, and is
begging Eutychus, in some public capacity, immediately to give a
favourable decision in his behalf. That “Languens ævum” means a life
worn out with misfortune, and does not refer to himself as sinking, in
want, under old age, is evident from the next line. It has been
conjectured by some that Phædrus wrote these lines in prison, where he
had been thrown through the malice of his enemies.
It is your province)—Ver. 24. He is supposed to allude to
some judicial position held by Eutychus, which he would have to vacate
at the end of a year, and be succeeded by others, probably not so
favourably disposed to himself.
To murmur in public)—Ver. 33. “Palam mutire plebeio
piaculum est.” These words are quoted from the Telephus of Ennius.
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,IV.1 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,IV.2 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,IV.3 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?
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,IV.4 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 tambourinesIV.5 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.”
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
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,IV.6” said he, “you that are lying there, as you
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.
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,IV.7 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
This Fable will admonish the passionate, that it is better to be
injured with impunity, than to put ourselves in the power of
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,IV.8 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.IV.9 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,IV.10 well stocked with casks of old
wine, a finely finished house,IV.11 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.
When the Mice, overcome by the army of the Weasels, (whose History is
painted in our tavernsIV.12), 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
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.IV.13
Would that the pine had never fallen on the summits of PelionIV.14
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 PeliasIV.15 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 limbsIV.16 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 FablesIV.17 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.
Let him who with greedy teeth attacks one who can bite harder,
consider himself described in this Fable.
A Viper cameIV.18 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?”
As soon as a crafty man has fallen into danger, he seeks to make his
escape by the sacrifice of another.
416A Fox, through inadvertence, having fallen into a well,IV.19
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.
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.
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.IV.20
417No 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.
Riches are deservedly despised by a man of worth,IV.21 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.”
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.
The Lion having made himself king of the wild beasts, and wishing to
acquire the reputation of equity, abandoned his former course of
rapine, and, content among them
with a moderate supply of food, distributed hallowed justice with
incorruptible fidelity. But after second thoughts began to prevailIV.22*****
(The rest is lost).
A fictione veretri linguam mulieris,
Affinitatem traxit inde obscœnitas.
Rogavit alter, tribadas et molles mares
Quæ ratio procreasset? Exposuit senex.
Idem Prometheus auctor vulgi fictilis
(Qui simul offendit ad fortunam, frangitur,)
Naturæ partes, veste quas celat pudor,
Quum separatim toto finxisset die,
Aptare mox ut posset corporibus suis,
Ad cœnam est invitatus subito a Libero;
Ubi irrigatus multo venas nectare
Sero domum est reversus titubanti pede.
Tum semisomno corde et errore ebrio,
Applicuit virginale generi masculo,
Et masculina membra applicuit fæminis;
Ita nunc libido pravo fruitur gaudio.
The She-GoatsIV.23 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
This Fable teaches you to bear that those who are inferior to you in
merit should be like you in outside appearances.
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
The Dogs once sentIV.24 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 orderAnd as for those who sent such despicable Ambassadors as
you, they shall never be free from the insults of man.”
And so it is,IV.25 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.
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 wickedIV.26
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,IV.27 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,IV.28
who rob the Gods of their incense, 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;IV.29 who, while
adding some farthings to your estate, offend heaven by your sordid
perjuries; who are for cutting downIV.30 every expense at your
funeral, for fear LibitinaIV.31 should be at all a gainer at
the expense of your property.
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.
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
CeosIV.32). 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,IV.33 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,IV.34 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.”
A MountainIV.35 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,
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.
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,IV.36 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,IV.37 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 youAlthough 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.
426When 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.
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
I have omitted)—Ver. 5. “Divinabit” seems preferable here
to “damnabit,” or “demonstrabit,” the other readings; and Burmann is
probably right in supposing that he means to say that many of the
Æsopian fables had not yet been used by him, and though others may make
use of them as bearing a general moral, they will not be able so well as
himself to point their moral in reference to individuals or classes, in
consequence of his advantage in having already adapted many of them to
the censure of particular vices.
Particulo)—Ver. 10. Of Particulo nothing whatever is known,
except that he was a freedman.
Cannot imitate)—Ver. 16. Gronovius thinks that he alludes
to the Greek proverb “Μωμεῖσθαι ῥάδιον ἢ μιμεῖσθαι.” “’Tis easier to
blame than to imitate.”
Priests of Cybele)—Ver. 4. During the Festival of Cybele,
the Galli or eunuch-priests of the Goddess went about with an image of
her seated on an ass, and beating a tambourine, for the purpose of
making a collection to defray the expenses of the worshipThey were called by
the Greeks μητραγύρται, “Collectors for the Mother.” See the
Fasti of Ovid, B. iv., l. 350, vol. p. 149, of Bohn’s Translation.
Tambourines)—Ver. 7. “The tympana,” which were almost
exactly similar to our tambourines, were covered with the skin of asses
or of oxen, and were beaten with the hand or a small stick.
So fare you well)—Ver. 21. “Sic valeas.” —“Fare you
well, if you are flour, which you are not. I wish you luck as much
as I believe you are what you pretend to be, i.e., not at
The horse)—Ver. 3. “Sonipes,” literally “sounding-hoof.”
This was a name commonly given to the horse by the Romans. Lucan
repeatedly calls a war-horse by this epithet.
Spinner of wool)—Ver. 5. “Lanificam.” Working in wool was
the constant employment of the more industrious among the females of the
higher class. Ovid, in the Fasti, Book ii., l. 742, represents
Lucretia as being found thus employed by her husband and Tarquinius. The
Emperor Augustus refused to wear any clothes that were not woven by the
females of his family.
Consulted equity)—Ver. 20. This seems to be the meaning of
“fidem advocare:” but the passage has caused considerable difficulty to
A store-room)—Ver. 25. The “apotheca” was a place in the
upper part of the house, in which the Romans frequently placed the
amphoræ in which their wine was stored. It was situate above the
“fumarium,” as the smoke was thought to heighten the flavour of the
A finely finished house)—Ver. 26. “Politam” probably refers
to the care with which the houses of the opulent in cities were smoothed
by the workman’s art. According to some Commentators, however, “domus
polita” here means “a house furnished with every luxury.”
In our taverns)—Ver. 2. We learn from Horace and other
ancient writers, that it was the custom to paint comic subjects on the
walls of the taverns; and similar subjects have been found painted on
walls at Pompeii.
More lofty style)—Ver. 5. “Cothurnis,” literally “the
buskins of Tragedy.”
Summits of Pelion)—Ver 6. The ship Argo was said to have
been built of wood grown on Mount Pelion. The author alludes to the
expedition of Jason to Colchis to fetch thence the Golden Fleece.
The realms of Pelias)—Ver. 13. He alludes to the death of
Pelias, King of Thessaly, through the schemes of Medea, daughter of
Æetes, King of Colchis, at the hands of his own daughters. See Ovid’s
Metamorphoses, B. vii. l. 297, et seq.
Limbs of her brother)—Ver. 15. When, on her flight with
Jason, Æetes pursued his daughter Medea, she, having taken with her her
brother Absyrtus, in order to retard her father in the pursuit, cut her
brother in pieces, and scattered his limbs in the way. Thus, while the
father was employed in gathering the limbs of his son, Medea made her
escape. The place where this happened was thence said to have had the
name of Tomi; and to this place Ovid was banished by Augustus. See the
Story related in the Tristia of Ovid, B. iii. El. ix.
If neither Fables)—Ver. 22. By “fabellæ,” he probably means
Æsopian fables, while by “fabulæ,” the more lofty stories of tragedy are
meant. By “Cato,” he means a censorious or over-scrupulous reader.
A Viper entered)—Ver. 3. Lokman, the Arabian Fabulist, has
the same fable; but there a Cat plays the part of the Viper.
Fallen into a well)—Ver. 3. Some of the Commentators think
that Tiberius and Sejanus are pointed at in this Fable.
From a lamp)—Ver. 13. The ancients were compelled to light
sacrifices to the Gods from torches, and not with fire from a lamp. More
usually a fire was kept constantly burning in the temple for the
A man of worth)—Ver. 1. It has been suggested that by
“forti viro,” Phædrus means a military man. The word “fortis” seems
rather here to mean “of real worth,” or “of strong mind.” Some of
ancient authors make Plutus to be the son of Ceres and Jasius.
Began to prevail)—Ver. 9. The remainder of this Fable is
lost. It is supposed to have been torn out of the MS. of the writings of
Phædrus by some pious monk, who, objecting to the following Fable,
destroyed the leaf which contained the latter part of the present one,
as well as some part of the next. Orellius considers the lines ending
with “obscœnitas” as the fragment of a Fable distinct from the
The She-Goats)—Ver. 1. This Fable is thought by some to
bear reference to the interference of Livia in affairs of state.
The Dogs once sent)—Ver. 1. It is supposed that in this
singular Fable, Phædrus ridicules, in a covert manner, some of the
prevailing superstitions of his day, or else that he satirizes Tiberius
and Sejanus, while the Dogs signify the Roman people.
And so it is)—Ver. 35. This and the next line are regarded
by many as spurious: indeed Hare is disinclined to believe that this
Fable was written by Phædrus at all.
Not to assist the wicked)—Ver. 5. It has been remarked that
Phædrus here deviates from nature, in making the Serpent give a bad
character of itself. Those who think that Phædrus wrote after the time
of Tiberius, suggest that Caligula is represented by the snake, who
wreaked his cruelty on his former benefactors, Macro and Ennia.
Of a Dragon’s den)—Ver. 3. In former times, when riches
were more commonly in the earth, it was perhaps found convenient to
encourage a superstitious notion, which was very prevalent, that they
were guarded by watchful Dragons.
Joy of your heir)—Ver. 18. That is to say, in his
Extorts a groan)—Ver. 22. So in the Aulularia of Plautus,
Act II. Sc. viii. the miser Euclio is represented as groaning
over the high price of provisions.
Cutting down)—Ver. 25. In his will.
Lest Libitina)—Ver. 26. The “pollinctores,” or
“undertakers,” kept their biers and other implements required at
funerals, at the Temple of the Goddess Libitina.
In the island of Ceos)—Ver. 28. The poet Simonides was born
at Iulis, a city of the isle of Ceos, one of the Cyclades, in the
Their girdles)—Ver. 11. Among the ancients, the zones or
girdles were sometimes used for the purpose of keeping money there;
while sometimes purses were carried suspended from them.
Carrying about their pictures)—Ver. 24. It was the custom
for shipwrecked persons to go about soliciting charity with a painting
suspended from the neck, representing their calamity; much in the
fashion which we sometimes see followed at the present day.
A Mountain)—Ver. 1. Tachos, King of Egypt, is said by
Plutarch to have said to Agesilaüs, King of Sparta, when he came to his
assistance: “The mountain has been in labour, Jupiter has been in alarm,
but it has brought forth a mouse,” alluding to the diminutive stature of
Agesilaus; who contented himself with replying, in answer to this rude
remark: “One day I shall appear to you even to be a lion.”
A certain Pugilist)—Ver. 5. “Pyctæ;” from the Greek πυκτὴς, a “boxer,” or
Twin stars of Leda)—Ver. 9. Castor and Pollux, the twin
sons of Leda.
Usually are)—Ver. 9. Orellius introduces this after Fable V
in the Fifth Book.
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 MyronV.1 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
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
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, famousV.3 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
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,V.4 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
This story may be applied to him who is courageous in prosperity, in
times of danger takes to flight.
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.
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
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
Rashness brings luck to a few, misfortune to most.
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
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 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.”
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
This complaint befits him whom hope has disappointed.
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 BathyllusV.5 with his music on the stage. It chanced that,
at a representation, I don’t well remember what it was, while the
flying-machineV.6 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.V.7 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
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,V.8 the thunders rolled,V.9
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.V.10 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,V.11 while pluming himself on the honors really paid to
the Deified House,V.12 was thrust out headlong by common consent.
A Bald Man, balancing on a razor’s edge, fleet of foot, his forehead
covered with hair,V.13 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.
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
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 BarkerV.14 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
You, Philetus,V.15 may easily perceive why I have written this.
And Myron)—Ver. 7. Myron was a famous sculptor, statuary,
and engraver, of Greece. He was a native of Eleutheræ, in Bœotia, and
according to Petronius Arbiter, died in extreme poverty.
Called Phalereus)—Ver. 1. Demetrius Phalereus, the
statesman, philosopher, and ruler of Athens, was so called from the
Attic demus, or borough of Phalerus, where he was born. He died in exile
in Egypt, according to some accounts, of the bite of a serpent. There
seems no good reason for giving to his rule over the Athenians the
epithet of “improbum,” found in the next line, although in the latter
years of his government he gave himself up in a great measure to sensual
Menander, famous)—Ver. 9. Menander, the inventor of the New
Comedy. Some of the Comedies of Terence are Translations from his
His travelling cloak)—Ver. 5. The “pænula” was a
travelling-cloak made of leather or wool, with a hood attached to it, to
cover the head.
Accompany Bathyllus)—Ver. 5. He alludes to Bathyllus, the
favourite and freedman of Mecænas, and who brought to perfection
pantomimic dancing at Rome.
Flying-machine)—Ver. 7. The “pegma” was a piece of
machinery used on the stage for the purpose of aiding the ascents and
descents of the Gods there represented.
Losing two right ones)—Ver. 9. The Poet puns on the twofold
meanings of the word “tibia,” which signifies the main bone of the leg,
and a pipe or flute. These pipes were right-handed or left-handed,
probably varying in tone, two being played at a time. Explained at
length, the pun means, “Princeps broke his left leg, when he could have
better afforded to break two right-handed pipes.”
Not an error: until recently, English “leg” often had the narrower
meaning of “lower leg”.
The curtain falling)—Ver. 23. The “aulæum,” or
stage-curtain, called also “siparium,” was a piece of tapestry stretched
on a frame, which, rising before the stage, concealed it till the actors
appeared. Instead of drawing up this curtain to discover the stage and
actors, according to the present practice, it was depressed when the
play began, and fell beneath the level of the stage: whence “aulæa
premuntur” or “mittuntur,” “the curtain is dropped,” meant that the play
The thunders rolled)—Ver. 23. This thunder was made by the
noise of rolling stones in copper vessels.
Upon the stage)—Ver. 32. The “pulpitum” was properly an
elevated place on the proscenium, or space between the scene and the
Snow-white shoes)—Ver. 37. We learn from Ovid and other
authors that white shoes were solely worn by the female sex.
To the Deified house)—Ver. 38. Taking to himself the honor
that belonged to the house of Augustus, which was worshipped with Divine
His forehead covered with hair)—Ver. 2. From this figure of
Time or Opportunity, Time came to be represented in the middle ages with
a tuft of hair on his forehead; whence our common expression “To take
time by the forelock,” signifying to make the best of an opportunity
Old Barker)—Ver. 7. We may here enumerate the names of this
nature, which we find given by Phædrus to various animals: “laniger,”
“wool-bearer,” the sheep; “auritulus,” “long-ears,” the ass; “sonipes,”
“sounding-hoof,” the horse; “barbatus,” “long-beard,” the goat;
“retorridus,” “brindle,” the mouse; and “latrans,” “barker,” the
)—Ver. 10. Of this Philetus nothing certain
is known, but he is supposed to have been a freedman of the emperor
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.”
We must not require what is unreasonable.
If Nature hadNF.2 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.
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.NF.3
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,NF.4 because they say, she has no
feet,—an assertion with which I readily agree.
Nothing is long concealed.
***Pretended vices are sometimes
profitable to men, but still the truth appears in time.
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,NF.6 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.
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,NF.7 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
On a bad Author who praised himself.
A Person had recitedNF.8 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.”
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,NF.9 and will not believe the man guilty of so
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?”NF.10 But Magnus, getting angry,
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.”
On the Lustfulness of Women.
When JunoNF.11 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.
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.NF.12
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.”
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.NF.13
The great Inconstancy and Lustfulness of Women.
A certain WomanNF.14 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
Thus did profligacy usurp the place of honour.
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.
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;”NF.15 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.”
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 brotherhoodNF.16 began to be hungry, they tore their Master to
pieces, and went shares in the proceeds of their guilt.
We must first make trial of a Man before we entrust ourselves to
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
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.
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.”
Hunger sharpens the wits.
If at any timeNF.17 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
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.”
Nothing is secret which shall not be made manifest.NF.18
A Shepherd had brokenNF.19 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.”
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
Many are in the habit of injuring the weak and cringing to the
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 itTo 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.”
There is no curse more severe than a bad conscience.
A Servant having been guiltyNF.20 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.”
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 fieldNF.21
“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.”
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
Many would escape, if for the sake of safety they would disregard their
The Beaver (to which the talkative Greeks have given the name of
Castor, thus bestowing upon an animal the name of a GodNF.22—they who boast of the abundance of their
no 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.
Not past but present Fortune must be regarded.
A ButterflyNF.23 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.NF.24 You, who were a MuleNF.25
with panniers, hurt whomsoever you
choose, by fixing your sting in himThe Wasp, too, uttered these words, well
suited to her disposition: “Consider not what we were, but what we now
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 lifeThe
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.”
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.
Attributed to Phædrus)—Cassito and Jannelli, with several
other critics, are strongly of opinion that these Fables were written by
Phædrus. On a critical examination, however, they will be found to be so
dissimilar in style and language from those acknowledged to be by
Phædrus, that it is very difficult not to come to the conclusion that
they are the work of some more recent writer, of inferior genius, and
less pure latinity. They were first published in 1809, at Naples, by
Cassito, from a MS. which had belonged to Nicholas Perotti, Archbishop
of Sipontum or Manfredonia, at the end of the fifteenth century, and
who, notwithstanding his assertions to the contrary, was perhaps either
the author of them or altered them very materially. They appear in the
MSS. in a mutilated condition; and the lacunæ have been filled up
according to the fancy of the successive Editors of the Fables. Those
inserted in Gail’s edition have in general been here adopted.
If nature had)—Ver. 1. This can hardly be styled a Fable;
it is merely an Epilogue or moral lesson.
For laughter)—Ver. 17. This story savours more of the false
wit of the middle ages than of the genius of Phædrus.
Was called Mendacity)—Ver. 21. There is a sort of pun
intended upon the word “menda,” a blemishBecause Falsehood was
blemished in having no feet, she was called “mendacium” or “mendacity.”
Here the author’s etymology is at fault, as the word “mendacity” comes
from “mentior,” to lie; which is not likely to have been derived from
“menda.” Besides, Falsehood, whether she has feet or not, generally
travels more speedily than Truth.
Fable V.)—This seems to be only a fragment; probably the
moral of a Fable now lost.
Nine acres)—Ver. 13. “Jugera.” The “jugerum” was a piece of
land 240 feet long by 120 wide.
The laurels, too)—Ver. 5. The “cortina” or oracular shrine
was surrounded with laurels; which were said to quiver while the oracles
were being pronounced. This is probably the most beautiful portion of
these newly-discovered poems. Still, it cannot with propriety be called
A person had recited)—Ver. 1. Adry remarks that this is not
a Fable, but only an Epigram.
About their business)—Ver. 13. The words suggested in
Orellius, “Indicii falsi auctores propelli jubet,” are used here to fill
up the lacuna.
May I?)—Ver. 29. “Licet?” meaning: “Do you give me
permission to go against the enemy?” The story about the spittle savours
of the middle ages.
When Juno)—Ver. 1. This story is both silly and in very bad
Remedy for a bad temper)—Ver. 15. This doctrine is stated
in far too general terms.
Genius often wasted.)—Ver. 7. It seems to border upon the
absurd to speak of an ass losing the opportunity of cultivating his
“ingenium.” He can hardly with propriety be quoted under any
circumstances as a specimen of a “mute inglorious Milton.”
A certain Woman)—Ver. 1. This is the story of the Matron of
Ephesus, told in a much more interesting manner by Petronius
Shan’t enjoy their repose)—Ver. 9. The play upon the word
“cessabo,” seems redolent of the wit of the middle ages, and not of the
days of Phædrus.
Savage brotherhood)—Ver. 6. “Societas.” The brotherhood of
litter-carriers, perhaps four or six in number.
If at any time)—Ver. 1. This is not a Fable; it is merely
an anecdote in natural history, and one not very unlikely to have been
Be made manifest)—Ver. 1. This moral is couched in the same
words as St. Luke, viii. 17: “For nothing is secret which shall not be
A Shepherd had broken)—Ver. 1. As Adry remarks, this Fable
more closely resembles the brevity and elegance of Phædrus.
Having been guilty)—Ver. 5. Chambry, one of the French
Editors, omits this, as unworthy of Phædrus, and Adry pronounces it
unintelligible. The meaning of this, which is Jannelli’s version, seems
to be: “When you ought not to please yourself, you do please yourself,
in committing the crime; but the consequence is that, afterwards, when
you ought to feel pleased, in that you have gratified your desires, you
cannot, in consequence of your guilty conscience.” It is so mutilated,
however, that Cassitti, Jannelli, and other Editors give entirely
Injury to this field)—Ver. 4. The Hare is more an enemy to
the flowers in gardens than to the fields. It was probably for this
reason that the Romans sacrificed this animal to the Goddess Flora.
Name of a God)—Ver. 3. This pun upon the of
“Castor,” the name of the demigod, to “Castor,” “a beaver,” seems
to be a puerile pun; and the remark upon the limited “copia verborum” of
the Greeks, seems more likely to proceed from the Archbishop of Sipontum
than from Phædrus, who was evidently proud of his Grecian origin.
A Butterfly)—Ver. 1. This Fable is in a sadly mutilated
state, and critics are at a loss to say, with any certainty, what is
meant by it. Whether the supposed word in l. 2, “barathris,” (if
really the correct reading), means the depths of hell, or the inner
folds of the leaves in which the Butterfly is enveloped in the chrysalis
state, or whether it means something else, will probably always remain a
matter of doubt. However, the Fable seems to allude to the prevalent
idea, that the soul, when disengaged from the body, took the form of a
butterfly. Indeed the Greeks called both the soul and a butterfly by the
name of ψυχή. There are six or seven different versions of the
first five lines.
Ashes do I fly)—Ver. 6. It is just possible that this may
allude to the soul being disengaged from the corruption of the body.
Who were a Mule)—Ver. 7. She would seem here to allude to
the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. It may possibly have been a
notion, that as the human soul took the form of a Butterfly, the souls
of animals appeared in the shapes of Wasps and Flies.
The Epilogue)—This appears in reality to be only the
Fragment of an Epilogue.
A Kite having been sick for many months, and seeing now there was no
longer any hope of his recovery, asked his Mother to go round the sacred
places, and make the most earnest vows for his recovery. “I will do
so, my Son,” said she, “but I am greatly afraid I shall obtain no help;
but you, who have polluted every temple and every altar with your
ravages, sparing no sacrificial food, what is it you would now have me
He who cannot endure his own misfortune, let him look at others, and
On one occasion, the Hares being scared in the woods by a great
noise, cried out, that, on account of their continued alarms, they would
end their lives. So they repaired to a certain pond, into which, in
their despondency, they were
going to throw themselves. Alarmed at their approach, some Frogs fled
distractedly into the green sedge. “Oh!” says one of the hares,
“there are others too whom fear of misfortune torments. Endure existence
as others do.”
No fortune conceals baseness of nature.
Jupiter having changed a Fox into a human shape, while she was
sitting as a Mistress on a royal throne, she saw a beetle creeping out
of a corner, and sprang nimbly towards the well-known prey. The Gods of
heaven smiled; the Great Father was ashamed, and expelled the Concubine,
repudiated and disgraced, addressing her in these words: “Live on in the
manner that you deserve, you, who cannot make a worthy use of my
This Fable teaches that no one should hurt those of more humble
While a Lion was asleep in a wood, where some Field-Mice were
sporting about, one of them by chance leaped upon the Lion as he lay.
The Lion awoke and seized the wretched creature with a sudden
spring. The captive implored pardon and suppliantly confessed his
crime, a sin of imprudence. The Monarch, not deeming it a glorious
thing to exact vengeance for this, pardoned him and let him go.
A few days after, the Lion, while roaming by night, fell into a
trap. When he perceived that he was caught in the snare, he began to
roar with his loudest voice. At this tremendous noise the Mouse
instantly ran to his assistance, and exclaimed: “You have no need to
fear; I will make an adequate return for your great kindness.”
Immediately he began to survey all the knots and the fastenings of the
gnawing the strings after he had examined them, loosened the snare. Thus
did the Mouse restore the captured Lion to the woods.
Those perish, who give assistance to their foes.
A certain Man, having made an axe, besought the Trees to afford him a
handle from their wood that would prove firm: they all desired that a
piece of Olive-tree should be given. He accepted the offer, and, fitting
on the handle, set to work with the axe to hew down the huge trunks.
While he was selecting such as he thought fit, the Oak is reported thus
to have said to the Ash: “We richly deserve to be cut down.”
A Mouse, in order that he might pass over a river with greater ease,
sought the aid of a Frog. She tied the fore leg of the Mouse to her
hinder thigh. Hardly had they swum to the middle of the river, when the
Frog dived suddenly, trying to reach the bottom, that she might
perfidiously deprive the Mouse of life. While he struggled with all his
might not to sink, a Kite that was flying near at hand, beheld the
prey, and seizing the floundering Mouse in his talons, at the same time
bore off the Frog that was fastened to him.
Thus do men often perish while meditating the .
A Cock who had often fought with another Cock, and been
beaten, requested a Hawk to act as umpire in the contest.
The latter conceived hopes, if both should come, of devouring him who
should first present himself. Shortly after, when he saw that they had
come to plead their cause, he seized the one who first brought his case
into court. The victim clamorously exclaimed: “’Tis not I that should be
punished, but the one who took to flight;” the Bird replied: “Do
not suppose that you can this day escape my talons; it is just that you
should now yourself endure the treacheries you were planning for
He who often cogitates upon the death of others, little knows what
sad Fate he may be preparing for himself.
A Snail, smitten with admiration of a Mirror which she had found,
began to climb its shining face, and lick it, fancying she could confer
no greater favour upon it, than to stain its brightness with her slime.
An Ape, when he saw the Mirror thus defiled, remarked: “He who
allows himself to be trodden by such beings, deserves to suffer
such a disgrace.”
This Fable is written for those Women who unite themselves to
ignorant and foolish Men.
A City Mouse being once entertained at the table of a Country one,
dined on humble acorns in a hole. Afterwards he prevailed upon the
Countryman by his entreaties to enter the city and a cellar that
abounded with the choicest things. Here, while they were enjoying
remnants of various kinds, the door is thrown open, and in comes the
Butler; the Mice, terrified at the noise, fly in different directions,
and the City one easily hides himself in his well-known holes; while the
unfortunate Rustic, all trepidation in that strange house, and dreading
death, runs to-and-fro along the walls. When the Butler had taken what
he wanted, and had shut the door, the City Mouse bade the Country one
again to take courage. The latter, still in a state of perturbation,
replied: “I hardly can take any food for fear. Do you think he will
come?” —“Why are you in such a fright?” said the City one; “come,
let us enjoy dainties which you may seek in vain in the country.” The
Countryman replied: “You, who don’t know what it is to fear, will
enjoy all these things; but, free from care and at liberty, may acorns
be my food!”
’Tis better to live secure in poverty, than to be consumed by the
cares attendant upon riches.
An Ass, seeing the Dog fawn upon his master, and how he was crammed
at his table each day, and had bits thrown to him in abundance by the
Servants, thus remarked: “If the Master and the Servants are so very
fond of a most filthy Dog, what must it be with me, if I should pay him
similar attentions, who am much better than this Dog, and useful and
praiseworthy in many respects; who am supported by the pure streams of
undefiled water, and never in the habit of feeding upon nasty food?
Surely I am more worthy than a whelp to enjoy a happy life, and to
obtain the highest honor.” While the Ass is thus soliloquising, he sees
his Master enter the stable; so running up to him in haste and braying
aloud, he leaps upon him, claps both feet on his shoulders, begins to
lick his face; and tearing his clothes with his dirty hoofs, he fatigues
his Master with his heavy weight, as he stupidly fawns upon him. At
their Master’s outcry the Servants run to the spot, and seizing
everywhere such sticks and stones as come in their way, they punish the
braying beast, and knocking him off his Master’s body, soon send
him back, half-dead to the manger, with sore limbs and battered
459This Fable teaches that a fool is not to thrust himself upon
those who do not want him, or affect to perform the part of one superior
A Crane and a Crow had made a league on oath, that the Crane should
protect the Crow against the Birds, and that the Crow should
foretell the future, so that the Crane might be on her guard. After
this, on their frequently flying into the fields of a certain
Countryman, and tearing up by the roots what had been sown, the owner of
the field saw it, and being vexed, cried out: “Give me a stone, Boy,
that I may hit the Crane.” When the Crow heard this, at once she warned
the Crane, who took all due precaution. On another day, too, the Crow
hearing him ask for a stone, again warned the Crane carefully to avoid
the danger. The Countryman, suspecting that the divining Bird heard his
commands, said to the Boy: “If I say, give me a cake, do you secretly
hand me a stone.” The Crane came again; he bade the Boy give him
a cake, but the Boy gave him a stone, with which he hit the Crane, and
broke her legs. The Crane, on being wounded, said: “Prophetic Crow,
where now are your auspices? Why did you not hasten to warn your
companion, as you swore you would, that no such evil might befall me?”
The Crow made answer: “It is not my art that deserves to be blamed; but
the purposes of double-tongued people are so deceiving, who say one
thing and do another.”
Those who impose upon the inexperienced by deceitful promises, fail
not to cajole them by-and-bye with pretended reasons.
The Birds having assembled in one spot, saw a Man sowing flax in a
field. When the Swallow found that they thought
nothing at all of this, she is reported to have called them together,
and thus addressed them: “Danger awaits us all from this, if the seed
should come to maturity.” The Birds laughed at her. When the
crop, however, sprang up, the Swallow again remarked: “Our destruction
is impending; come, let us root up the noxious blades, lest, if they
shortly grow up, nets may be made thereof, and we may be taken by the
contrivances of man.” The Birds persist in laughing at the words of the
Swallow, and foolishly despise this most prudent advice. But she,
in her caution, at once betook herself to Man, that she might suspend
her nest in safety under his rafters. The Birds, however, who had
disregarded her wholesome advice, being caught in nets made of the flax,
came to an untimely end.
Once on a time a Partridge was sitting in a lofty tree. A Fox
came up, and began thus to speak: “O Partridge, how
beautiful is your aspect! Your beak transcends the coral; your thighs
the brightness of purple. And then, if you were to sleep, how much more
beauteous you would beAs soon as the silly Bird had closed her eyes,
that instant the Fox seized the credulous thing. Suppliantly she uttered
these words, mingled with loud cries: “O Fox, I beseech you,
by the graceful dexterity of your exquisite skill, utter my name as
before, and then you shall devour me.” The Fox, willing to speak, opened
his mouth, and so the Partridge escaped destruction. Then said the
deluded Fox: “What need was there for me to speak?” The Partridge
retorted: “And what necessity was there for me to sleep, when my hour
for sleep had not come?”
This is for those who speak when there is no occasion, and who sleep
when it is requisite to be on the watch.
An Ass and an Ox, fastened to the same yoke, were drawing a waggon.
While the Ox was pulling with all his might he broke his horn. The Ass
swears that he experiences no help whatever from his weak companion.
Exerting himself in the labour, the Ox breaks his other horn, and at
length falls dead upon the ground. Presently, the Herdsman loads the Ass
with the flesh of the Ox, and he breaks down amid a thousand blows, and
stretched in the middle of the road, expires. The Birds flying to the
prey, exclaim: “If you had shown yourself compassionate to the Ox when
he entreated you, you would not have been food for us through your
A Lion,AF.3 while wandering in a wood, trod on a thorn, and
soon after came up, wagging his tail, to a Shepherd: “Don’t be alarmed,”
said he, “I suppliantly entreat your aid; I am not in
search for prey.” Lifting up the wounded foot, the Man places it
in his lap, and, taking out the thorn, relieves the patient’s
severe pain: whereupon the Lion returns to the woods. Some time after,
the Shepherd (being accused on a false charge) is condemned, and is
ordered to be exposed to ravening Beasts at the ensuing games. While the
Beasts, on being let out,AF.4 are roaming to-and-fro, the Lion
recognizes the Man who effected the cure, and again raising his foot,
places it in the Shepherd’s lap. The King, as soon as of
this, immediately restored the Lion to the woods, and the Shepherd to
A Gnat having challenged a Bull to a trial of strength, all the
People came to see the combat. Then said the Gnat: “’Tis enough
that you have come to meet me in combat; for though little in my
own idea, I am great in your judgment,” and so saying, he
took himself off on light wing through the air, and duped the multitude,
and eluded the threats of the Bull. Now if the Bull had kept in
mind his strength of neck, and had contemned an ignoble foe, the
vapouring of the trifler would have been all in vain.
He loses character who puts himself on a level with the
A Steed, swelling with pride beneath his trappings, met an
Ass, and because the latter, wearied with his load, made room very
slowly: “Hardly,” said the Horse, “can I restrain myself from
kicking you severely.” The Ass held his peace, only appealing with his
groans to the Gods. The Horse in a short space of time, broken-winded
with running, is sent to the farm. There the Ass espying him laden with
dung, thus jeered him: “Where are your former trappings, vain boaster,
who have now fallen into the misery which you treated with such
Let not the fortunate man, unmindful of the uncertainty of fortune,
despise the lowly one, seeing that he knows not what he may come to
The Birds were at war with the Beasts, and the conquerors were
defeated in their turn; but the Bat, fearing the doubtful issue of
the strife, always betook himself to those whom he saw
victorious. When they had returned to their former state of peace, the
fraud was apparent to both sides; convicted therefore of a crime so
disgraceful, and flying from the light, he thenceforth hid
himself in deep darkness, always flying alone by night.
Whoever offers himself for sale to both sides, will live a life of
disgrace, hateful to them both.
While a Hawk was sitting in a Nightingale’s nest, on the watch for a
Hare, he found there some young ones. The Mother, alarmed at the danger
of her offspring, flew up, and suppliantly entreated him to spare her
young ones. “I will do what you wish,” he replied, “if you will
sing me a tuneful song with a clear voice.” On this, much as her heart
failed her, still, through fear, she obeyed, and being compelled, full
of grief she sang. The Hawk, who had seized the prey, then said:
“You have not sung your best;” and, seizing one of the young ones with
his claws, began to devour it. A Fowler approaches from another
direction, and stealthily extending his reed,AF.5 touches the
perfidious creature with bird-lime, and drags him to the
Whoever lays crafty stratagems for others, ought to beware that he
himself be not entrapped by cunning.
A Wolf, in the course of time, had collected a store in his den, that
he might have food, which he might enjoy at his ease for many months.
A Fox, on learning this, went to the Wolf’s den, and said
with tremulous voice: “Is all right, brother? For not having seen you on
the look-out for prey in your woods, life has been saddened every day.”
The Wolf, when he perceived the envy of his rival, replied: “You
have not come hither from any anxiety on my account, but that you may
get a share. I know what is your deceitful aim.” The Fox enraged,
comes to a Shepherd, and says: “Shepherd, will you return me
thanks, if to-day I deliver up to you the enemy of your flock, so that
you need have no more anxiety?” The Shepherd replied:
“I will serve you, and will with pleasure give you anything you
like.” She points out the Wolf’s den to the Shepherd, who shuts him in,
despatches him immediately with a spear, and gladly gratifies his rival
with the property of another. When, however, the Fox had fallen into the
Hunter’s hands, being caught and mangled by the Dogs, she said: “Hardly
have I done an injury to another, ere I am now punished
Whoever ventures to injure another, ought to beware lest a greater
evil befall himself.
When the Sheep and the WolvesAF.6 engaged in battle, the former,
safe under the protection of the dogs, were victorious. The Wolves sent
ambassadors, and demanded a peace,
ratified on oath, on these terms; that the Sheep should give up the
Dogs, and receive as hostages the whelps of the Wolves. The Sheep,
hoping that lasting concord would be thus secured, did as the Wolves
demanded. Shortly after, when the whelps began to howl, the Wolves,
alleging as a pretext, that their young ones were being murdered, and
that the peace had been broken by the Sheep, made a simultaneous rush on
every side, and attacked the latter thus deprived of protectors;
and so a late repentance condemned their folly in putting faith
in their enemies.
If a person gives up to others the safeguard under which he has
previously lived in security, he will afterwards wish it back, but in
An Ape asked a Fox to spare him some part of her exceeding length of
tail, with which he might be enabled to cover his most unseemly hinder
parts. “For of what use,” said he, “is a tail of such extraordinary
length? For what purpose do you drag such a vast weight along the
ground?” The Fox answered: “Even if it were longer, and much
bulkier, I would rather drag it along the ground and through mud
and thorns, than give you a part; that you might not appear more comely
through what covers me.”
Greedy and rich man, this Fable has a lesson for you, who,
though you have a superabundance, still give nothing to the poor.
A Wolf, flying from the Huntsman’s close pursuit, was seen by a
Shepherd, who noticed which way he fled, and in what spot he
concealed himself. “Herdsman,” said the terrified fugitive, “by
all your hopes, do not, I do adjure you by the great Gods, betray
an innocent being, who has done you no injury.”
466“Don’t fear,” the Shepherd replied; “I’ll point in another
direction.” Soon after, the Huntsman comes up in haste: “Shepherd, have
you not seen a Wolf come this way? Which way did he run?” The Shepherd
replied, in a loud voice: “He certainly did come, but he fled to the
left,” but he secretly motioned with his eyes towards the right. The
other did not understand him, and went on in haste. Then said the
Shepherd to the Wolf: “What thanks will you give me for having concealed
you?” “To your tongue, I give especial ones,” said the Wolf, “but
on your deceitful eyes I pray that the darkness of eternal night may
He who, courteous in his words, conceals deceit in his heart, may
understand that he is himself described in this Fable.
A Liar and a Truthful Man, while travelling together, chanced to come
into the land of the Apes. One of the number, who had made himself King,
seeing them, ordered them to be detained, that he might learn what men
said of him, and at the same time he ordered all the Apes to
stand in lengthened array on the right and left; and that a throne
should be placed for himself, as he had formerly seen was the practice
with the Kings among men. After this he questions the men so
ordered to be brought before him: “What do you think of me, strangers?”
“You seem to be a most mighty King,” the Liar replied. “What of these
whom you see now about me?” “These are ministers,AF.7 these are
lieutenants, and leaders of troops.” The Ape thus lyingly praised,
together with his crew, orders a present to be given to the flatterer.
On this the Truth-teller remarked to himself: “If so great the
reward for lying, with what gifts shall I not be presented, if,
according to my custom, I tell the truth?” The Ape then
turns to the Truthful Man: “And
what do you think of me and those whom you see standing before me?” He
made answer: “You are a genuine Ape, and all these are Apes, who
are like you.” The King, enraged, ordered him to be torn with teeth and
claws, because he had told the truth.
A courtly lie is praised by the wicked; plain-spoken truth brings
destruction on the good.
A Man was disputing with a Lion which was the stronger of the two,
and while they were seeking evidence on the matter in dispute, they came
at last to a sepulchre, on which the human disputant pointed out
a Lion, depicted with his jaws rent asunder by a Man—a striking
proof of superior strength. The Lion made answer: “This was painted by a
human hand; if Lions knew how to paint, you would see the man undermost.
But I will give a more convincing proof of our valour.” He
accordingly led the Man to some games,AF.8 where, calling his
attention to men slain in reality by Lions, he said: “There is no need
of the testimony of pictures here; real valour is shown by deeds.”
This Fable teaches that liars use colouring in vain, when a
sure test is produced.
A Stork, having come to a well-known pool, found a Goose diving
frequently beneath the water, and enquired why she did so. The
other replied: “This is our custom, and we find our food in the mud; and
then, besides, we thus find safety, and escape the attack of the Hawk
when he against
us.” “I am much stronger than the Hawk,” said the Stork; “if you
choose to make an alliance with me, you will be able victoriously to
deride him.” The Goose believing her, and immediately accepting her aid,
goes with her into the fields: forthwith comes the Hawk, and seizes the
Goose in his remorseless claws and devours her, while the Stork flies
off. The Goose called out after her: “He who trusts himself to so
weak a protector, deserves to come to a still worse end.”
A Crow, sitting at her ease upon a Sheep’s back, pecked her with her
beak. After she had done this for a long time, the Sheep, so patient
under injury, remarked: “If you had offered this affront to the Dog, you
could not have endured his barking.” But the Crow thus answered
the Sheep: “I never sit on the neck of one so strong, as I know
whom I may provoke; my years having taught me cunning, I am civil
to the robust, but insolent to the defenceless. Of such a nature have
the Gods thought fit to create me.”
This Fable was written for those base persons who oppress the
innocent, and fear to annoy the bold.
In winter time, an Ant was dragging forth from hole, and drying,
the grains which, in her foresight, she had collected during the summer.
A Grasshopper, being hungry, begged her to give him something: the
Ant replied: “What were you doing in summer?” The other
said: “I had not leisure to think of the future: I was
wandering through hedges and meadows, singing away.” The Ant laughing,
and carrying back the grains, said: “Very well, you who were singing
away in the summer, in the winter.”
Let the sluggard always labour at the proper time, lest when he has
nothing, he beg in vain.
An Ass asked a Horse for a little barley. “With all my heart,” said
he, “if I had more than I wanted, I would give you plenty, in
accordance with my dignified position; but bye-and-bye, as soon as I
shall have come to my manger in the evening, I will give you a
sackful of wheat.” The Ass replied: “If you now deny me on a trifling
occasion, what am I to suppose you will do on one of greater
They who, while making great promises, refuse small favours, show
that they are very tenacious of giving.
Worn with years, a Lion pretended illness. Many Beasts came for the
purpose of visiting the sick King, whom at once he devoured. But a wary
Fox stood at a distance before the den, saluting the King. On the Lion
asking her why she did not come in: “Because,” said she,
“I see many foot-marks of those who have gone in, but none of those
who came out.”
The dangers of others are generally of advantage to the wary.
A Flea, chancing to sit on the back of a Camel who was going along
weighed down with heavy burdens, was quite delighted with himself, as he
appeared to be so much higher. After they had made a long journey, they
came together in the evening to the stable. The Flea immediately
exclaimed, skipping lightly to the ground: “See, I have got down
directly, that I may not weary you any longer, so galled as you
are.” The Camel replied: “I thank you; but neither
when you were on me did I find myself oppressed by your weight, nor do I
feel myself at all lightened now you have dismounted.”
He who, while he is of no standing, boasts to be of a lofty one,
falls under contempt when he comes to be known.
A She-Goat, that she might keep her young one in safety, on going
forth to feed, warned her heedless Kid not to open the door,
because she knew that many wild beasts were prowling about the cattle
stalls. When she was gone, there came a Wolf, imitating the voice of the
dam, and ordered the door to be opened for him. When the Kid heard him,
looking through a chink, he said to the Wolf: “I hear a sound like
my Mother’s voice, but you are a deceiver, and an enemy to me;
under my Mother’s voice you are seeking to drink my blood, and stuff
yourself with my flesh. Farewell.”
’Tis greatly to the credit of children to be obedient to their
In the house of a certain Poor Man, a Serpent was always in the habit
of coming to his table, and being fed there plentifully upon the crumbs.
Shortly after, the Man becoming rich, he began to be angry with the
Serpent, and wounded him with an axe. After the lapse of some time he
returned to his former poverty. When he saw that like the varying lot of
the Serpent, his own fortunes also changed, he coaxingly begged him to
pardon the offence. Then said the Serpent to him: “You will repent of
your wickedness until my wound is healed; don’t suppose, however, that I
take you henceforth with implicit confidence to be my friend. Still,
I could wish to be reconciled with you, if only I could never
recall to mind the perfidious axe.”
471He deserves to be suspected, who has once done an injury; and an
intimacy with him is always to be renewed with caution.
An Eagle was sitting on a branch with a Kite, in sorrowful mood.
“Why,” said the Kite, “do I see you with such a melancholy air?”
“I am looking out,” said she, “for a mate suited to myself, and
cannot find one.” “Take me,” said the Kite, “who am so much
stronger than you.” “Well, are you able to get a living by what you can
carry away?” “Many’s the time that I have seized and carried off an
ostrich in my talons.” Induced by his words, the Eagle took him as her
mate. A short time having passed after the nuptials, the Eagle
said: “Go and carry off for me the booty you promised me.”
Soaring aloft, the Kite brings back a field-mouse, most filthy, and
stinking from long-contracted mouldiness. “Is this,” said the Eagle,
“the performance of your promise?” The Kite replied to her: “That I
might contract a marriage with royalty, there is nothing I would not
have pledged myself to do, although I knew that I was unable.”
Those who seek anxiously for partners of higher rank, painfully
lament a deception that has united them to the worthless.
Æsopian Fables)—These Æsopian Fables appear much more
worthy of the genius of Phædrus than the preceding ones, which have been
attributed to him by the Italian Editors. The name of the author or
authors of these is unknown; but from the internal evidence, it is not
improbable that some may have been composed by Phædrus.
Planning for another)—Ver. 10. The nature of the reason
assigned by the Hawk is not very clear. Perhaps the writer did not care
that he should give even so much as a specious reason.
A Lion)—Ver. 1. This story is also told by Seneca—De
Beneficiis, B. II. c. 19, and by Aulus Gellius, B. III.
The Beasts, on being let out)—Ver. 10. The beasts were sent
forth from “caveæ,” or “cages,” into the area of the Circus or
Extending his reed)—Ver. 13. From this it would appear,
that fowlers stood behind trees, and used reeds tipped with birdlime,
for the purpose of taking birds.
The Sheep and the Wolves)—Ver. 1. Demosthenes is said to
have related this Fable to the Athenians, when dissuading them from
surrendering the Orators to Alexander.
Your ministers)—Ver. 13. “Comites” here seems to mean
“ministers,” in the sense in which the word was used in the times of the
later Roman emperors.
Some games)—Ver. 9. “Spectaculum,” or “venatio.” These were
exhibited by the wealthy Romans in the amphitheatre or circus, and on
some occasions many hundred beasts were slain in one day. Of course, as
here mentioned, their assailants would sometimes meet with an untimely
What from the founder Esop fell,
In neat familiar verse I tell:
Twofold’s the genius of the page,
To make you smile and make you sage.
But if the critics we displease,
By wrangling brutes and talking trees,
Let them remember, ere they blame,
We’re working neither sin nor shame;
’Tis but a play to form the youth
By fiction, in the cause of truth.
By thirst incited; to the brook
The Wolf and Lamb themselves betook.
The Wolf high up the current drank,
The Lamb far lower down the bank.
Then, bent his rav’nous maw to cram,
The Wolf took umbrage at the Lamb.
“How dare you trouble all the flood,
And mingle my good drink with mud?”
“Sir,” says the Lambkin, sore afraid,
“How should I act, as you upbraid?
474The thing you mention cannot be,
The stream descends from you to me.”
Abash’d by facts, says he, “I know
’Tis now exact six months ago
You strove my honest fame to blot”—
“Six months ago, sir, I was not.”
“Then ’twas th’ old ram thy sire,” he cried,
And so he tore him, till he died.
To those this fable I address
Who are determined to oppress,
And trump up any false pretence,
But they will injure innocence.
With equal laws when Athens throve,
The petulance of freedom drove
Their state to license, which o’erthrew
Those just restraints of old they knew.
Hence, as a factious discontent
Through every rank and order went,
Pisistratus the tyrant form’d
A party, and the fort he storm’d:
Which yoke, while all bemoan’d in grief,
(Not that he was a cruel chief,
But they unused to be controll’d)
Then Esop thus his fable told:
The Frogs, a freeborn people made,
From out their marsh with clamor pray’d
That Jove a monarch would assign
With power their manners to refine.
The sovereign smiled, and on their bog
Sent his petitioners a log,
Which, as it dash’d upon the place,
At first alarm’d the tim’rous race.
But ere it long had lain to cool,
One slily peep’d out of the pool,
And finding it a king in jest,
He boldly summon’d all the rest.
Now, void of fear, the tribe advanced,
And on the timber leap’d and danced,
475And having let their fury loose,
In gross affronts and rank abuse,
Of Jove they sought another king,
For useless was this wooden thing.
Then he a water-snake empower’d,
Who one by one their race devour’d.
They try to make escape in vain,
Nor, dumb through fear, can they complain.
By stealth they Mercury depute,
That Jove would once more hear their suit,
And send their sinking state to save;
But he in wrath this answer gave:
“You scorn’d the good king that you had,
And therefore you shall bear the bad.”
Ye likewise, O Athenian friends,
Convinced to what impatience tends,
Though slavery be no common curse,
Be still, for fear of worse and worse.
Lest any one himself should plume,
And on his neighbour’s worth presume;
But still let Nature’s garb prevail—
Esop has left this little tale:
A Daw, ambitious and absurd,
Pick’d up the quills of Juno’s bird;
And, with the gorgeous spoil adorn’d,
All his own sable brethren scorn’d,
And join’d the peacocks—who in scoff
Stripp’d the bold thief, and drove him off.
The Daw, thus roughly handled, went
To his own kind in discontent:
But they in turn contemn the spark,
And brand with many a shameful mark.
Then one he formerly disdain’d,
“Had you,” said he, “at home remain’d—
Content with Nature’s ways and will,
You had not felt the peacock’s bill;
Nor ’mongst the birds of your own dress
Had been deserted in distress.”
The churl that wants another’s fare
Deserves at least to lose his share.
As through the stream a Dog convey’d
A piece of meat, he spied his shade
In the clear mirror of the flood,
And thinking it was flesh and blood,
Snapp’d to deprive him of the treat:—
But mark the glutton’s self-defeat,
Miss’d both another’s and his own,
Both shade and substance, beef and bone.
A partnership with men in power
We cannot build upon an hour.
This Fable proves the fact too true:
An Heifer, Goat, and harmless Ewe,
Were with the Lion as allies,
To raise in desert woods supplies.
There, when they jointly had the luck
To take a most enormous buck,
The Lion first the parts disposed,
And then his royal will disclosed.
“The first, as Lion hight, I crave;
The next you yield to me, as brave;
The third is my peculiar due,
As being stronger far than you;
The fourth you likewise will renounce,
For him that touches, I shall trounce.”
Thus rank unrighteousness and force
Seized all the prey without remorse.
When Esop saw, with inward grief,
The nuptials of a neighb’ring thief,
He thus his narrative begun:
Of old ’twas rumor’d that the Sun
Would take a wife: with hideous cries
The quer’lous Frogs alarm’d the skies.
477Moved at their murmurs, Jove inquired
What was the thing that they desired?
When thus a tenant of the lake,
In terror, for his brethren spake:
“Ev’n now one Sun too much is found,
And dries up all the pools around,
Till we thy creatures perish here;
But oh, how dreadfully severe,
Should he at length be made a sire,
And propagate a race of fire!”
A Fox beheld a Mask— “O rare
The headpiece, if but brains were there!”
This holds—whene’er the Fates dispense
Pomp, pow’r, and everything but sense.
Who for his merit seeks a price
From men of violence and vice,
Is twice a fool—first so declared,
As for the worthless he has cared;
Then after all, his honest aim
Must end in punishment and shame.
A bone the Wolf devour’d in haste,
Stuck in his greedy throat so fast,
That, tortured with the pain, he roar’d,
And ev’ry beast around implored,
That who a remedy could find
Should have a premium to his mind.
A Crane was wrought upon to trust
His oath at length—and down she thrust
Her neck into his throat impure,
And so perform’d a desp’rate cure.
At which, when she desired her fee,
“You base, ungrateful minx,” says he,
“Whom I so kind forbore to kill,
And now, forsooth, you’d bring your bill
Still to give cautions, as a friend,
And not one’s own affairs attend,
Is but impertinent and vain,
As these few verses will explain.
A Sparrow taunted at a Hare
Caught by an eagle high in air,
And screaming loud— “Where now,” says she,
“Is your renown’d velocity?
Why loiter’d your much boasted speed?”
Just as she spake, an hungry glede
Did on th’ injurious railer fall,
Nor could her cries avail at all.
The Hare, with its expiring breath,
Thus said: “See comfort ev’n in death!
She that derided my distress
Must now deplore her own no less.”
Whoe’er by practice indiscreet
Has pass’d for a notorious cheat,
Will shortly find his credit fail,
Though he speak truth, says Esop’s tale.
The Wolf the Fox for theft arraign’d;
The Fox her innocence maintain’d:
The Ape, as umpire, takes his seat;
Each pleads his cause with skill and heat.
Then thus the Ape, with aspect grave,
The sentence from the hustings gave:
“For you, Sir Wolf, I do descry
That all your losses are a lie—
And you, with negatives so stout,
O Fox! have stolen the goods no doubt.”
A coward, full of pompous speech,
The ignorant may overreach;
But is the laughing-stock of those
Who know how far his valor goes.
Once on a time it came to pass,
The Lion hunted with the Ass,
Whom hiding in the thickest shade
He there proposed should lend him aid,
By trumpeting so strange a bray,
That all the beasts he should dismay,
And drive them o’er the desert heath
Into the lurking Lion’s teeth.
Proud of the task, the long-ear’d loon
Struck up such an outrageous tune,
That ’twas a miracle to hear—
The beasts forsake their haunts with fear,
And in the Lion’s fangs expired:
Who, being now with slaughter tired,
Call’d out the Ass, whose noise he stops.
The Ass, parading from the copse,
Cried out with most conceited scoff,
“How did my music-piece go off
“So well—were not thy courage known,
Their terror had been all my own!”
Full often what you now despise
Proves better than the things you prize;
Let Esop’s narrative decide:
A Stag beheld, with conscious pride,
(As at the fountain-head he stood)
His image in the silver flood,
And there extols his branching horns,
While his poor spindle-shanks he scorns—
But, lo! he hears the hunter’s cries,
And, frighten’d, o’er the champaign flies—
His swiftness baffles the pursuit:
At length a wood receives the brute,
And by his horns entangled there,
The pack began his flesh to tear:
Then dying thus he wail’d his fate:
“Unhappy me! and wise too late!
How useful what I did disdain!
How grievous that which made me vain.”
His folly in repentance ends,
Who, to a flatt’ring knave attends.
A Crow, her hunger to appease,
Had from a window stolen some cheese,
And sitting on a lofty pine
In state, was just about to dine.
This, when a Fox observed below,
He thus harangued the foolish Crow:
“Lady, how beauteous to the view
Those glossy plumes of sable hue!
Thy features how divinely fair!
With what a shape, and what an air!
Could you but frame your voice to sing,
You’d have no rival on the wing.”
But she, now willing to display
Her talents in the vocal way,
Let go the cheese of luscious taste,
Which Renard seized with greedy haste.
The grudging dupe now sees at last
That for her folly she must fast.
A bankrupt Cobbler, poor and lean,
(No bungler e’er was half so mean)
Went to a foreign place, and there
Began his med’cines to prepare:
But one of more especial note
He call’d his sovereign antidote;
And by his technical bombast
Contrived to raise a name at last.
It happen’d that the king was sick,
Who, willing to detect the trick,
Call’d for some water in an ewer,
Poison in which he feign’d to pour
The antidote was likewise mix’d;
He then upon th’ empiric fix’d
To take the medicated cup,
And, for a premium, drink it up
481The quack, through dread of death, confess’d
That he was of no skill possess’d;
But all this great and glorious job
Was made of nonsense and the mob.
Then did the king his peers convoke,
And thus unto th’ assembly spoke:
“My lords and gentlemen, I rate
Your folly as inordinate,
Who trust your heads into his hand,
Where no one had his heels japann’d.”—
This story their attention craves
Whose weakness is the prey of knaves.
In all the changes of a state,
The poor are the most fortunate,
Who, save the name of him they call
Their king, can find no odds at all.
The truth of this you now may read—
A fearful old man in a mead,
While leading of his Ass about,
Was startled at the sudden shout
Of enemies approaching nigh.
He then advised the Ass to fly,
“Lest we be taken in the place:”
But loth at all to mend his pace,
“Pray, will the conqueror,” quoth Jack,
“With double panniers load my back?”
“No,” says the man. “If that’s the thing,”
Cries he, “I care not who is king.”
When one rogue would another get
For surety in a case of debt,
’Tis not the thing t’ accept the terms,
But dread th’ event—the tale affirms.
A Stag approach’d the Sheep, to treat
For one good bushel of her wheat.
“The honest Wolf will give his bond.”
At which, beginning to despond,
482“The Wolf (cries she) ’s a vagrant bite.
And you are quickly out of sight;
Where shall I find or him or you
Upon the day the debt is due?”
Liars are liable to rue
The mischief they’re so prone to do.
The Sheep a Dog unjustly dunn’d
One loaf directly to refund,
Which he the Dog to the said Sheep
Had given in confidence to keep.
The Wolf was summoned, and he swore
It was not one, but ten or more.
The Sheep was therefore cast at law
To pay for things she never saw.
But, lo! ere many days ensued,
Dead in a ditch the Wolf she view’d:
“This, this,” she cried, “is Heaven’s decree
Of justice on a wretch like thee.”
Bad men have speeches smooth and fair,
Of which, that we should be aware,
And such designing villains thwart,
The underwritten lines exhort.
A Bitch besought one of her kin
For room to put her Puppies in:
She, loth to say her neighbour nay,
Directly lent both hole and hay.
But asking to be repossess’d,
For longer time the former press’d,
Until her Puppies gather’d strength,
Which second lease expired at length;
And when, abused at such a rate,
The lender grew importunate,
“The place,” quoth she, “I will resign
When you’re a match for me and mine.”
A stupid plan that fools project,
Not only will not take effect,
destructive in the end
To those that bungle and pretend.
Some hungry Dogs beheld an hide
Deep sunk beneath the crystal tide,
Which, that they might extract for food,
They strove to drink up all the flood;
But bursten in the desp’rate deed,
They perish’d, ere they could succeed.
Whoever, to his honor’s cost,
His pristine dignity has lost,
Is the fool’s jest and coward’s scorn,
When once deserted and forlorn.
With years enfeebled and decay’d,
A Lion gasping hard was laid:
Then came, with furious tusk, a boar,
To vindicate his wrongs of yore:
The bull was next in hostile spite,
With goring horn his foe to smite:
At length the ass himself, secure
That now impunity was sure,
His blow too insolently deals,
And kicks his forehead with his heels.
Then thus the Lion, as he died:
“’Twas hard to bear the brave,” he cried;
be trampled on by thee
Is Nature’s last indignity;
And thou, O despicable thing,
Giv’st death at least a double sting.”
A Weasel, by a person caught,
And willing to get off, besought
The man to spare. “Be not severe
On him that keeps your pantry clear
484Of those intolerable mice.”
“This were,” says he, “a work of price,
If done entirely for my sake,
And good had been the plea you make:
But since, with all these pains and care,
You seize yourself the dainty fare
On which those vermin used to fall,
And then devour the mice and all,
Urge not a benefit in vain.”
This said, the miscreant was slain.
The satire here those chaps will own,
Who, useful to themselves alone,
And bustling for a private end,
Would boast the merit of a friend.
A Man that’s gen’rous all at once
May dupe a novice or a dunce;
But to no purpose are the snares
He for the knowing ones prepares.
When late at night a felon tried
To bribe a Dog with food, he cried,
“What ho! do you attempt to stop
The mouth of him that guards the shop?
You ’re mightily mistaken, sir,
For this strange kindness is a spur,
To make me double all my din,
Lest such a scoundrel should come in.”
When poor men to expenses run,
And ape their betters, they’re undone.
An Ox the Frog a-grazing view’d,
And envying his magnitude,
She puffs her wrinkled skin, and tries
To vie with his enormous size:
Then asks her young to own at least
That she was bigger than the beast.
They answer, No. With might and main
She swells and strains, and swells again.
485“Now for it, who has got the day?”
The Ox is larger still, they say.
At length, with more and more ado,
She raged and puffed, and burst in two.
Who give bad precepts to the wise,
And cautious men with guile advise,
Not only lose their toil and time,
But slip into sarcastic rhyme.
The dogs that are about the Nile,
Through terror of the Crocodile,
Are therefore said to drink and run.
It happen’d on a day, that one,
As scamp’ring by the river side,
Was by the Crocodile espied:
“Sir, at your leisure drink, nor fear
The least design or treach’ry here.”
“That,” says the Dog, “ma’m, would I do
With all my heart, and thank you too,
But as you can on dog’s flesh dine,
You shall not taste a bit of mine.”
One should do injury to none;
But he that has th’ assault begun,
Ought, says the fabulist, to find
The dread of being served in kind,
A Fox, to sup within his cave
The Stork an invitation gave,
Where, in a shallow dish, was pour’d
Some broth, which he himself devour’d;
While the poor hungry Stork was fain
Inevitably to abstain.
The Stork, in turn, the Fox invites,
And brings her liver and her lights
tall flagon, finely minced,
And thrusting in her beak, convinced
The Fox that he in grief must fast,
While she enjoy’d the rich repast.
486Then, as in vain he lick’d the neck,
The Stork was heard her guest to check,
“That every one the fruits should bear
Of their example, is but fair.”
A Dog, while scratching up the ground,
’Mongst human bones a treasure found;
But as his sacrilege was great,
To covet riches was his fate,
And punishment of his offence;
He therefore never stirr’d from thence,
But both in hunger and the cold,
With anxious care he watch’d the gold,
Till wholly negligent of food,
A ling’ring death at length ensued.
Upon his corse a Vulture stood,
And thus descanted:— “It is good,
O Dog, that there thou liest bereaved
Who in the highway wast conceived,
And on a scurvy dunghill bred,
Hadst royal riches in thy head.”
Howe’er exalted in your sphere,
There’s something from the mean to fear;
For, if their property you wrong,
The poor’s revenge is quick and strong.
When on a time an Eagle stole
The cubs from out a Fox’s hole,
And bore them to her young away,
That they might feast upon the prey,
The dam pursues the winged thief,
And deprecates so great a grief;
But safe upon the lofty tree,
The Eagle scorn’d the Fox’s plea.
With that the Fox perceived at hand
An altar, whence she snatch’d a brand,
And compassing with flames the wood,
Put her in terror for her brood.
487She therefore, lest her house should burn,
Submissive did the cubs return.
Men of low life are in distress
When great ones enmity profess.
There was a Bull-fight in the fen,
A Frog cried out in trouble then,
“Oh, what perdition on our race!”
“How,” says another, “can the case
Be quite so desp’rate as you’ve said?
For they’re contending who is head,
And lead a life from us disjoin’d,
Of sep’rate station, diverse kind.”—
“But he, who worsted shall retire,
Will come into this lowland mire,
And with his hoof dash out our brains,
Wherefore their rage to us pertains.”
He that would have the wicked reign,
Instead of help will find his bane.
The Doves had oft escaped the Kite,
By their celerity of flight;
The ruffian then to coz’nage stoop’d,
And thus the tim’rous race he duped:
“Why do you lead a life of fear,
Rather than my proposals hear?
Elect me for your king, and
I Will all your race indemnify.”
They foolishly the Kite believed,
Who having now the pow’r received,
Began upon the Doves to prey,
And exercise tyrannic sway.
“Justly,” says one who yet remain’d,
“We die the death ourselves ordain’d.”
The way of writing Esop chose,
Sound doctrine by example shows;
For nothing by these tales is meant,
So much as that the bad repent;
And by the pattern that is set,
Due diligence itself should whet.
Wherefore, whatever arch conceit
You in our narratives shall meet
(If with the critic’s ear it take,
And for some special purpose make),
Aspires by real use to fame,
Rather than from an author’s name.
In fact, with all the care I can,
I shall abide Esop’s plan:
But if at times I intersperse
My own materials in the verse,
That sweet variety may please
The fancy, and attention ease;
Receive it in a friendly way;
Which grace I purpose to repay
By this consciousness of my song;
Whose praises, lest they be too long,
Attend, why you should stint the sneak,
But give the modest, ere they seek.
A Lion on the carcass stood
Of a young heifer in the wood;
A robber that was passing there,
Came up, and ask’d him for a share.
“A share,” says he, “you should receive,
But that you seldom ask our leave
For things so handily removed.”
At which the ruffian was reproved.
489It happen’d that the selfsame day
A modest pilgrim came that way,
And when he saw the Lion, fled:
Says he, “There is no cause of dread,
In gentle tone—take you the chine,
Which to your merit I assign.”—
Then having parted what he slew,
To favour his approach withdrew.
A great example, worthy praise,
But not much copied now-a-days!
For churls have coffers that o’erflow,
And sheepish worth is poor and low.
Fondling or fondled—any how—
(Examples of all times allow)
That men by women must be fleeced.
A dame, whose years were well increased,
But skill’d t’ affect a youthful mien,
Was a staid husband’s empress queen;
Who yet sequester’d half his heart
For a young damsel, brisk and smart.
They, while each wanted to attach
Themselves to him, and seem his match,
Began to tamper with his hair.
He, pleased with their officious care,
Was on a sudden made a coot;
For the young strumpet, branch and root,
Stripp’d of the hoary hairs his crown,
E’en as th’ old cat grubb’d up the brown.
Torn by a Cur, a man was led
To throw the snappish thief some bread
Dipt in the blood, which, he was told,
Had been a remedy of old. Then
Esop thus:— “Forbear to show
A pack of dogs the thing you do,
Lest they should soon devour us quite,
When thus rewarded as they bite.”
One wicked miscreant’s success
Makes many more the trade profess.
An Eagle built upon an oak
A Cat and kittens had bespoke
A hole about the middle bough;
And underneath a woodland
Sow Had placed her pigs upon the ground.
Then treach’rous Puss a method found
To overthrow, for her own good,
The peace of this chance neighbourhood
First to the Eagle she ascends—
“Perdition on your head impends,
And, far too probable, on mine;
For you observe that grubbing
Swine Still works the tree to overset,
Us and our young with ease to get.”
Thus having filled the Eagle’s pate
With consternation very great,
Down creeps she to the Sow below;
“The Eagle is your deadly foe,
And is determined not to spare
Your pigs, when you shall take the air.”
Here too a terror being spread,
By what this tattling gossip said,
She slily to her kittens stole,
And rested snug within her hole.
Sneaking from thence with silent tread
By night her family she fed,
But look’d out sharply all the day,
Affecting terror and dismay.
The Eagle lest the tree should fall,
Keeps to the boughs, nor stirs at all;
And anxious for her grunting race,
The Sow is loth to quit her place.
In short, they and their young ones starve,
And leave a prey for Puss to carve.
Hence warn’d ye credulous and young,
Be cautious of a double tongue.
There is in town a certain set
Of mortals, ever in a sweat,
Who idly bustling here and there,
Have never any time to spare,
While upon nothing they discuss
With heat, and most outrageous fuss,
Plague to themselves, and to the rest
A most intolerable pest.
I will correct this stupid clan
Of busy-bodies, if I can,
By a true story; lend an ear,
’Tis worth a trifler’s time to hear.
Tiberius Cæsar, in his way
To Naples, on a certain day
Came to his own Misenian seat,
(Of old Lucullus’s retreat,)
Which from the mountain top surveys
Two seas, by looking different ways.
Here a shrewd slave began to cringe
With dapper coat and sash of fringe,
And, as his master walk’d between
The trees upon the tufted green,
Finding the weather very hot,
Officiates with his wat’ring-pot;
And still attending through the glade,
Is ostentatious of his aid.
Cæsar turns to another row,
Where neither sun nor rain could go;
He, for the nearest cut he knows,
Is still before with pot and rose.
Cæsar observes him twist and shift,
And understands the fellow’s drift;
“Here, you sir,” says th’ imperial lord.
The bustler, hoping a reward,
Runs skipping up. The chief in jest
Thus the poor jackanapes address’d
“As here is no great matter done,
Small is the premium you have won:
492The cuffs that make a servant free,
Are for a better man than thee.”
No soul can warrant life or right,
Secure from men of lawless might;
But if a knave’s advice assist,
’Gainst fraud and force what can exist?
An Eagle on a Tortoise fell,
And mounting bore him by the shell:
She with her house her body screens,
Nor can be hurt by any means.
A Carrion Crow came by that way,
“You’ve got,” says she, “a luscious prey;
But soon its weight will make you rue,
Unless I show you what to do.”
The captor promising a share,
She bids her from the upper air
To dash the shell against a rock,
Which would be sever’d by the shock.
The Eagle follows her behest,
Then feasts on turtle with his guest.
Thus she, whom Nature made so strong,
And safe against external wrong,
No match for force, and its allies,
To cruel death a victim dies.
Two laden Mules were on the road—
A charge of money was bestowed
Upon the one, the other bore
Some sacks of barley. He before.
Proud of his freight, begun to swell,
Stretch’d out his neck, and shook his bell.
The poor one, with an easy pace,
Came on behind a little space,
When on a sudden, from the wood
A gang of thieves before them stood;
And, while the muleteers engage,
Wound the poor creature in their rage
493Eager they seize the golden prize,
But the vile barley-bags despise.
The plunder’d mule was all forlorn,
The other thank’d them for their scorn:
“’Tis now my turn the head to toss,
Sustaining neither wound nor loss.”
The low estate’s from peril clear,
But wealthy men have much to fear.
A Stag unharbour’d by the hounds,
Forth from his woodland covert bounds,
And blind with terror, at th’ alarm
Of death, makes to a neighb’ring farm;
There snug conceals him in some straw,
Which in an ox’s stall he saw.
“Wretch that thou art!” a bullock cried,
“That com’st within this place to hide;
By trusting man you are undone,
And into sure destruction run.”
But he with suppliant voice replies:
“Do you but wink with both your eyes,
I soon shall my occasions shape,
To make from hence a fair escape.”
The day is spent, the night succeeds,
The herdsman comes, the cattle feeds,
But nothing sees—then to and fro
Time after time the servants go;
Yet not a soul perceives the case.
The steward passes by the place,
Himself no wiser than the rest.
The joyful Stag his thanks address’d
To all the Oxen, that he there
Had found a refuge in despair.
“We wish you well,” an Ox return’d,
“But for your life are still concern’d,
For if old Argus come, no doubt,
His hundred eyes will find you out.”
Scarce had the speaker made an end,
When from the supper of a friend
494The master enters at the door,
And, seeing that the steers were poor
Of late, advances to the rack.
“Why were the fellow’s hands so slack?
Here’s hardly any straw at all,
Brush down those cobwebs from the wall.
Pray how much labour would it ask?”
While thus he undertakes the task,
To dust, and rummage by degrees,
The Stag’s exalted horns he sees:
Then calling all his folks around,
He lays him breathless on the ground.
The master, as the tale declares,
Looks sharpest to his own affairs.
A statue of great cost and fame
Th’ Athenians raised to Esop’s name,
Him setting on eternal base,
Whom servile rank could not disgrace;
That they might teach to all
The way to honor’s unconfined,
That glory’s due to rising worth,
And not alone to pomp and birth.
Since then another seized the post
Lest I priority should boast,
This pow’r and praise was yet my own,
That he should not excel alone:
Nor is this Envy’s jealous ire,
But Emulation’s genuine fire.
And if Rome should approve my piece,
She’ll soon have more to rival Greece.
But should th’ invidious town declare
Against my plodding over-care,
They cannot take away, nor hurt
Th’ internal conscience of desert.
If these my studies reach their aim,
And, reader, your attention claim,
If your perception fully weighs
The drift of these my labour’d lays;
495Then such success precludes complaint.
But if the Picture which I paint
Should happen to attract their sight,
Whom luckless Nature brought to light,
Who scorn the labours of a man,
And when they carp do all they can;
Yet must this fatal cause to mourn
With all its bitterness be borne,
Till fortune be ashamed of days,
When genius fails, and int’rest sways.
The tales of Phædrus would you
O Eutychus, you must be freed
From business, that the mind unbent
May take the author’s full intent.
You urge that this poetic turn
Of mine is not of such concern,
As with your time to interfere
A moment’s space: ’tis therefore clear
For those essays you have no call,
Which suit not your affairs at all.
A time may come, perhaps you’ll say,
That I shall make a holiday,
And have my vacant thoughts at large,
The student’s office to discharge—
And can you such vile stuff peruse,
Rather than serve domestic views,
Return the visits of a friend,
Or with your wife your leisure spend,
Relax your mind, your limbs relieve,
And for new toil new strength receive?
From cares you must estrange
Your thoughts, and feel a perfect change,
496If to Parnassus you repair,
And seek for your admission there,
Me—(whom a Grecian mother bore
On Hill Pierian, where of yore
Mnemosyne in love divine
Brought forth to Jove the tuneful Nine.
Though sprung where genius reign’d with art,
I grubb’d up av’rice from my heart,
And rather for applause than pay,
Embrace the literary way)
Yet as a writer and a wit,
With some abatements they admit.
What is his case then, do you think,
Who toils for wealth nor sleeps a wink,
Preferring to the pleasing pain
Of composition sordid gain?
But hap what will (as Sinon said,
When to king Priam he was led),
I book the third shall now fulfil,
With for my master still;
Which book I dedicate to you,
As both to worth and honour due.
Pleased, if you read—if not, content
As conscious of a sure event,
That these my fables shall remain,
And after-ages entertain.
In a few words I now propose
To point from whence the Fable rose.
A servitude was all along
Exposed to most oppressive wrong,
The suff’rer therefore did not dare
His heart’s true dictates to declare;
But couch’d his meaning in the veil
Of many an allegoric tale,
And jesting with a moral aim,
Eluded all offence and blame.
This is the path that I pursue,
Inventing more than knew;
And certain topics by-the-by,
To my own did I try.
497But was there any of mankind,
Besides Sejanus, so inclined,
Who was alone to work my fall,
Informer, witness, judge and all;
I would confess the slander true,
And own such hardships were my due;
Nor would I fly, my grief to ease,
To such poor lenitives as these.
If any through suspicion errs,
And to himself alone refers,
What was design’d for thousands more
He’ll show too plainly, where he’s sore.
Yet ev’n from such I crave excuse,
For (far from personal abuse)
My verse in gen’ral would put down
True life and manners of the town.
But here, perhaps, some one will ask
Why I, forsooth, embraced this task?
If Esop, though a Phrygian, rose,
And ev’n derived from Scythian snows;
If Anacharsis could devise
By wit to gain th’ immortal prize;
Shall I, who to learn’d Greece belong,
Neglect her honour and her song,
And by dull sloth myself disgrace?
Since we can reckon up in Thrace,
The authors that have sweetest sung,
Where Linus from Apollo sprung;
And he whose mother was a muse,
Whose voice could tenderness infuse
To solid rocks, strange monsters quell’d,
And Hebrus in his course withheld.
Envy, stand clear, or thou shalt rue
Th’ attack, for glory is my due.
Thus having wrought upon your ear,
I beg that you would be sincere,
And in the poet’s cause avow
That candor, all the world allow.
An ancient dame a firkin sees,
In which the rich Falernian lees
Send from the nobly tinctured shell
A rare and most delicious smell!
There when a season she had clung
With greedy nostrils to the bung,
“O spirit exquisitely sweet!”
She cried, “how perfectly complete
Were you of old, and at the best,
When ev’n your dregs have such a zest!”
They’ll see the drift of this my rhyme,
Who knew the author in his prime.
Their scorn comes home to them again
Who treat the wretched with disdain.
A careless Panther long ago
Fell in a pit, which overthrow
The Shepherds all around alarm’d;
When some themselves with cudgels arm’d;
Others threw stones upon its head;
But some in pity sent her bread,
As death was not the creature’s due.
The night came on—the hostile crew
Went home, not doubting in the way
To find the Panther dead next day.
But she, recovering of her strength,
Sprang from the pit and fled at length.
But rushing in a little space
From forth her den upon the place,
She tears the flock, the Shepherd slays,
And all the region round dismays.
Then they began to be afraid
Who spared the beast and lent their aid;
They reck not of the loss, but make
Their pray’r for life, when thus she spake:
“I well remember them that threw
The stones, and well remember you
499Who gave me bread—desist to fear,
For ’twas the oppressor brought me here.”
A certain person, as he stood
Within the shambles buying food,
Amongst the other kitchen fare
Beheld an Ape suspended there;
And asking how ’twould taste, when dress’d,
The butcher shook his head in jest;
“If for such prog your fancy is,
Judge of the flavour by the phiz.”
This speech was not so true as keen,
For I in life have often seen
Good features with a wicked heart,
And plainness acting virtue’s part.
Fools from success perdition meet.
An idle wretch about the street
At Esop threw a stone in rage.
“So much the better,” quoth the sage,
And gives three farthings for the job;
“I’ve no more money in my fob;
But if you’ll follow my advice,
More shall be levied in a trice.”
It happen’d that the selfsame hour
Came by a man of wealth and pow’r.
“There, throw your pellet at my lord,
And you shall have a sure reward!”
The fellow did as he was told;
But mark the downfall of the bold;
His hopes are baulk’d, and, lo! he gains
A rope and gibbet for his pains.
A Fly that sat upon the beam Rated the
Mule: “Why, sure you dream?
500 get on faster with the cart
Or I shall sting you till you smart!”
She answers: “All this talk I hear
With small attention, but must fear
Him who upon the box sustains
The pliant whip, and holds the reins.
Cease then your pertness—for I know
When to give back, and when to go.”
This tale derides the talking crew,
Whose empty threats are all they do.
I will, as briefly as I may,
The sweets of liberty display.
A Wolf half famish’d, chanced to see
A Dog, as fat as dog could be:
For one day meeting on the road,
They mutual compliments bestowed:
“Prithee,” says Isgrim, faint and weak,
“How came you so well fed and sleek?
I starve, though stronger of the two.”
“It will be just as well with you,”
The Dog quite cool and frank replied,
“If with my master you’ll abide.”
“For what?” “Why merely to attend,
And from night thieves the door defend.”
“I gladly will accept the post,
What! shall I bear with snow and frost
And all this rough inclement plight,
Rather than have a home at night,
And feed on plenty at my ease?”
“Come, then, with me” —the Wolf agrees.
But as they went the mark he found,
Where the Dog’s collar had been bound:
“What’s this, my friend?” “Why, nothing.”
“Nay, Be more explicit, sir, I pray.”
“I’m somewhat fierce and apt to bite,
Therefore they hold me pretty tight,
That in the day-time I may sleep,
And night by night my vigils keep.
501At evening tide they let me out,
And then I freely walk about:
Bread comes without a care of mine.
I from my master’s table dine;
The servants throw me many a scrap,
With choice of pot-liquor to lap;
So, I’ve my bellyful, you find.”
“But can you go where you’ve a mind?”
“Not always, to be flat and plain.”
“Then, Dog, enjoy your post again,
For to remain this servile thing,
Old Isgrim would not be a king.”
Warn’d by our , oft beware,
And look into yourself with care.
There was a certain father had
A homely girl and comely lad.
These being at their childish play
Within their mother’s room one day,
A looking-glass was in the chair,
And they beheld their faces there.
The boy grows prouder as he looks;
The girl is in a rage, nor brooks
Her boasting brother’s jests and sneers,
Affronted at each word she hears:
Then to her father down she flies,
And urges all she can devise
Against the boy, who could presume
To meddle in a lady’s room.
At which, embracing each in turn,
With most affectionate concern,
“My dears,” he says, “ye may not pa
A day without this useful glass;
You, lest you spoil a pretty face,
By doing things to your disgrace;
You, by good conduct to correct
Your form, and beautify defect.”
Though common be the name of friend,
Few can to faithfulness pretend,
That Socrates (whose cruel case,
I’d freely for his fame embrace,
And living any envy bear
To leave my character so fair)
Was building of a little cot,
When some one, standing on the spot,
Ask’d, as the folks are apt to do,
“How comes so great a man as you
Content with such a little hole?”—
“I wish,” says he, “with all my
That this same little house I build
Was with true friends completely fill’d.”
’Tis frequently of bad event
To give or to withhold assent.
Two cases will th’ affair explain—
The good Hippolytus was slain;
In that his stepdame credit found,
And Troy was levell’d with the ground;
Because Cassandra’s prescious care
Sought, but obtain’d no credence there.
The facts should then be very strong,
Lest the weak judge determine wrong:
But that I may not make too free
With fabulous antiquity,
I now a curious tale shall tell,
Which I myself remember well.
An honest man, that loved his wife,
Was introducing into life
A son upon the man’s estate.
One day a servant (whom, of late,
He with his freedom had endu’d)
Took him aside, and being shrewd,
Supposed that he might be his heir
When he’d divulged the whole affair.
503Much did he lie against the youth,
But more against the matron’s truth:
And hinted that, which worst of all
Was sure a lover’s heart to gall,
The visits of a lusty rake,
And honour of his house at stake.
He at this scandal taking heat,
Pretends a journey to his seat;
But stopp’d at hand, while it was light,
Where, on a sudden, and by night,
He to his wife’s apartment sped,
Where she had put the lad to bed,
As watchful of his youthful bloom.
While now they’re running to the room,
And seek a light in haste, the sire,
No longer stifling of his ire,
Flies to the couch, where grouping round,
A head, but newly shaved, he found;
Then, as alone, he vengeance breath’d,
The sword within his bosom sheath’d—
The candle ent’ring, when he spied
The bleeding youth, and by his side
The spotless dame, who being fast
Asleep, knew nothing that had pass’d,
Instant in utmost grief involved,
He vengeance for himself resolved;
And on that very weapon flew,
Which his too cred’lous fury drew.
Th’ accusers take the woman straight,
And drag to the centumvirate;
Th’ ill-natured world directly built
A strong suspicion of her guilts,
As she th’ estate was to enjoy—
The lawyers all their skill employ;
And a great spirit those exert
Who most her innocence assert.
The judges then to Cæsar pray’d
That he would lend his special aid;
Who, as they acted upon oath,
Declared themselves extremely loth
504To close this intricate affair—
He, taking then himself the chair,
The clouds of calumny displaced.
And Truth up to her fountain traced.
“Let the freedman to vengeance go,
The cause of all this scene of woe:
For the poor widow, thus undone,
Deprived of husband and of son,
To pity has a greater plea
Than condemnation, I decree—
But if the man, with caution due,
Had rather blamed than listen’d to
The vile accuser, and his lie
Had strictly search’d with Reason’s eye,
This desp’rate guilt he had not known,
Nor branch and root his house o’erthrown.”
Nor wholly scorn, nor yet attend
Too much at what the tatlers vend,
Because there’s many a sad neglect.
Where you have little to suspect;
And treach’rous persons will attaint
Men, against whom there’s no complaint.
Hence simple folks too may be taught
How to form judgments as they ought,
And not see with another’s glass;
For things are come to such a pass,
That love and hate work diff’rent ways,
As int’rest or ambition sways.
Them you may know, in them confide,
Whom by experience you have tried.
Thus have I made a long amends
For that brief style which some offends.
A Cock, while scratching all around,
A Pearl upon the dunghill found:
“O splendid thing in foul disgrace,
Had there been any in the place
505That saw and knew thy worth when sold,
Ere this thou hadst been set in gold.
But I, who rather would have got
A corn of barley, heed thee not;
No service can there render’d be
From me to you, and you to me.”
I write this tale to them alone
To whom in vain my pearls are thrown.
Up in a lofty oak the Bees
Had made their honey-combs: but these
The Drones asserted they had wrought.
Then to the bar the cause was brought
Before the wasp, a learned chief,
Who well might argue either brief,
As of a middle nature made.
He therefore to both parties said:
“You’re not dissimilar in size,
And each with each your color vies,
That there’s a doubt concerning both:
But, lest I err, upon my oath,
Hives for yourselves directly choose,
And in the wax the work infuse,
That, from the flavor and the form,
We may point out the genuine swarm.”
The Drones refuse, the Bees agree—
Then thus did Justice Wasp decree:
“Who can, and who cannot, is plain,
So take, ye Bees, your combs again.”
This narrative had been suppress’d
Had not the Drones refused the test.
As Esop was with boys at play,
And had his nuts as well as they,
A grave Athenian, passing by,
Cast on the sage a scornful eye,
As on a dotard quite bereaved:
Which, when the moralist perceived,
506(Rather himself a wit profess’d
Than the poor subject of a jest)
Into the public way he flung
A bow that he had just unstrung:
“There solve, thou conjurer,” he cries,
“The problem, that before thee lies.”
The people throng; he racks his brain,
Nor can the thing enjoin’d explain.
At last he gives it up—the seer
Thus then in triumph made it clear:
“As the tough bow exerts its spring,
A constant tension breaks the string;
But if ’tis let at seasons loose,
You may depend upon its use.”
Thus recreative sports and play
Are good upon a holiday,
And with more spirit they’ll pursue
The studies which they shall renew.
A Dog bespoke a sucking Lamb,
That used a she-goat as her dam,
“You little fool, why, how you baa!
This goat is not your own mamma:”
Then pointed to a distant mead,
Where several sheep were put to feed.
“I ask not,” says the Lamb, “for her
Who had me first at Nature’s spur,
And bore me for a time about,
Then, like a fardel, threw me out;
But her that is content to bilk
Her own dear kids, to give me milk.”
“Yet she that yean’d you sure,” says Tray,
“Should be preferr’d” —“I tell thee nay—
Whence could she know that what she hid
Was black or white?—but grant she did—
I being thus a male begot
’Twas no great favor, since my lot
Was hour by hour, throughout my life,
To dread the butcher and his knife.
507Why should I therefore give my voice
For her who had no pow’r or choice
In my production, and not cleave
To her so ready to relieve,
When she beheld me left alone,
And has such sweet indulgence shown?”
Kind deeds parental love proclaim,
Not mere necessity and name.
Those who will not the forms obey
To be obliging in their way,
Must often punishment abide
For their ill-nature, and their pride.
A Grasshopper, in rank ill-will,
Was very loud and very shrill
Against a sapient Owl’s repose,
Who was compelled by day to doze
Within a hollow oak’s retreat,
As wont by night to quest for meat—
She is desired to hold her peace.
But at the word her cries increase;
Again requested to abate
Her noise, she’s more importunate.
The Owl perceiving no redress,
And that her words were less and less
Accounted of, no longer pray’d,
But thus an artifice essay’d:
“Since ’tis impossible to nod,
While harping like the Delphian god,
You charm our ears, stead of a nap,
A batch of nectar will I tap,
Which lately from Minerva came;
Now if you do not scorn the same,
Together let us bumpers ply.”
The Grasshopper, extremely dry,
And, finding she had hit the key
That gain’d applause, approach’d with glee;
At which the Owl upon her flew,
And quick the trembling vixen slew.
Thus by her death she was adjudged
To give what in her life she grudged.
The gods took certain trees (th’ affair
Was some time since) into their care.
The oak was best approved by Jove,
The myrtle by the queen of love;
The god of music and the day
Vouchsafed to patronise the bay;
The pine Cybele chanced to please,
And the tall poplar Hercules.
Minerva upon this inquired
Why they all barren trees admired?
“The cause,” says Jupiter, “is plain,
Lest we give honour up for gain.”
“Let every one their fancy suit,
I choose the olive for its fruit.”
The sire of gods and men replies,
“Daughter, thou shalt be reckon’d wise
By all the world, and justly too;
For whatsover things we do,
If not a life of useful days,
How vain is all pretence to praise!”
Whate’er experiments you try,
Have some advantage in your eye.
Her fav’rite bird to Juno came,
And was in dudgeon at the dame,
That she had not attuned her throat
With Philomela’s matchless note;
“She is the wonder of all ears;
But when I speak the audience sneers
The goddess to the bird replied,
(Willing to have him pacified,)
“You are above the rest endued
With beauty and with magnitude;
Your neck the em’rald’s gloss outvies,
And what a blaze of gemmeous dies
509Shines from the plumage of your tail!”
“All this dumb show will not avail,”
Cries he, “if I’m surpass’d in voice.”
“The fates entirely have the choice
Of all the lots—fair form is yours;
The eagle’s strength his prey secures;
The nightingale can sing an ode;
The crow and raven may forebode:
All these in sheer contentment crave
No other voice than Nature gave.”
By affectation be not sway’d,
Where Nature has not lent her aid;
Nor to that flatt’ring hope attend,
Which must in disappointment end.
Esop (no other slave at hand)
Received himself his lord’s command
An early supper to provide.
From house to house he therefore tried
To beg the favor of a light;
At length he hit upon the right.
But as when first he sallied out
He made his tour quite round about,
On his return he took a race
Directly, cross the market-place:
When thus a talkative buffoon,
“Esop, what means this light at noon?”
He answer’d briefly, as he ran,
“Fellow, I’m looking for a man.”
Now if this jackanapes had weigh’d
The true intent of what was said,
He’d found that Esop had no sense
Of manhood in impertinence.
The luckless wretch that’s born to woe
Must all his life affliction know—
And harder still, his cruel fate
Will on his very ashes wait.
Cybele’s priests, in of bread,
An Ass about the village led,
With things for sale from door to door;
Till work’d and beaten more and more,
At length, when the poor creature died,
They made them drums out of his hide.
Then question’d “how it came to pass
They thus could serve their darling Ass?”
The answer was, “He thought of peace
In death, and that his toils would cease;
But see his mis’ry knows no bounds,
Still with our blows his back resounds.”
To you, who’ve graver things bespoke,
This seems no better than a joke,
And light for mere amusement made;
Yet still we drive the scribbling trade,
And from the pen our pleasure find,
When we’ve no greater things to mind.
Yet if you look with care intense,
These tales your toil shall recompense;
Appearance is not always true,
And thousands err by such a view.
’Tis a choice spirit that has pried
Where clean contrivance chose to hide;
That this is not at random said,
I shall produce upon this head
A fable of an arch device,
About the Weasel and the Mice.
A Weasel, worn with years, and lame,
That could not overtake its game,
511Now with the nimble Mice to deal,
Disguised herself with barley meal;
Then negligent her limbs she spread
In a sly nook, and lay for dead.
A Mouse that thought she there might feed,
Leapt up, and perish’d in the deed;
A second in like manner died;
A third, and sundry more beside:
Then comes the brindled Mouse, a chap
That oft escaped both snare and trap,
And seeing how the trick was played,
Thus to his crafty foe he said:—
“So may’st thou prosper day and night,
As thou art not an errant bite.”
An hungry Fox with fierce attack
Sprang on a Vine, but tumbled back,
Nor could attain the point in view,
So near the sky the bunches grew.
As he went off, “They’re scurvy stuff,”
Says he, “and not half ripe enough—
And I’ve more rev’rence for my tripes
Than to torment them with the gripes.”
For those this tale is very pat
Who lessen what they can’t come at.
A Wild-Boar wallow’d in the flood,
And troubled all the stream with mud,
Just where a horse to drink repair’d—
He therefore having war declared,
Sought man’s alliance for the fight,
And bore upon his back the knight;
Who being skill’d his darts to throw,
Despatched the Wild-Boar at a blow.
Then to the steed the victor said,
“I’m glad you came to me for aid,
For taught how useful you can be,
I’ve got at once a spoil and thee.”
512On which the fields he made him quit,
To feel the spur and champ the bit.
Then he his sorrow thus express’d:
“I needs must have my wrongs redress’d,
And making tyrant man the judge,
Must all my life become a drudge.”
This tale the passionate may warn,
To bear with any kind of scorn;
And rather all complaint withdraw
Than either go to war or law.
That one man sometimes is more shrewd
Than a stupendous multitude,
To after-times I shall rehearse
In my concise familiar verse.
A certain man on his decease,
Left his three girls so much a-piece:
The first was beautiful and frail,
With eyes still hunting for the male;
The second giv’n to spin and card,
A country housewife working hard;
The third but very ill to pass,
A homely slut, that loved her glass.
The dying man had left his wife
Executrix, and for her life
Sole tenant, if she should fulfil
These strange provisos of his will:
“That she should give th’ estate in fee
In equal portions to the three;
But in such sort, that this bequest
Should not be holden or possess’d;
Then soon as they should be bereav’n
Of all the substance that was giv’n,
They must for their good mother’s ease
Make up an hundred sesterces.”
This spread through Athens in a trice;
The prudent widow takes advice.
But not a lawyer could unfold
How they should neither have nor hold
513The very things that they were left.
Besides, when once they were bereft,
How they from nothing should confer
The money that was due to her.
When a long time was spent in vain,
And no one could the will explain,
She left the counsellors unfeed,
And thus of her own self decreed:
The minstrels, trinkets, plate, and dress,
She gave the Lady to possess.
Then Mrs. Notable she stocks
With all the fields, the kine and flocks:
The workmen, farm, with a supply
Of all the tools of husbandry.
Last, to the Guzzler she consigns
The cellar stored with good old wines,
A handsome house to see a friend,
With pleasant gardens at the end.
Thus as she strove th’ affair to close,
By giving each the things they chose,
And those that knew them every one
Highly applauded what was done
Esop arose, and thus address’d
The crowd that to his presence press’d:
“O that the dead could yet perceive!
How would the prudent father grieve,
That all th’ Athenians had not skill
Enough to understand his will
Then at their joint request he solved
That error, which had all involved.
“The gardens, house, and wine vaults too,
Give to the spinster as her due;
The clothes, the jewels, and such ware,
Be all the tippling lady’s share;
The fields, the barns, and flocks of sheep,
Give the gay courtesan to keep.
Not one will bear the very touch
Of things that thwart their tastes so much;
The slut to fill her cellar straight
Her wardrobe will evacuate;
514The lady soon will sell her farms,
For garments to set off her charms;
But she that loves the flocks and kine
Will alienate her stores of wine,
Her rustic genius to employ.
Thus none their portions shall enjoy,
And from the money each has made
Their mother shall be duly paid.”
Thus one man by his wit disclosed
The point that had so many posed.
The routed Mice upon a day
Fled from the Weasels in array;
But in the hurry of the flight,
What with their weakness and their fright
Each scarce could get into his cave:
Howe’er, at last their lives they save.
But their commanders (who had tied
Horns to their heads in martial pride,
Which as a signal they design’d
For non-commission’d mice to mind)
Stick in the entrance as they go,
And there are taken by the foe,
Who, greedy of the victim, gluts
With mouse-flesh his ungodly guts.
Each great and national distress
Must chiefly mighty men oppress;
While folks subordinate and poor
Are by their littleness secure.
Thou that against my tales inveigh’st,
As much too pleasant for thy taste;
Egregious critic, cease to scoff,
While for a time I play you off,
And strive to soothe your puny rage.
As Esop comes upon the stage,
515And dress’d entirely new in Rome,
Thus enters with the tragic plume.—
“O that the fair Thessalian pine
Had never felt the wrath divine,
And fearless of the axe’s wound,
Had still the Pelian mountain crown’d!
That Argus by Palladian aid
Had ne’er the advent’rous vessel made;
In which at first, without dismay,
Death’s bold professors won their way,
In which th’ inhospitable main
Was first laid open for the bane
Of Grecians and barbarians too.
Which made the proud Æetas rue,
And whence Medea’s crimes to nought
The house and reign of Pelias brought.
She—while in various forms she tries
Her furious spirit to disguise,
At one place in her flight bestow’d
Her brother’s limbs upon the road;
And at another could betray
The daughters their own sire to slay
How think you now?—What arrant trash!
And our assertions much too rash!—
Since prior to th’ Ægean fleet
Did Minos piracy defeat,
And made adventures on the sea.
How then shall you and I agree?
Since, stern as Cato’s self, you hate
All tales alike, both small and great.
Plague not too much the man of parts;
For he that does it surely smarts.—
This threat is to the fools, that squeam
At every thing of good esteem;
And that they may to taste pretend,
Ev’n heaven itself will discommend.
He that a greater biter bites,
His folly on himself requites,
516As we shall manifest forthwith.—
There was a hovel of a smith,
Where a poor Viper chanced to steal,
And being greedy of a meal,
When she had seized upon a file,
Was answer’d in this rugged style:
“Why do you think, O stupid snake!
On me your usual meal to make,
Who’ve sharper teeth than thine by far,
And can corrode an iron bar?”
A crafty knave will make escape,
When once he gets into a scrape,
Still meditating self-defence,
At any other man’s expense.
A Fox by some disaster fell
Into a deep and fenced well:
A thirsty Goat came down in haste,
And ask’d about the water’s taste,
If it was plentiful and sweet?
At which the Fox, in rank deceit,
“So great the solace of the run,
I thought I never should have done.
Be quick, my friend, your sorrows drown
This said, the silly Goat comes down.
The subtle Fox herself avails,
And by his horns the mound she scales,
And leaves the Goat in all the mire,
To gratify his heart’s desire.
Great Jove, in his paternal care,
Has giv’n a man two Bags to bear;
That which his own default contains
Behind his back unseen remains;
But that which others’ vice attests
Swags full in view before our breasts.
Hence we’re inevitably blind,
Relating to the Bag behind;
517But when our neighbours misdemean,
Our censures are exceeding keen.
A villain to Jove’s altar came
To light his candle in the flame,
And robb’d the god in dead of night,
By his own consecrated light:
Then thus an awful voice was sent,
As with the sacrilege he went:
“Though all this gold and silver plate
As gifts of evil men I hate;
And their removal from the fane
Can cause the Deity no pain;
Yet, caitiff, at th’ appointed time,
Thy life shall answer for thy crime.
But, for the future, lest this blaze,
At which the pious pray and praise,
Should guide the wicked, I decree
That no such intercourse there be.”
Hence to this day all men decline
To light their candle at the shrine;
Nor from a candle e’er presume
The holy light to re-illume.
How many things are here contain’d,
By him alone can be explain’d
Who could this useful tale invent.
In the first place, herein is meant,
That they are often most your foes
Who from your fost’ring hand arose.
Next, that the harden’d villain’s fate
Is not from wrath precipitate,
But rather at a destined hour.
Lastly, we’re charg’d with all our pow’r,
To keep ourselves, by care intense,
From all connexions with offence.
Wealth by the brave is justly scorn’d,
Since men are from the truth suborn’d,
518And a full chest perverts their ways
From giving or deserving praise.
When Hercules, for matchless worth,
Was taken up to heav’n from earth,
As in their turns to all the crowd
Of gratulating gods he bow’d,
When Plutus, Fortune’s son, he spies,
He from his face averts his eyes.
Jove ask’d the cause of this disgust:
“I hate him, as he is unjust,
To wicked men the most inclined,
And grand corrupter of mankind.”
When the She-Goats from Jove obtain’d
A beard, th’ indignant Males complain’d,
That females by this near approach
Would on their gravity encroach.
“Suffer, my sapient friends,” says he,
“Their eminence in this degree,
And bear their beard’s most graceful length,
As they can never have your strength.”
Warn’d by this little tale, agree
With men in gen’ral form’d like thee,
While you by virtue still exceed,
And in the spirit take the lead.
On hearing a poor man lament
His worldly thoughts in discontent,
Esop this tale began to write,
For consolation and delight.
The ship by furious tempests toss’d,
The Mariners gave all for lost;
But midst their tears and dread, the scene
Is changed at once, and all serene.
The wind is fair, the vessel speeds,
The Sailors’ boist’rous joy exceeds:
The Pilot then, by peril wise,
Was prompted to philosophise.
519“’Tis right to put a due restraint
On joy, and to retard complaint,
Because alternate hope and fright
Make up our lives of black and white.”
He, that malicious men relieves,
His folly in a season grieves.
A Man, against himself humane,
Took up an Adder, that had lain
And stiffen’d in the frosty air,
And in his bosom placed with care,
Where she with speed recov’ring breath,
Her benefactor stung to death.
Another Adder near the place,
On asking why she was so base,
Was told, “’Tis others to dissuade
From giving wickedness their aid.”
A Fox was throwing up the soil,
And while with his assiduous toil
He burrow’d deep into the ground,
A Dragon in his den he found,
A-watching hidden treasure there,
Whom seeing, Renard speaks him fair:
“First, for your pardon I apply
For breaking on your privacy;
Then, as you very plainly see
That gold is of no use to me,
Your gentle leave let me obtain
To ask you, what can be the gain
Of all this care, and what the fruit,
That you should not with sleep recruit
Your spirits, but your life consume
Thus in an everlasting gloom?”
“’Tis not my profit here to stay,”
He cries; “but I must Jove obey.”
“What! will you therefore nothing take
Yourself, nor others welcome make?”
520“Ev’n so the fates decree:” —“Then, sir,
Have patience, whilst I do aver
That he who like affections knows
Is born with all the gods his foes.
Since to that place you needs must speed,
Where all your ancestors precede,
Why in the blindness of your heart
Do you torment your noble part?”
All this to thee do I indite,
Thou grudging churl, thy heir’s delight,
Who robb’st the gods of incense due,
Thyself of food and raiment too;
Who hear’st the harp with sullen mien,
To whom the piper gives the spleen;
Who’rt full of heavy groans and sighs
When in their price provisions rise;
Who with thy frauds heaven’s patience tire
To make thy heap a little higher,
And, lest death thank thee, in thy will
Hast tax’d the undertaker’s bill.
What certain envious hearts intend
I very clearly comprehend,
Let them dissemble e’er so much.—
When they perceive the master’s touch,
And find ’tis likely to endure,
They’ll say ’tis Esop to be sure—
But what appears of mean design,
At any rate they’ll vouch for mine.
These in a word I would refute:
Whether of great or no repute,
What sprung from Esop’s fertile thought
This hand has to perfection brought;
But waiving things to our distaste,
Let’s to the destined period haste.
A man, whose learned worth is known,
Has always riches of his own.
Simonides, who was the head
Of lyric bards, yet wrote for bread,
His circuit took through every town
In Asia of the first renown,
The praise of heroes to rehearse,
Who gave him money for his verse.
When by this trade much wealth was earn’d,
Homewards by shipping he return’d
(A Cean born, as some suppose):
On board he went, a tempest rose,
Which shook th’ old ship to that degree,
She founder’d soon as out at sea.
Some purses, some their jewels tie
About them for a sure supply;
But one more curious, ask’d the seer,
“Poet, have you got nothing here?”
“My all,” says he, “is what I am.”—
On this some few for safety swam
(For most o’erburden’d by their goods,
Were smother’d in the whelming floods).
The spoilers came, the wealth demand,
And leave them naked on the strand.
It happen’d for the shipwreck’d crew
An ancient city was in view,
By name Clazomena, in which
There lived a scholar learn’d and rich,
Who often read, his cares to ease,
The verses of Simonides,
And was a vast admirer grown
Of this great poet, though unknown.
Him by his converse when he traced,
He with much heartiness embraced,
And soon equipp’d the bard anew,
With servants, clothes, and money too,
The rest benevolence implored,
With case depicted on a board:
Which when Simonides espied,
“I plainly told you all,” he cried,
“That all my wealth was in myself;
As for your chattels and your pelf,
522On which ye did so much depend,
They’re come to nothing in the end.”
The Mountain labor’d, groaning loud,
On which a num’rous gaping crowd
Of noodles came to see the sight,
When, lo! a mouse was brought to light!
This tale’s for men of swagg’ring cast,
Whose threats, voluminous and vast,
With all their verse and all their prose,
Can make but little on’t, God knows.
An Ant and Fly had sharp dispute
Which creature was of most repute;
When thus began the flaunting Fly:
“Are you so laudible as I?
I, ere the sacrifice is carved,
Precede the gods; first come, first served—
Before the altar take my place,
And in all temples show my face,
Whene’er I please I set me down
Upon the head that wears a crown.
I with impunity can taste
The kiss of matrons fair and chaste.
And pleasure without labor claim—
Say, trollop, canst thou do the same?”
“The feasts of gods are glorious fare.
No doubt, to those who’re welcome there;
But not for such detested things.—
You talk of matron’s lips and kings;
I, who with wakeful care and pains
Against the winter hoard my grains,
Thee feeding upon ordure view.—
The altars you frequent, ’tis true;
But still are driv’n away from thence,
And elsewhere, as of much offence.
523A life of toil you will not lead,
And so have nothing when you need.
Besides all this, you talk with pride
Of things that modesty should hide.
You plague me here, while days increase,
But when the winter comes you cease.
Me, when the cold thy life bereaves,
A plenteous magazine receives.
I think I need no more advance
To cure you of your arrogance.”
The tenor of this tale infers
Two very diff’rent characters;
Of men self-praised and falsely vain,
And men of real worth .
Th’ attention letters can engage,
Ev’n from a base degen’rate age,
I’ve shown before; and now shall show
Their lustre in another view,
And tell a memorable tale,
How much they can with heav’n prevail
Simonides, the very same
We lately had a call to name,
Agreed for such a sum to blaze
A certain famous champion’s praise.
He therefore a retirement sought,
But found the theme on which he wrote
So scanty, he was forced to use
Th’ accustom’d license of the muse,
And introduced and praise bestow’d
On Leda’s sons to raise his ode;
With these the rather making free,
As heroes in the same degree.
He warranted his work, and yet
Could but one third of payment get.
Upon demanding all the due,
“Let them,” says he, “pay t’other two,
Who take two places in the song;
But lest you think I do you wrong
524And part in dudgeon—I invite
Your company to sup this night,
For then my friends and kin I see,
’Mongst which I choose to reckon thee.”
Choused and chagrined, yet shunning blame,
He promised, set the hour, and came;
As fearful lest a favour spurn’d
Should to an open breach be turn’d.
The splendid banquet shone with plate,
And preparations full of state
Made the glad house with clamors roar—
When on a sudden at the door
Two youths, with sweat and dust besmear’d,
Above the human form appear’d,
And charged forthwith a little scout
To bid Simonides come out,
That ’twas his int’rest not to stay.—
The slave, in trouble and dismay,
Roused from his seat the feasting bard,
Who scarce had stirr’d a single yard
Before the room at once fell in,
And crush’d the champion and his kin.
No youths before the door are found.—
The thing soon spread the country round;
And when each circumstance was weigh’d,
They knew the gods that visit made,
And saved the poet’s life in lieu
Of those two-thirds which yet were due.
I yet have stock in hand to spare,
And could write on—but will forbear—
First, lest I tire a friend, whose state
And avocations are so great:
And then, if other pens should try
This as well as I,
They may have something to pursue:—
Yet if the spacious field we view,
More men are wanting for the plan,
Rather than matter for the man.
525Now for that prize I make my plea
You promised to my brevity.
Keep your kind word; for life, my friend,
Is daily nearer to its end;
And I shall share your love the less
The longer you your hand repress:
The sooner you the boon insure,
The more the tenure must endure;
And if I quick possession take,
The greater profit must I make,
While yet declining age subsists,
A room for friendly aid exists.
Anon with tasteless years grown weak,
In vain benevolence will seek
To do me good—when Death at hand
Shall come and urge his last demand.
’Tis folly, you’ll be apt to say,
A thousand times to beg and pray
Of one with so much worth and sense,
Whose gen’rous bounty is propense.
If e’er a miscreant succeeds,
By fair confession of his deeds,
An innocent offender’s case
Is far more worthy of your grace.
You for example sake begin,
Then others to the lure you’ll win,
And in rotation more and more
Will soon communicate their store.
Consider in your mind how far
At stake your word and honour are;
And let your closing the debate
By what I may congratulate.
I have been guilty of excess
Beyond my thought in this address
But ’tis not easy to refrain
A spirit work’d up to disdain
By wretches insolent and vile,
With a clear conscience all the while.
You’ll ask me, sir, at whom I hint—
In time they may appear in print.
526But give me leave to cite a phrase
I met with in my boyish days.
“’Tis dangerous for the mean and low
Too plain their grievances to show.”
This is advice I shall retain
While life and sanity remain.
When I resolved my hand to stay
For this, that others might have play,
On reconsidering of my part
I soon recanted in my heart:
For if a rival should arise,
How can he possibly devise
The things that I have let alone,
Since each man’s fancy is his own,
And likewise colouring of the piece
It was not therefore mere caprice,
But strong reflection made me write:
Wherefore since you in tales delight,
Which I, in justice, after all,
Not Esop’s, but Esopian call;
Since he invented but a few;
I more, and some entirely new,
Keeping indeed the ancient style,
With fresh materials all the while.
As at your leisure you peruse
The fourth collection of my muse,
That you may not be at a stand,
A fifth shall shortly come to hand;
’Gainst which, if as against the rest,
Malignant cavillers protest,
Let them carp on, and make it plain
They carp at what they can’t attain.
My fame’s secure, since I can show
How men of eminence like you,
527My little book transcribe and quote,
As like to live of classic note.
It is th’ ambition of my pen
To win th’ applause of learned men.
If Esop’s name at any time
I bring into this measured rhyme,
To whom I’ve paid whate’er I owe,
Let all men by these presents know,
I with th’ old fabulist make free,
To strengthen my authority.
As certain sculptors of the age,
The more attention to engage,
And raise their price, the curious please,
By forging of Praxiteles;
And in like manner they purloin
A Myro to their silver coin.
’Tis thus our fables we can smoke,
As pictures for their age bespoke:
For biting envy, in disgust
To new improvements, favors rust;
But now a tale comes in of course,
Which these assertions will enforce.
Demetrius, who was justly call’d
The tyrant, got himself install’d,
And held o’er Athens impious sway.
The crowd, as ever is the way,
Came, eager rushing far and wide,
And, “Fortunate event!” they cried.
The nobles came, the throne address’d:
The hand by which they were oppress’d
They meekly kiss’d, with inward stings
Of anguish for the face of things.
The idlers also, with the tribe
Of those who to themselves prescribe
Their ease and pleasure, in the end
Came sneaking, lest they should offend.
Amongst this troop Menander hies,
So famous for his comedies.
528(Him, though he was not known by sight,
The tyrant read with great delight,
Struck with the genius of the bard.)
In flowing robes bedaub’d with nard,
And saunt’ring tread he came along,
Whom, at the bottom of the throng,
When Phalereus beheld, he said:
“How dares that fribble show his head
In this our presence?” he was told—
“It is Menander you behold.”
Then, changed at once from fierce to bland,
He call’d, and took him by the hand.
Two men equipp’d were on their way;
One fearful; one without dismay,
An able fencer. As they went,
A robber came with black intent;
Demanding, upon pain of death,
Their gold and silver in a breath.
At which the man of spirit drew,
And instantly disarm’d and slew
The Thief, his honor to maintain.
Soon as the rogue was fairly slain,
The tim’rous chap began to puff,
And drew his sword, and stripp’d in buff—
“Leave me alone with him! stand back!
I’ll teach him whom he should attack.”
Then he who fought, “I wish, my friend,
But now you’d had such words to lend;
I might have been confirm’d the more,
Supposing truth to all you swore;
Then put your weapon in the sheath,
And keep your tongue within your teeth,
Though you may play an actor’s part
On them who do not know your heart.
I, who have seen this very day
How lustily you ran away,
Experience when one comes to blows
How far your resolution goes.”
This narrative to those I tell
Who stand their ground when all is well;
But in the hour of pressing need
Abash’d, most shamefully recede.
As on his head she chanced to sit,
A Man’s bald pate a Gadfly bit;
He, prompt to crush the little foe,
Dealt on himself a grievous blow:
At which the Fly, deriding said,
“You that would strike an insect dead
For one slight sting, in wrath so strict,
What punishment will you inflict
Upon yourself, who was so blunt
To do yourself this gross affront?”—
“O,” says the party, “as for me,
I with myself can soon agree.
The spirit of th’ intention’s all;
But thou, detested cannibal!
Blood-sucker! to have thee secured
More would I gladly have endured.”
What by this moral tale is meant
Is—those who wrong not with intent
Are venial; but to those that do
Severity, I think, is due.
A certain Man, when he had made
A sacrifice, for special aid
To Hercules, and kill’d a swine,
Did for his Ass’s share assign
All the remainder of the corn;
But he, rejecting it with scorn,
Thus said: “I gladly would partake—
But apprehend that life’s at stake;
For he you fatted up and fed
With store of this, is stuck and dead.”
Struck with the import of this tale,
I have succeeded to prevail
530Upon my passions, and abstain,
From peril of immod’rate gain.
But, you will say, those that have come
Unjustly by a handsome sum,
Upon the pillage still subsist—
Why, if we reckon up the list,
You’ll find by far the major part
Have been conducted in the cart:
Temerity for some may do,
But many more their rashness rue.
In ev’ry age, in each profession,
Men err the most by prepossession;
But when the thing is clearly shown,
Is fairly urged, and fully known,
We soon applaud what we deride,
And penitence succeeds to pride.
A certain noble, on a day,
Having a mind to show away,
Invited by reward the mimes
And play’rs and tumblers of the times,
And built a large commodious stage
For the choice spirits of the age:
But, above all, amongst the rest
There came a genius who profess’d
To have a curious trick in store
That never was perform’d before.
Through all the town this soon got air,
And the whole house was like a fair;
But soon his entry as he made,
Without a prompter or parade,
’Twas all expectance and suspense,
And silence gagg’d the audience.
He, stooping down and looking big,
So wondrous well took off a pig,
All swore ’twas serious, and no joke,
For that, or underneath his cloak
He had concealed some grunting elf,
Or was a real hog himself.
531A search was made—no pig was found—
With thund’ring claps the seats resound,
And pit, and box, and gall’ries roar
With— “O rare! bravo!” and “encore.”
Old Roger Grouse, a country clown,
Who yet knew something of the town,
Beheld the mimic of his whim,
And on the morrow challenged him
Declaring to each beau and belle
That he this grunter would excel.
The morrow came—the crowd was greater—
But prejudice and rank ill-nature
Usurp’d the minds of men and wenches,
Who came to hiss and break the benches.
The mimic took his usual station,
And squeak’d with general approbation;
Again “Encore! encore!” they cry—
“’Tis quite the thing, ’tis very high.”
Old Grouse conceal’d, amidst this racket,
A real pig beneath his jacket—
Then forth he came, and with his nail
He pinch’d the urchin by the tail.
The tortured pig, from out his throat,
Produced the genuine nat’ral note.
All bellow’d out ’twas very sad!
Sure never stuff was half so bad.
“That like a pig!” each cried in scoff;
“Pshaw! nonsense! blockhead! off! off! off!”
The mimic was extoll’d, and Grouse
Was hiss’d, and catcall’d from the house.
“Soft ye, a word before I go,”
Quoth honest Hodge; and stooping low,
Produced the pig, and thus aloud
Bespoke the stupid partial crowd:
“Behold, and learn from this poor cratur,
How much you critics know of natur!”
As yet my muse is not to seek,
But can from fresh materials speak;
532And our poetic fountain springs
With rich variety of things.
But you’re for sallies short and sweet;
Long tales their purposes defeat.
Wherefore, thou worthiest, best of men
Particulo, for whom my pen
Immortal honour will insure,
Long as a rev’rence shall endure
For Roman learning—if this strain
Cannot your approbation gain,
Yet, yet my brevity admire,
Which may the more to praise aspire,
The more our poets now-a-days
Are tedious in their lifeless lays.
As on his way a Bald-pate went,
He found a comb by accident;
Another, with a head as bare,
Pursued, and hollow’d for a share.
The first produced the prize, and cried,
“Good Providence was on our side;
But by the strange caprice of Fate,
We’re to no purpose fortunate;
And, as the proverb says, have found
A hobnail, for a hundred pound.”
They by this tale may be relieved
Whose sanguine hopes have been deceived.
A little, friv’lous, abject mind,
Pleased with the rabble, puff’d with wind,
When once, as fast as pride presumes,
Itself with vanity it plumes,
Is by fond lightness brought with ease
To any ridicule you please.
One Prince, a piper to the play,
Was rather noted in his way,
As call’d upon to show his art,
Whene’er Bathyllus did his part.
533He being at a certain fair,
(I do not well remember where,)
While they pull’d down the booth in haste,
Not taking heed, his leg displaced,
He from the scaffold fell so hard—
(Would he his pipes had rather marr’d!
Though they, poor fellow! were to him
As dear almost as life and limb).
Borne by the kind officious crowd,
Home he’s conducted, groaning loud.
Some months elapsed before he found
Himself recover’d of his wound:
Meantime, according to their way,
The droll frequenters of the play
Had a great miss of him, whose touch
The dancers’ spirits raised so much.
A certain man of high renown
Was just preparing for the town
Some games the mob to entertain,
When Prince began to walk again;
Whom, what with bribes and pray’rs, his grace
Prevail’d upon to show his face
In this performance, by all means—
And while he waits behind the scenes,
A rumour through the house is spread,
By certain, that “the piper’s dead.”
Others cried out, “The man is here,
And will immediately appear.”
The curtain draws, the lightnings flash,
The gods speak out their usual trash.
An ode, not to the Piper known,
Was to the chorus leader shown,
Which he was order’d to repeat,
And which was closed with this conceit—
“Receive with joy, O loyal Rome,
Thy Prince just rescued from his tomb.”
They all at once stand up and clap,
At which my most facetious chap
Kisses his hand, and scrapes and bows
To his good patrons in the house.
534First the equestrian order smoke
The fool’s mistake, and high in joke,
Command the song to be encored;
Which ended, flat upon the board
The Piper falls, the knights acclaim;
The people think that Prince’s aim
Is for a crown of bays at least.
Now all the seats perceived the jest,
And with his bandage white as snow,
White frock, white pumps, a perfect beauty
Proud of the feats he had achieved,
And these high honours he received,
With one unanimous huzza, Poor
Prince was kick’d out of the play.
Bald, naked, of a human shape,
With fleet wings ready to escape,
Upon a razor’s edge his toes,
And lock that on his forehead grows—
Him hold, when seized, for goodness’ sake,
For Jove himself cannot retake
The fugitive when once he’s gone.
The picture that we here have drawn
Is Opportunity so brief.—
The ancients, in a bas-relief,
Thus made an effigy of Time,
That every one might use their prime;
Nor e’er impede, by dull delay,
Th’ effectual business of to-day.
A Bull was struggling to secure
His passage at a narrow door,
And scarce could reach the rack of hay,
His horns so much were in his way.
A Calf officious, fain would show
How he might twist himself and go.
535“Hold thou thy prate; all this,” says he,
“Ere thou wert calved was known to me.”
He, that a wiser man by half
Would teach, may think himself this Calf.
A Dog, that time and often tried,
His master always satisfied;
And whensoever he assail’d,
Against the forest-beasts prevail’d
Both by activity and strength,
Through years began to flag at length.
One day, when hounded at a boar,
His ear he seized, as heretofore;
But with his teeth, decay’d and old,
Could not succeed to keep his hold.
At which the huntsman, much concern’d,
The vet’ran huff’d, who thus return’d:
“My resolution and my aim,
Though not my strength, are still the same;
For what I am if I am chid,
Praise what I was, and what I did.”
Philetus, you the drift perceive
Of this, with which I take my leave.
LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.
End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Fables of Phædrus, by Phaedrus
*** END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS ***