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Aesop's Fables Translated by George Fyler Townsend

Fables 91-120

 

The Aethiop

THE PURCHASER of a black servant was persuaded that the color of his skin arose from dirt contracted through the neglect of his former masters. On bringing him home he resorted to every means of cleaning, and subjected the man to incessant scrubbings. The servant caught a severe cold, but he never changed his color or complexion.

What’s bred in the bone will stick to the flesh.

 

The Fisherman and His Nets

A FISHERMAN, engaged in his calling, made a very successful cast and captured a great haul of fish. He managed by a skillful handling of his net to retain all the large fish and to draw them to the shore; but he could not prevent the smaller fish from falling back through the meshes of the net into the sea.

 

The Huntsman and the Fisherman

A HUNTSMAN, returning with his dogs from the field, fell in by chance with a Fisherman who was bringing home a basket well laden with fish. The Huntsman wished to have the fish, and their owner experienced an equal longing for the contents of the game-bag.  They quickly agreed to exchange the produce of their day’s sport.  Each was so well pleased with his bargain that they made for some time the same exchange day after day. Finally a neighbor said to them, “If you go on in this way, you will soon destroy by frequent use the pleasure of your exchange, and each will again wish to retain the fruits of his own sport.”

Abstain and enjoy.

 

The Old Woman and the Wine-Jar

AN OLD WOMAN found an empty jar which had lately been full of prime old wine and which still retained the fragrant smell of its former contents. She greedily placed it several times to her nose, and drawing it backwards and forwards said, “O most delicious! How nice must the Wine itself have been, when it leaves behind in the very vessel which contained it so sweet a perfume!”

The memory of a good deed lives.

 

The Fox and the Crow

A CROW having stolen a bit of meat, perched in a tree and held it in her beak. A Fox, seeing this, longed to possess the meat himself, and by a wily stratagem succeeded. “How handsome is the Crow,” he exclaimed, in the beauty of her shape and in the fairness of her complexion! Oh, if her voice were only equal to her beauty, she would deservedly be considered the Queen of Birds!” This he said deceitfully; but the Crow, anxious to refute the reflection cast upon her voice, set up a loud caw and dropped the flesh. The Fox quickly picked it up, and thus addressed the Crow: “My good Crow, your voice is right enough, but your wit is wanting.”

 

The Two Dogs

A MAN had two dogs: a Hound, trained to assist him in his sports, and a Housedog, taught to watch the house. When he returned home after a good day’s sport, he always gave the Housedog a large share of his spoil. The Hound, feeling much aggrieved at this, reproached his companion, saying, “It is very hard to have all this labor, while you, who do not assist in the chase, luxuriate on the fruits of my exertions.” The Housedog replied, “Do not blame me, my friend, but find fault with the master, who has not taught me to labor, but to depend for subsistence on the labor of others.”

Children are not to be blamed for the faults of their parents.

 

The Stag in the Ox-Stall

A STAG, roundly chased by the hounds and blinded by fear to the danger he was running into, took shelter in a farmyard and hid himself in a shed among the oxen. An Ox gave him this kindly warning: “O unhappy creature! why should you thus, of your own accord, incur destruction and trust yourself in the house of your enemy?’ The Stag replied: “Only allow me, friend, to stay where I am, and I will undertake to find some favorable opportunity of effecting my escape.” At the approach of the evening the herdsman came to feed his cattle, but did not see the Stag; and even the farm-bailiff with several laborers passed through the shed and failed to notice him. The Stag, congratulating himself on his safety, began to express his sincere thanks to the Oxen who had kindly helped him in the hour of need. One of them again answered him: “We indeed wish you well, but the danger is not over. There is one other yet to pass through the shed, who has as it were a hundred eyes, and until he has come and gone, your life is still in peril.” At that moment the master himself entered, and having had to complain that his oxen had not been properly fed, he went up to their racks and cried out: “Why is there such a scarcity of fodder? There is not half enough straw for them to lie on. Those lazy fellows have not even swept the cobwebs away.” While he thus examined everything in turn, he spied the tips of the antlers of the Stag peeping out of the straw. Then summoning his laborers, he ordered that the Stag should be seized and killed.

 

The Hawk, the Kite, and the Pigeons

THE PIGEONS, terrified by the appearance of a Kite, called upon the Hawk to defend them. He at once consented. When they had admitted him into the cote, they found that he made more havoc and slew a larger number of them in one day than the Kite could pounce upon in a whole year.

Avoid a remedy that is worse than the disease.

 

The Widow and the Sheep

A CERTAIN poor widow had one solitary Sheep. At shearing time, wishing to take his fleece and to avoid expense, she sheared him herself, but used the shears so unskillfully that with the fleece she sheared the flesh. The Sheep, writhing with pain, said, “Why do you hurt me so, Mistress? What weight can my blood add to the wool? If you want my flesh, there is the butcher, who will kill me in an instant; but if you want my fleece and wool, there is the shearer, who will shear and not hurt me.”

The least outlay is not always the greatest gain.

 

The Wild Ass and the Lion

A WILD ASS and a Lion entered into an alliance so that they might capture the beasts of the forest with greater ease. The Lion agreed to assist the Wild Ass with his strength, while the Wild Ass gave the Lion the benefit of his greater speed. When they had taken as many beasts as their necessities required, the Lion undertook to distribute the prey, and for this purpose divided it into three shares. “I will take the first share,” he said, “ because I am King: and the second share, as a partner with you in the chase: and the third share (believe me) will be a source of great evil to you, unless you willingly resign it to me, and set off as fast as you can.”

Might makes right.

 

The Eagle and the Arrow

AN EAGLE sat on a lofty rock, watching the movements of a Hare whom he sought to make his prey. An archer, who saw the Eagle from a place of concealment, took an accurate aim and wounded him mortally. The Eagle gave one look at the arrow that had entered his heart and saw in that single glance that its feathers had been furnished by himself. “It is a double grief to me,” he exclaimed, “that I should perish by an arrow feathered from my own wings.”

 

The Sick Kite

A KITE, sick unto death, said to his mother: “O Mother! do not mourn, but at once invoke the gods that my life may be prolonged.” She replied, “Alas! my son, which of the gods do you think will pity you? Is there one whom you have not outraged by filching from their very altars a part of the sacrifice offered up to them?’

We must make friends in prosperity if we would have their help in adversity.

 

The Lion and the Dolphin

A LION roaming by the seashore saw a Dolphin lift up its head out of the waves, and suggested that they contract an alliance, saying that of all the animals they ought to be the best friends, since the one was the king of beasts on the earth, and the other was the sovereign ruler of all the inhabitants of the ocean. The Dolphin gladly consented to this request. Not long afterwards the Lion had a combat with a wild bull, and called on the Dolphin to help him. The Dolphin, though quite willing to give him assistance, was unable to do so, as he could not by any means reach the land. The Lion abused him as a traitor. The Dolphin replied, “Nay, my friend, blame not me, but Nature, which, while giving me the sovereignty of the sea, has quite denied me the power of living upon the land.”

 

The Lion and the Boar

ON A SUMMER DAY, when the great heat induced a general thirst among the beasts, a Lion and a Boar came at the same moment to a small well to drink. They fiercely disputed which of them should drink first, and were soon engaged in the agonies of a mortal combat. When they stopped suddenly to catch their breath for a fiercer renewal of the fight, they saw some Vultures waiting in the distance to feast on the one that should fall first. They at once made up their quarrel, saying, “It is better for us to make friends, than to become the food of Crows or Vultures.”

 

The One-Eyed Doe

A DOE blind in one eye was accustomed to graze as near to the edge of the cliff as she possibly could, in the hope of securing her greater safety. She turned her sound eye towards the land that she might get the earliest tidings of the approach of hunter or hound, and her injured eye towards the sea, from whence she entertained no anticipation of danger. Some boatmen sailing by saw her, and taking a successful aim, mortally wounded her.  Yielding up her last breath, she gasped forth this lament: “O wretched creature that I am! to take such precaution against the land, and after all to find this seashore, to which I had come for safety, so much more perilous.”

 

The Shepherd and the Sea

A SHEPHERD, keeping watch over his sheep near the shore, saw the Sea very calm and smooth, and longed to make a voyage with a view to commerce. He sold all his flock, invested it in a cargo of dates, and set sail. But a very great tempest came on, and the ship being in danger of sinking, he threw all his merchandise overboard, and barely escaped with his life in the empty ship.  Not long afterwards when someone passed by and observed the unruffled calm of the Sea, he interrupted him and said, “It is again in want of dates, and therefore looks quiet.”

 

The Ass, the Cock, and the Lion

AN ASS and a Cock were in a straw-yard together when a Lion, desperate from hunger, approached the spot. He was about to spring upon the Ass, when the Cock (to the sound of whose voice the Lion, it is said, has a singular aversion) crowed loudly, and the Lion fled away as fast as he could. The Ass, observing his trepidation at the mere crowing of a Cock summoned courage to attack him, and galloped after him for that purpose. He had run no long distance, when the Lion, turning about, seized him and tore him to pieces.

False confidence often leads into danger.

 

The Mice and the Weasels

THE WEASELS and the Mice waged a perpetual war with each other, in which much blood was shed. The Weasels were always the victors. The Mice thought that the cause of their frequent defeats was that they had no leaders set apart from the general army to command them, and that they were exposed to dangers from lack of discipline. They therefore chose as leaders Mice that were most renowned for their family descent, strength, and counsel, as well as those most noted for their courage in the fight, so that they might be better marshaled in battle array and formed into troops, regiments, and battalions. When all this was done, and the army disciplined, and the herald Mouse had duly proclaimed war by challenging the Weasels, the newly chosen generals bound their heads with straws, that they might be more conspicuous to all their troops. Scarcely had the battle begun, when a great rout overwhelmed the Mice, who scampered off as fast as they could to their holes. The generals, not being able to get in on account of the ornaments on their heads, were all captured and eaten by the Weasels.

The more honor the more danger.

 

The Mice in Council

THE MICE summoned a council to decide how they might best devise means of warning themselves of the approach of their great enemy the Cat. Among the many plans suggested, the one that found most favor was the proposal to tie a bell to the neck of the Cat, so that the Mice, being warned by the sound of the tinkling, might run away and hide themselves in their holes at his approach. But when the Mice further debated who among them should thus “bell the Cat,” there was no one found to do it.

 

The Wolf and the Housedog

A WOLF, meeting a big well-fed Mastiff with a wooden collar about his neck asked him who it was that fed him so well and yet compelled him to drag that heavy log about wherever he went.  “ The master,” he replied. Then said the Wolf: “May no friend of mine ever be in such a plight; for the weight of this chain is enough to spoil the appetite.”

 

The Rivers and the Sea

THE RIVERS joined together to complain to the Sea, saying, “Why is it that when we flow into your tides so potable and sweet, you work in us such a change, and make us salty and unfit to drink?” The Sea, perceiving that they intended to throw the blame on him, said, “Pray cease to flow into me, and then you will not be made briny.”

 

The Playful Ass

AN ASS climbed up to the roof of a building, and frisking about there, broke in the tiling. The owner went up after him and quickly drove him down, beating him severely with a thick wooden cudgel. The Ass said, “Why, I saw the Monkey do this very thing yesterday, and you all laughed heartily, as if it afforded you very great amusement.”

 

The Three Tradesmen

A GREAT CITY was besieged, and its inhabitants were called together to consider the best means of protecting it from the enemy. A Bricklayer earnestly recommended bricks as affording the best material for an effective resistance. A Carpenter, with equal enthusiasm, proposed timber as a preferable method of defense. Upon which a Currier stood up and said, “Sirs, I differ from you altogether: there is no material for resistance equal to a covering of hides; and nothing so good as leather.”

Every man for himself.

 

The Master and His Dogs

A CERTAIN MAN, detained by a storm in his country house, first of all killed his sheep, and then his goats, for the maintenance of his household. The storm still continuing, he was obliged to slaughter his yoke oxen for food. On seeing this, his Dogs took counsel together, and said, “It is time for us to be off, for if the master spare not his oxen, who work for his gain, how can we expect him to spare us?’

He is not to be trusted as a friend who mistreats his own family.

 

The Wolf and the Shepherds

A WOLF, passing by, saw some Shepherds in a hut eating a haunch of mutton for their dinner. Approaching them, he said, “What a clamor you would raise if I were to do as you are doing!”

 

The Dolphins, the Whales, and the Sprat

THE DOLPHINS and Whales waged a fierce war with each other. When the battle was at its height, a Sprat lifted its head out of the waves and said that he would reconcile their differences if they would accept him as an umpire. One of the Dolphins replied, “We would far rather be destroyed in our battle with each other than admit any interference from you in our affairs.”

 

The Ass Carrying the Image

AN ASS once carried through the streets of a city a famous wooden Image, to be placed in one of its Temples. As he passed along, the crowd made lowly prostration before the Image. The Ass, thinking that they bowed their heads in token of respect for himself, bristled up with pride, gave himself airs, and refused to move another step. The driver, seeing him thus stop, laid his whip lustily about his shoulders and said, “O you perverse dull-head! it is not yet come to this, that men pay worship to an Ass.”

They are not wise who give to themselves the credit due to others.

 

The Two Travelers and the Axe

TWO MEN were journeying together. One of them picked up an axe that lay upon the path, and said, “I have found an axe.” “Nay, my friend,” replied the other, “do not say ‘I,’ but ‘We’ have found an axe.” They had not gone far before they saw the owner of the axe pursuing them, and he who had picked up the axe said, “We are undone.” “Nay,” replied the other, “keep to your first mode of speech, my friend; what you thought right then, think right now.  Say ‘I,’ not ‘We’ are undone.”

He who shares the danger ought to share the prize.

 

The Old Lion

A LION, worn out with years and powerless from disease, lay on the ground at the point of death. A Boar rushed upon him, and avenged with a stroke of his tusks a long-remembered injury.  Shortly afterwards the Bull with his horns gored him as if he were an enemy. When the Ass saw that the huge beast could be assailed with impunity, he let drive at his forehead with his heels. The expiring Lion said, “I have reluctantly brooked the insults of the brave, but to be compelled to endure such treatment from thee, a disgrace to Nature, is indeed to die a double death.”

 

 
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