Aesop’s Fables – Fables of Phaedrus
|Gaius Julius Phaedrus (15 BC – 50 AD) was a Roman fabulist and a Great Male Thinker. According to many historians, he was probably a Thracian slave and born in Pydna of Roman Macedonia and lived during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. He is recognized as the first writer to Latinize entire books of fables, retelling in iambic metre the Greek prose Aesopic tales.
THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
LITERALLY TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH PROSE WITH NOTES By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A. LATE SCHOLAR OF CLARE HALL, CAMBRIDGE. TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS By CHRISTOPHER SMART, A.M.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, YORK STREET,
Inthe 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.
In the text, Book III, Fable xiis “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.
Thematter 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.” “Indeed
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 367his sharp teeth began to gobble them up one after another. Helpless they strive in vain to escape death; terror deprives them of voice. By stealth, therefore, they send through Mercury a request to Jupiter, to succour them in their distress. Then said the God in reply: ‘Since you would not be content with your good fortune, continue to endure your bad fortune
“Do you also, O fellow-citizens,” said Æsop, “submit to the present evil, lest a greater one befall you.”
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 repulse
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 will 369fall 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 children?”
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
This 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 safe.
A bone that he had swallowed stuck in the jaws of a Wolf. Thereupon, overcome by extreme pain, he began to tempt all and sundry by great rewards to extract the cause of misery. At length, on his taking an oath, a Crane was prevailed on, and, trusting the length of her neck to his throat, she wrought, with danger to herself, a cure for the Wolf. When she demanded the promised reward for this service, “You are an ungrateful one,” replied the Wolf, “to have taken your head in safety out of my mouth, and then to ask for a reward.”
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 witness.
A Wolf indicted a Fox upon a charge of theft; the latter denied that she was amenable to the charge. Upon this, the Ape sat as judge between them; and when each of them had pleaded his cause, the Ape is said to have pronounced this sentence: “You, Wolf, appear not to have lost what you demand; I believe that you, Fox, have stolen what you so speciously deny
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 know him.
A Lion having resolved to hunt in company with an Ass, concealed him in a thicket, and at the same time enjoined him to frighten the wild beasts with his voice, to which they were unused, while he himself was to catch them as they fled. Upon this, Long-ears, with all his might, suddenly raised a cry, and terrified the beasts with this new cause of astonishment.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
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.
A timorous Old Man was feeding an Ass
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
No one returns with good will to the place which has done him a mischief.
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 place.”
An ill-judged project is not only without effect, but also lures mortals to their destruction.
Some Dogs espied a raw hide sunk in a river. In order that they might more easily get it out and devour it, they fell to drinking up the water; they burst, however, and perished before they could reach what they sought.
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 death.”
A Weasel, on being caught by a Man, wishing to escape impending death: “Pray,” said she, “do spare me, for ’tis I who keep your house clear of troublesome mice.” The Man made answer: “If you did so for my sake, it would be a reason for thanking you, and I should have granted you the pardon you entreat. But, inasmuch as you do your best that you may enjoy the scraps which they would have gnawed, and devour the mice as well, don’t think of placing your pretended services to my account;” and so saying, he put the wicked creature to death.
Those persons ought to recognize this as applicable to themselves, whose object is private advantage, and who boast to the unthinking of an unreal merit.
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 ruin.
Once on a time, a Frog espied an Ox in a meadow, and moved with envy at his vast bulk, puffed out her wrinkled skin, and then asked her young ones whether she was bigger than the Ox. They said “No.” Again, with still greater efforts, she distended her skin, and in like manner enquired which was the bigger: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.
It 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 380of her offspring. The Eagle, that she might rescue her young ones from the peril of death, in a suppliant manner restored to the Fox her whelps in safety.
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 sufferers.
A Frog, viewing from a marsh, a combat of some Bulls: “Alas!” said she, “what terrible destruction is threatening us.” Being asked by another why she said so, as the Bulls were contending for the sovereignty of the herd, and passed their lives afar from them: “Their habitation is at a distance,” said she,
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.”
1. When Athens)—Ver. 1. This probably alludes to the government of Solon, when Archon of Athens.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. A Jackdaw, swelling)—Ver. 4. Scheffer thinks that Sejanus is alluded to under this image.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.”
8. 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 be meant.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. This new cause of astonishment)
13. From a window)—Ver. 3. Burmann suggests that the window of a house in which articles of food were exposed for sale, is probably meant.
14. 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 learned.
15. 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.
16. 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 calling.
17. 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.
18. Day comes)—Ver. 6. “Quum dies adveniat,” a law term, signifying “when the day of payment comes.”
19. Liars generally)—Ver. 1. It is supposed by some that this Fable is levelled against the informers who infested Rome in the days of Tiberius.
20. Her months completed)—Ver. 2. Plutarch relates this, not as a Fable, but as a true narrative.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.”
24. 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
25. 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.
26. Narrow-mouthed jar)—Ver. 8. The
27. 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.
28. 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 tombs.
29. Gods the Manes)—Ver. 4. Perhaps by “Deos Manes” are meant the good and bad Genii of the deceased.
30. The ass, with legs)—Ver. 7. This line is somewhat modified in the translation.
31. When the powerful)—Ver. 1. This is similar to the line of Horace, “Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.”
Theplan 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 name.
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 examples.
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 imagined that 384he 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 guilt.”
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 long story? 385They 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 386well 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 me
No one is sufficiently armed against the powerful; but if a wicked adviser joins them, nothing can withstand such a combination of violence and unscrupulousness.II.12
An Eagle carried a Tortoise aloft, who had hidden her body in her horny abode, and in her concealment could not, while thus sheltered, be injured in any way. A Crow came through the air, and flying near, exclaimed: “You really have carried off a rich prize in your talons; but if I don’t instruct you what you must do, in vain will you tire yourself with the heavy weight.” A share being promised her, she persuades the Eagle to dash the hard shell from the lofty stars upon a rock, that, it being broken to pieces, she may easily feed upon the meat. Induced by her words, the Eagle attends to her suggestion, and at the same time gives a large share of the banquet to her instructress.
Thus she who had been protected by the bounty of nature, being an unequal match for the two, perished by an unhappy fate.
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 388destruction, 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 389made 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.
1. 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.
2. Persevering industry)—Ver. 5. “Diligens industria.” An industry or ingenuity that exerts itself in trying to discover the meaning of his Fables.
3. Of the sage)—Ver. 8. Meaning Æsop.
4. 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.
5. 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.”
6. 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 “anus” with long final u.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 Emperor.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Literally: Whatever violence and unscrupulousness attack, comes
13. 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.”
14. 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.
15. Amid the slaughter)—Ver. 8. He alludes no doubt to the murder of the men conducting the mules by the Robbers.
16. Those spiders’ webs)—Ver. 23. The mode of clearing away the spider webs may be seen described in the beginning of the “Stichus” of Plautus.
17. 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 works
18. 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.