From Fables of Babrius, in Two Parts, translated into English Verse from the text of Sir G. C. Lewis, by the Rev. John Davies, M.A., London: Lockwood & Co.,1860; pp. 70 to 122.
THE FABLES OF BABRIUS,
IN TWO PARTS.
Translated into English verse from the text of Sir G. C. Lewis.
REV. JOHN DAVIES, M.A.
A drinking master would his camel bring
To dance to flutes, and brazen cymbal’s ring.
“Would that I could on a plain road advance,
Causing no laughter,” said she, “much less dance.”
A fox said to an ape, “The stone you see
Records my sire’s and grandsire’s memory.”
Said Pug to Reynard, “Lie, as likes you best,
For none remain our story’s truth to test.”
It marks a bad man not to shrink from lies,
When, lying, he can shun detective eyes.
A mouse ran o’er a sleeping lion’s mane,
And the roused brute his wrath could not restrain:
So bristling up, he leapt from out his lair.
A neighbour-fox derision did not spare,
72 That on a mouse the king of brutes should spend
His ire. Said he, “I fear not, cunning friend,
Lest mice my skin should nettle, and escape:
But roads o’er me take an ill-habit’s shape.”
The boldness of the impudent repress,
Small though it be, before it can progress!
Nor let it by the mean be lightly dreamt,
That thou wilt be a butt for their contempt.
A groom each day his horse kept currying,
Yet each day too the corn-bin emptying.
Then said the horse, “If sleek you really would
Behold me, prythee, do not sell my food.”
True love will study things expedient
And useful. Vain, indeed, is ornament
As a makeweight, when needful things are spent.
A gnat on a bull’s horn his seat had made,
And, pausing first, thus with a buzz he said:
“If I bear down or bend your neck a whit,
I’ll go and on yon river-poplar sit.”
The bull cried, “Stay or go, for aught I care,
I did not even know when you came there.”
Absurd is he, who, being nought, will try
To cope with great men, and ape something high.
A feud between the dogs and wolves arose,
And of their host the dogs as leader chose
One from Achaia: who, like general sage,
Kept holding back. His troops began to rage
74 At his preferring ambush to fair fight.
“Why I delay,” he answered, “hear aright,
And why I’m careful. Prudence can’t be wrong.
Our foes I see are one united throng;
But some of us have from Molossia come,
Others from Crete, from Acarnania some:
Some are Dolopian: others Cyprus boast,
Or Thrace their home: in short, a various host.
We differ, unlike these, in colour too,
Being, some black, and some of ashen hue:
While some are bright and mottled in the chest,
Others are white. Discordant bands at best
How can I marshal, with an eye to war,
’Gainst troops that all alike in all things are?”
For aught more good than harmony to seek
Is vain. Disunion slavish is, and weak.
Fab. LXXXV. — Bergk, in a paper in the Classical Museum, Vol. iii. pp. 130-134, thinks that this fable, with its enumeration of Acarnanian, Dolopian, Molossian, Cretan dogs, &c. refers to the Achæan league, and to Aratus, as the Achæan dog chosen as the leader. He considers the wolves to be no other than the Ætolian league, and from this fable he gathers his chief argument for supposing King Alexander to be Alexander of Corinth and Nicæa.75
An aged oak was at its roots decay’d,
Wherein the wallet of a hind was laid,
Ragged and brimful of stale bread and meat;
A fox ran in, and its contents did eat.
Her stomach thence, no marvel, wax’d so stout,
That through the opening she could not get out.
She wept. Another fox, that came that way,
Said jeeringly, “Till you are fasting, stay!
You won’t find egress, till you grow as thin
In stomach, as you were when you got in.”
Chasing a mountain hare, a certain hound
Would one while bite her, if a chance he found.
And one while turn and lick her as a friend;
Said puss at last, “Let double-dealing end.
“Be a true brute. If friend, why do you bite?
“But if a foe, why fawn, nor be downright?”
Of an uncertain class of minds are those;
Whom, if no trust or distrust, no one knows.
In the green corn a lark, that nurs’d his young,
At dawn, in answer to the lapwing sung.
And now his brood had fed on corn so long,
That they had crests, and on their wings were strong.
77 So the field’s owner, when he came to see
The harvest ripe, said, “Now ’tis time for me
“To gather all my friends, that I may reap.”
But one of the young crestlings chanc’d to keep
Watch on his words, and ran, his sire to tell,
That to remove them elsewhere it were well.
But he replied, “’Tis not yet time to flee!
Who trusts to friends, not over-fast is he.”
When the man came, and saw the sun’s bright ray
Had caused the ear o’er-ripe to fall away.
And said, he’d hire reapers the next morn,
And pay all hands to bind and sheave the corn,
Then the lark to his novice children cries,
“’Tis time, my sons, that each one elsewhere flies,
Since on himself, not friends, the man relies.”
A wolf beheld a lambkin once astray,
And did not give brute force at once its way,
But, bent to seize it, found this specious plea:
“Small though you were last year, you slander’d me.”
“Nay! how last year? A year I’ve not been born.”
“Well, then, you nibbled my own field of corn!”
“I eat nor grass nor corn! A nursling still!”
“Have you not drunk then of my private rill?”
“As yet, my mother’s milk’s my beverage.”
Upsprang the wolf, and ate the lamb in rage.
“A wolf,” said he, “can’t for his supper wait,
Though all his pleas you may invalidate.”
A lion raved. A fawn from woods hard by
Saw, and began, “Ah! wretched we!” to cry.
“How must we, when he’s mad, expect to fare,
Whom, in his sane state, none of us could bear?”
Once, in a cave the goatherds had forsaken,
A bull had from a lion refuge taken,
But to contest his entrance there remain’d
One goat within, who hornèd war maintain’d.
“Pshaw!” said the bull, “could I yon beast elude,
I’d bear a little space to see you rude!
Just let the lion pass, and you shall note
How wide the difference ’twixt bull and goat.”
A lion-hunter once, who courage lack’d,
In the hill-forests dense his game had track’d.
A woodman near a tall fir met his view,
Whom by the Nymphs he pray’d, if aught he knew,
To point the wild beast’s steps, that harbour’d near.
The other said, “Good luck has brought you here!
The lion’s self to you I’ll quickly show.”
Pale, and with chattering teeth, he cried, “No, no!”
Pray don’t oblige me, friend, beyond your task:
To see the lion’s track, not him, I ask.”
The wolf-tribe sent the flock an embassy,
And proffer’d oaths of peace and amity.
The terms were that the dogs should be disgraced,
Who caused the feud now sought to be effaced.
The sheep, weak, silly creatures, were disposed
To scout old friends. An old ram interposed,
And said, his thick wool bristling from below,
“A novel mediation this, I trow!”
How, if unguarded, am I safe with you,
When even now my perils are not few,
Though, while I feed, I keep my watch-dog true?”
A bone in the wolf’s throat was firmly set:
Then covenanted he the hern should get
A due reward, if, letting down his neck,
He’d draw the bone, and thus his suffering check.
The hern extracted it, and claim’d his prize.
“Nay,” said the wolf, with grinning teeth and eyes,
“A meed of healing great enough you’ve found,
Your head from out the wolf’s jaw safe and sound.”
It is ill wages, when the bad you aid,
To take no hurt, is to be well-repaid.
Sick in a rocky cleft a lion lay,
Glad on the ground his failing limbs to stay.
With him a fox was chiefly intimate,
To whom he said, “Wouldst have me ’scape my fate?
Then know, I hunger for the stag that dwells
’Neath yon wild pine amide the woodland dells.
And I, you wot, can hunt the stag no more;
But if you choose your honied words to pour
Into his ears and trap him, mine’s the prize!”
Away went Reynard where the wild wood lies
She found him leaping o’er the mossy grass,
And, first embracing, then began to pass
High compliments, and say she came to bring
Good new. “My neighbour is the forest king,
“The lion; he is sick, nay well nigh dead:
And he was thinking who should rule instead
84 O’er beasts. To find a pig with sense is hard!
The bear is dull; and wrathful is the pard.
The braggart tiger ever stands alone.
He deems the stag is meetest for his throne.
’Tis light of form; it lives unnumber’d years;
Fearful to reptiles is the horn it rears,
Branching like trees, to bulls’ horn un-allied;
Need I say more? The choice is ratified.
You are to rule the beasts that roam the hills;
Oh! then, whene’er the throne your highness fills,
Pray think of Reynard, who first let you know
These news. I’ve said. Good-bye, my dear! I go
To join the lion; he may need me back:
My counsel now in all things he would lack.
You’ll come, child, too, if the advice you heed
Of an old head. ’Tis fitting you should speed
To counsel him, and cheer him in his woes:
Small things win much at life’s extremest close,
And souls are in the eyes of them that die:”
Thus spake the fox. The stag’s heart leapt on high
At her feign’d words. He sought the cavern home
Of the wild beast, and wist not what should come.
85 Reckless upsprang the lion from his lair,
And fail’d, through haste, of more than just to tear
The stag’s ear with his talon-tips. Afraid,
Straight from the door it fled to woodland shade.
The fox to clap her paws in spite was fain,
Because her labour had been spent in vain.
Gnashing his teeth the lion raised a groan;
Chagrin and famine seiz’d him, both in one.
Again he call’d the fox, again he pray’d
The stag by some fresh trick might be betray’d.
Revolving schemes from her heart’s inmost core,
“I’ll do your will,” she said, “tho’ hard, once more.”
Then follow’d she, like sage dog, on the scent,
Weaving her wily tricks, as on she went;
Asking each shepherd ever and anon,
“Knew he which way a bleeding stag had gone?”
Each that had seen it, pointing led the way
To where, she found, the fleet stag resting lay,
Tired with the chase, in deeply shaded wood,
And there with forehead unabash’d she stood.
A shudder smote the stag in back and knees,
Wrath overflow’d his heart. His words were these:
86 “Now you pursue me, wheresoe’er I fly:
But, hated one, discomfiture is nigh,
If you approach, and dare to mutter aught.
Go play the fox to others yet untaught
In wiles. Stir others up, and make them reign.”
But Reynard heard unmoved. In blameful strain
She said, “Art thou so mean, so full of fear?
And dost thou thus suspect associates dear?
The lion planning what might profit thee,
And how to rouse thee from past apathy,
Just touch’d thine ear, a dying father’s act,
For he desired no precept should be lack’d
By thee for keeping sovereignty so great;
But thou his weak claw’s tickling couldst not wait,
And, tearing thyself off, wast wounded sore.
Hence he, than thou, is now offended more,
For trial shows thee weak, unfit to trust;
So into kinghood he the wolf will thrust.
Ah me! an evil lord! What will befall?
Thou art a cause of ills to one and all.
Nay, come and show more courage than of old,
Nor cower, like sheep, just straying from the fold.
87 Now may my oath by springs and leaves be known,
So may I subject be to thee alone,
As he intends no harm, but in good will,
Bids thee the lordship of the beasts to fill.”
Cajoling thus the brocket, him she won
Into the selfsame fate again to run.
So when he lay, inclosed within the lair,
The lion had, himself, most dainty fare,
Gorging the flesh, the marrow from each bone
And entrails lapping. Famishing, alone
Stood the decoyer, till she slily stole
And ate the heart, which near her chanc’d to roll;
The single gain of all her toil was this:
Which soon the lion, counting, came to miss,
Of all the inward parts. Indignant then
He search’d each lair, and hunted every den.
And Reynard said, to cheat him of the truth,
“Don’t search in vain! It had no heart in sooth.
To own a fine heart he was likely, who
A second time came visitor to you!”
Fab. XCV. 22.. — Of the hatred of stags for all the serpent tribe, see Plin. Nat. His. viii. 50, xxii. 37, Ælian,. N. A. II. 9.
Dioscorides De Mat. Med. III. 73, and Pliny l. c. state that serpents do not take hurt from the bites of serpents, if they feed on the plane “elaphoboscos”; and that the seed of this plant mixed with wine is a cure for the bites of serpents.88
A wolf pass’d by a wall; and from its top
A young ram peeping much abuse let drop.
Gnashing his teeth the wolf said bitterly,
“Boast not thyself. They place abuses me!”
Let no one then, whom luck or accident
Makes strong awhile to insolence give vent.
A lion once conceiving a design
Against a wild bull, feign’d that at the shrine
Of Cybele he meant to sacrifice,
And bade the bull; who, blind to his device,
89 Promis’d to join the feast, and came and stood
At his host’s door. Seeing the kitchen strew’d
With cauldrons of hot water, cleavers bright,
Sharp carving-knives, but nought for food in sight,
Save a cock bound, he to the hills made off:
Much did the lion, when he met him, scoff.
“Nay,” said the bull, “this token proves I came.
Your ample kitchens larger victims claim.”
A lion, smitten with a beauteous maid,
Ask’d her in marriage of her sire, who said,
Without show of dislike or hollowness,
“I’d give consent, and gladly, I profess!
What sire a mighty lion would refuse!
But timid are young maids’ and children’s views.
Just think how large your teeth! how long you wear
Your talons! What maid, do you think, will dare
90 To clasp you boldly, see you unalarm’d?
If you would wed, against these fears be arm’d.
Be a wild beast no more, but suitor mild.”
On wings of promise, by the words beguil’d,
The lion drew his teeth, his talons pared
With surgeon’s knife, then to the sire repair’d,
And showing them he claim’d his bride. But all
With stones or clubs on him began to fall.
He lay inactive, e’en as dying swine,
Taught by a crafty old man to divine,
That ’tis not nature’s will that men should burn
For lions, or they love mankind in turn
Fab. XCVIII. — Dubner and Lachmann agree in thinking the epimyth spurious here, and so does Sir G. C. Lewis. It is therefore not translated in this version. Eumenes exposed to the Macedonians the perfidy of his adversary’s offers by quoting this fable. Cf. Thirlwall, Hist. Gr. vii. p. 273, 4.
There met a wolf a dog exceeding sleek,
Of whom the former soon began to seek,
“In what abode he grew so fat and large.”
Said he, “I live at a rich master’s charge.”
91 “But how,” said Wolf, “became they neck so bare?”
“Rubb’d by the iron collar which I wear:
My master had it forg’d, and placed on me.”
The wolf on this made answer mockingly:
“Adieu! for me, the nurture I refuse,
Through which the iron is my neck to bruise.”
An eagle to a lion flew, and pray’d
To be his partner. “What should let?” he said
In answer. “Only you must certify,
You will not let your faith take wings and fly:
On friend unsettled how could I rely?”
A fine-grown wolf his tribe in size outvied,
The rest surnamed him “lion.” Puff’d with pride
He could not bear renown, but left his kin,
And with the lions friendship strove to win.
Then said a jeering fox, “From me be far
That frenzy, in the mists of which you are.
For you, no doubt, to wolves a lion seem,
But lions count you wolf, in their esteem.”
A lion: no brawling lion he,
Nor fierce, nor one who used brute force with glee;
But mild and just, as any child of man.
’Twas in his reign, or so the story ran,
93 The wild beasts held a congress, with this aim,
Each to do justice, and receive the same.
And when each brute accounted, as by law,
Wolves to the lambs, the pard to the chamois,
Tiger to stag, and peace pervaded all,
A cow’ring hare said, “Ever did I call
Upon the Gods, to grant this day ere long,
Which makes the weak a terror to the strong.”
A lion hunting could no longer go,
He had grown old full many a year ago.
So in his cave he laid him, feigning sick,
And gasping, not in truth, ’twas all a trick.
His once deep voice now seem’d so faint and low:
Quickly did Rumour to each beast’s den go:
Her tale, the lion’s sickness, grieved them all,
And each went in, on the old king to call.
94 These, in their turn, he took with ease, though weak,
And, feasting on them, found his age grow sleek.
Yet one, who guess’d his trick, a fox, afar
Ask’d, “Prythee, good my liege, say how you are?”
He answer’d, “Best of creatures, how d’ye do?
Come nearer, nor from far your old friend view.
Come, sweet one, with the balm your words can
And comfort me who have not long to live.”
Said fox, “Good-bye, my leaving you’ll forgive;
I must be off, forewarn’d by many a track
Of beasts, which you can scarcely prove came back.”
He that is taught by strange calamity
And is not first in falling, blest is he!
A dog was fond of biting “on the sly,”
Whose master, this ill trick to notify
Abroad, a brazen bell around him tied.
On this the dog began to ring with pride
His bell in every square. Then to him said
An elder dog, “Why proudly lift your head,
Poor wretch? no badge of worth you sound in this,
But a plain proof of what you do amiss.”
A wolf was bearing home a sheep one day
Snatch’d from the fold. A lion in the way
Captur’d his spoil. The wolf, far off, made moan:
“Wrongly,” he cried, “you’ve robb’d me of my own.”
96 The mocking lion answer’d with delight;
“Of course ’twas given by friends, and your’s by right.”
A lion once the noblest life of men
Would emulate, and in his spacious den
“At home,” with kindness to entreat essay’d
All the best kinds of beasts of hill or glade.
Large grew the crowd of various brutes apace,
For which his kindly “menage” found a space:
While each his loved and feasted as a guest,
Meting to all the food they fancied best,
He ’d ta’en a friendly fox his den to share,
With whom his life was mostly smooth and fair;
But carver to him was an ancient ape,
Each messmate’s share to parcel out and shape.
This ape, if guest unwonted cross’d the door,
Set the same meal his lord and him before,
The lion’s chase some recent spoil had ta’en,
97 While Reynard did but scraps of stale meat gain.
So when a purposed silence she maintain’d,
And now from food and feast her paws restrain’d,
Her conduct’s motive fain the host would seek:
“Sage fox, in wonted fashion, prythee, speak;
Share, dearest, share the feast with cheerful face.”
“Best,” cried the fox, “of all the wild-beast race,
With much solicitude I waste my heart;
Nor do things present merely cause the smart;
But what is coming, I with grief foresee:
For if fresh guests come hither constantly,
One after other, and this habit grows,
I shall miss even stale meat, I suppose.”
A lion’s smile o’er the pleased lion came:
“I told the ape so. Me then do not blame.”
To dine on captured mouse a lion thought:
But on the verge of fate the wretch besought
(Poor household thief) the beast, in words of fear;
“’Twere meet that, hunting hornèd bulls and deer,
With suchlike meat you should your paunch make
But a poor mouse! ’tis wrong such food as that
Should ever touch your lips. Oh, spare me, pray!
Small as I am, this boon I may repay.”
The beast let go his suppliant with a smile;
But, himself netted in a little while,
By youthful hunters he was made secure.
[Slyly] the mouse stole to an aperture,
Nibbled with tiniest teeth the sturdy twine,
And let the beast again see daylight shine,
Unbound: requiting thus his former gift.
To men of sense plain is our fable’s drift.
Fab. CVII, — The epimyth of this fable has not been translated, because in addition to being judged to be spurious, it lacks point.99
Two mice, of whom one spent a-field his day,
The other’s hold in rich town storehouse lay,
To have their food in common both agreed:
And so the town-bred mouse came first, to feed
Where now the field was fresh with verdant fruits;
And nibbling there the moist and bitter roots
Of corn, from dingy clods by no means free,
“The life of wretched ant is yours,” said he,
Eating scant barley in the depths of earth.
For me — I find much plenty and no dearth.
I dwell in plenty’s horn, compared with you.
Come and feast freely, as you’d wish to do,
Leaving the moles to burrow in the soil.”
He won the simple mouse from rustic toil,
Men’s homes to enter, ’neath their walls to bore;
And show’d him where there is of pulse a store,
100 A cask of figs, and where the meal-bags are;
Where the date-chest; and where the honey-jar.
When, spurr’d and much delighted by all these,
He from a basket dragg’d a piece of cheese,
Lo! some one oped the door; away he leapt,
And trembling, to his hole’s aperture crept,
Crowding his host, and venting hideous squeaks.
But in a while from his retreat he sneaks,
Intent a Camirœan fig to taste;
But, after something, upon them in haste
Came some one else. They hid. The country mouse
Said, “Feast, and fare you well, in plenty’s house:
Of these abundant revels take your fill;
You’ll find them mainly fraught with risk and ill,
Meanwhile, desert my sooth clod will not I,
Where I munch barley, and all fears defy!”
Fab. CVIII, — Compare Hor. Sat. II. vi. 79. See also Fab. XCIX above. As to the Camiræan [or Camirœan] fig mentioned in v. 25, see Smith’s Dict. Gr. Rom. Geogr. Vol. I. pp. 713, 5. Camirus was a town of Rhodes, one of the three most ancient in the island, which was famous for its wine, raisins, and figs.101
“Don’t walk aslant, nor o’er the moist rock draw
Crosswise,” its dam said to the crab, “thy claw.”
“Nay, first,” cried he, “Mother and mentor too,
Walk straight yourself: I ’ll watch and follow you.”
“Gape not,” a man about to travel cried
To his dog near him; “but to start provide;
For you must go with me.” It wagg’d its tail,
And said, “I’m right! ’Tis you in quickness fail.”
A huckster, who contrived an ass to keep,
Hearing that salt on the sea-coast was cheap,
Chose to invest in it. With goodly load
Homeward he drove. When fairly on the road,
Into a stream the ass unconscious rolled,
And, the salt melting, had no weight t’ uphold,
So rose with greater ease, and lightly sought
And reach’d the bank. More salt the owner bought;
Again he brought his ass to load: again
Piled his bags heavier. Then, in toil and pain,
Crossing the stream that caused his former fall,
The ass, on purpose, slipt, lost salt and all;
And, at his luck triumphant, lightly rose.
Now did the huckster a new scheme propose;
’Twas this: — “To carry inland from the sea
Whole loads of porous sponges: salt-bags he
103 Was sick of.” So the ass, in knavish sort,
When to the stream again his load he brought,
Fell down on purpose. Every sponge was soak’d
At once, and he to heavier burden yoked;
Home on his back he bore a double bale.
Where men have oft succeeded, they may fail.
Fab. CXI. 7. — Respecting the riches and vast commerce of the Red Sea, or Mare Erythræum, see Smith’s Dict. Gr. Rom. Geogr. Vol. II. 857, 8. See also the fabulist Avianus, Fab. II.
A bull was bitten by a mouse. In pain
He tried to catch it: but ’twas first to gain
The mouse-hole. With his horns, to raze its walls,
The bull essays, until asleep he falls,
Sinking, fatigued, hard by. Forth straightway hies
The peeping mouse, bites him again, and flies.
Uprose the bull, perplext what now to do,
And the mouse squeak’d to him this moral true:
“Not always mighty are the great. ’Tis seen
Sometimes, that stronger are the small and mean.”
A man about to fold his sheep at eve,
Was going a yellow wolf with them to leave
Penn’d up. The sheep-dog saw, and said, “What
To save the sheep, you bring him in to waste!”
A lamp that swam with oil, began to boast
At eve, that it outshone the starry host,
And gave most light to all. Her boast was heard:
Soon the wind whistled: soon the breezes stirred,
And quench’d its light. A man rekindled it,
And said, “Brief is the faint lamp’s boasting-fit,
But the star-light ne’er needs to be re-lit.
Once to the divers, gulls, and wild sea-mews
A sluggish tortoise thus expressed her views.
“Would that I, too, had had the luck to fly!”
An eagle chanced to hear, and made reply:
“Tortoise, how much shall be the eagle’s prize,
If to the air he makes thee lightly rise?”
“Thou shalt have all and each of ocean’s gifts!”
“Agreed!” the eagle cries, and lightly lifts
The other to the clouds, upon her back,
Then lets her fall, and on the hill-side crack
Her brittle coat of shell. He heard her cry,
At the last gasp: “I well deserve to die!
Where was to me of clouds and wings the need,
Who on my mother earth could make no speed?”
A youth was singing sweetly at mid-night;
A wife that heard him, rose, and in delight
Peep’d from her windows, whence a view she had,
By the bright moon-beam, of a handsome lad.
She therefore left her spouse asleep to snore,
Came down the halls, and passed without the door,
And quickly gain’d the object she desired.
Her husband rose in haste: his eyes enquir’d
Where was his mate, whom in the house he lack’d?
Soon did the song his doubting steps attract.
Then cried he to his wife, “Be not dismay’d,
This youth within our house to sleep persuade.”
He took him in: the youth found both were bent
To please, and of the wife grew negligent.
So runs the fable. Read its moral right,
’Tis ill to triumph, when one may requite.
The sea engulfed a ship and all its crew,
Which one beholding this conclusion drew.
“That the Gods rule unjustly: for that they
A host of harmless men agreed to slay,
Because one godless wretch was in the ship.”
But as the words were just upon his lip,
A swarm of ants surprised him, urged by haste
(’Tis nothing strange), some barley chaff to taste.
Stung by one ant, on all the grumbler trod:
Hermes appear’d, and tapp’d him with his rod.
Said he, “will you not let the Gods then do
To you that justice, the ants meet from you?”
Accustom’d ever to men’s haunts to cling,
Her nest a tawny swallow built in spring
On walls, that skirted some old judges’ homes;
Where of seven nestlings mother she becomes;
Nestlings, unfringed with purplish feathers yet;
And these, each one in turn, a serpent ate,
Gliding from out his hole. The bird forlorn
Forthwith began, in words like these, to mourn
For her ill-fated babies, untimely ta’en:
“Alas, my sad fate,” thus did she complain,
Since, where men’s laws and ordinances are,
Thence a poor swallow, injured, flies afar.”
A man, a craftsman, cherish’d, wrought in wood,
A Hermes, before whom each day he stood
With offerings of meat and drink: yet still,
Much to his indignation, he fared ill.
He took the image by its leg, and dash’d
It on the ground; so when its head was smash’d,
Out fell some gold. He pick’d it up, and said,
“Ungrateful God to friends, and wrong of head!
For when we served thee, thou didst nowise aid,
But when we scoff’d, our wrongs with good hast
Would I had known before that nought was due,
Save this new service, Mercury, to you.”
In fables Æsop Gods doth introduce,
To teach us how to act in daily use.
Honour to cross-grain’d folks is toil in vain;
Insult them, and their kindnesses you gain.
That tenant of the swamp, and friend of shade,
The frog, who in the dykes his dwelling made,
Came on dry land, and thus each creature told:
“I am a doctor, who the science hold
Of drugs more rare than Pœan’s art can reach,
Whom high Olympus deems the heavenly leech.”
“How then,” asked Reynard, “if you often cure,
Your own sad lameness come you to endure?”
A hen was sick. To her a cat inclined
Her head. “How do? For what have you a mind?
I’ll get you all you wish. But don’t say ‘die!’ ”
“If you’ll be off,” said she, “that will not I.”
An ass went lame, from treading on a stake;
He spied a wolf, and fearing he might take
Death for his certain doom, said, “Wolf, I die:
Hear my last breath: I’d rather thou wert nigh
To sup on me, than vulture, or than crow.
Yet this slight harmless bone on me bestow;
The splinter from my foot extract, I pray;
That painless thus my soul may wing its way
To Hades.” “This I grudge not,” he replied.
T’ extract the stake his teeth their aid supplied.
But now the ass, his pain and anguish sped,
Kick’d the gray gaping wolf, and turn’d, and fled,
When he had bump’d his snout, and grinders too.
“Ah!” said the wolf, “this luck to me is due!
Why was it that to cure the lame I took,
Who from the first knew nought, but how to cook?”
When golden eggs a fine hen daily laid,
Its owner thought to find his fortune made
From endless treasure in its bowels stored:
He slaughter’d it, to pounce upon the hoard.
Its inward parts like other birds he found,
And mourn’d his baffled hopes with grief profound.
Thus oftentimes doth greediness of more
Rob men of even what they had before.
In a lone spot, with no one by her side,
And much cast down, a traveller espied
A noble dame, who seem’d in evil case.
Said he, “Why dost thou tarry in this place?
What ails thee, lady? Who art thou, in sooth?”
“If thou wouldst know,” she answer’d, “I am Truth!”
At this amazed, the traveller ask’d her, “Why,
Haunting lone spots, from cities dost thou fly?”
To which the Goddess of deep mind replied,
“Because aforetime there were few that lied.
But now hath falsehood spread o’er all mankind,
And if thou’lt hear, and I may speak my mind,
Man’s life in these days evil we shall find.”
A man a Maltese dog kept, and an ass;
The latter, as was usual, corn and grass
Ate in a courtyard, to a manger tied;
But graceful gambols were the pet-dog’s pride,
While round its lord with various leaps it pressed,
And oft by him was fondled in his breast,
A pleasant toy, of solace the best.
The ass meanwhile was used to grind by night
The grain of Ceres, fetching, while ’twas light,
Wood from the hill, things needful from the field;
Hence did his spirit to sore anguish yield
To see the whelp in luxury’s own lap.
Losing no time his manger’s bonds to snap,
With awkward capers to the hall he came,
With what strange fawning! What attempts at game!
115 The table thrown into the midst he smash’d,
And all the plates at once to atoms dash’d.
Next, near his master as he supp’d, he drew,
His hoofs, to hug him, o’er his back he threw:
But now the servant marking how he fared
From this rough usage that the ass had dared,
To save their master, interposing, rushed
And rescued him, when he was well-nigh crush’d.
Then, as the ass was gasping his last breath,
(With cornel clubs they beat him near to death,)
Said he, “As I deserv’d, a luckless ass,
I suffer! Wherefore did I scorn to pass
My days among the mules? Why, wretchedly,
A tiny lap-dog’s rival strive to be?”
All are not fit for every fate, be sure:
Nor is the lot of envious men secure!
Fab. CXXV. — This fable should be carefully compared with the 54th fable in the second part of the original. The object of the translator has been to include in the 125th fable of this part, the result of a careful comparison of the two slightly differing texts. This fable is one which has been reduced to choliambic metres, from the prose MSS. of the Vatican, see F. De Furia, p. 150. Aristotle H. A. x. 6. mentions the Maltese dog, κυνίδιον Μελιταῖον.116
Mounting a roof, an ass the tiling broke
With his rough sport; whom with a switch’s stroke
A man compell’d his downward course to track.
The ass to him who outraged thus his back
Remark’d, “Why, yesterday, and ere that too,
An ape by this same sport delighted you.”
Upon a bird-catcher a friend dropt in,
His meal of herbs just going to begin.
Nought had the bird-cage. Nothing had he caught.
So he to slay a speckled partridge thought,
117 A bird he’d tamed and kept for a decoy;
But thus it pray’d that he would not destroy
Its life: “How will you manage with your net
In fowling henceforth? Who for you will get
Together a bright flock of social birds?
To the sweet music of what minstrel’s words
Will you repose?” He set the partridge free,
And chose a bearded cock for butchery.
But from its perch a crowing voice was borne,
“Whence will you learn, how much it wants to morn,
When you have slain the hour-seer? or know,
When sleeps Orion of the golden bow?
Who shall of morning duties monish you,
What time the bird-trap now is moist with dew?”
“True! you,” quoth he, ‘the useful hours divine,
Yet must my friend have wherewithal to dine!”
Jove order’d Hermes to write each man’s sin
On earthen tablets, and to pile them in
A coffer: thus to make bad men atone.
But as the tablets in a heap were thrown,
Into Jove’s hands, at every settling day,
Some quickly, others slowly find their way.
We must not therefore be surprised, if some
Early do ill, but late to judgment come.
Fab. CXXVIII. — This fable, like the 125th, had been restored to its metrical choliambic form before the discovery of the MS. of Babrius. See the edition of F. De Furia, Fab. 365. The translation is based on a comparison of this fable and of Fab. 51, in the second part.119
In winter time, an ant dragged forth, to dry,
Some corn, by him last summer heap’d on high.
A starved grasshopper begg’d that he would give
Some share to it, lest it would cease to live.
“What did you,” asked he, “all the summer long?”
I lagg’d not, but was constant in my song.”
Laughing, the ant said, as he barr’d his wheat,
“Dance in the cold, since you sang in the heat!”
Of needful things ’tis better thought to take,
Than joy and revels our mind’s study make
A sheep one day addressed its shepherd thus:
“You keep our fleeces after shearing us;
Our teeming milk you drain, and turn to cheese.
Your countless lambs, our young, not yours, are
We get no gain, I wot! But all the earth
E’en on the hills, for thee gives verdure birth,
Gives tender herbage, laden with the dew;
These are our food, yet at no cost to you.
Yon dog the while midst us, to you so cheap,
On as good food as feeds yourself, you keep.”
The dog o’erheard and said, “Were I elsewhere
And not amongst you, yours were sorry fare.
Now, running round about you every way,
The inroads of the wolf and thief I stay.”
Fragm. I, — The same may be said here, as with reference to fables 125 and 128. The fragment is of easy completion if we compare with it Fab. 53, in Part II.