Prologue, To Eutychus.THE tales of Phaedrus would you read,
O Eutychus, you must be freed
From business, that the mind unbent
May take the author's full intent.
You urge that this poetic turn
Of mine is not of such concern,
As with your time to interfere
A moment's space: 'tis therefore clear
For those essays you have no call,
Which suit not your affairs at all
A time may come, perhaps you'll say,
That I shall make a holiday,
And have my vacant thoughts at large,
The student's office to discharge-
And can you such vile stuff peruse,
Rather than serve domestic views,
Return the visits of a friend,
Or with your wife your leisure spend,
Relax your mind, your limbs relieve,
And for new toil new strength receive ?
From wordly cares you must estrange
Your thoughts, and feel a perfect change,
If to Parnassus you repair,
And seek for your admission there,
Me-(whom a Grecian mother bore
On Hill Pierian, where of yore
Mnemosyne in love divine
Brought forth to Jove the tuneful Nine.
Though sprung where genius reign'd with art
I grubb'd up av'rice from my heart,
And rather for applause than pay,
Embrace the literary way)
Yet as a writer and a wit,
With some abatements they admit.
What is his case then, do you think,
Who toils for wealth nor sleeps a wink.
Preferring to the pleasing pain
Of composition sordid gain ?
But hap what will (as Sinon said,
When to king Priam he was led),
I book the third shall now fulfil,
With Aesop for my master still;
Which book I dedicate to you,
As both to worth and honour due
Pleased, if you read-if not, content
As conscious of a sure event,
That these my fables shall remain,
And after-ages entertain.
In a few words I now propose
To point from whence the Fable rose.
A servitude was all along
Exposed to most oppressive wrong,
The suff'rer therefore did not dare
His heart's true dictates to declare;
But couch'd his meaning in the veil
Of many an allegoric tale,
And jesting with a moral aim,
Eluded all offence and blame.
This is the path that I pursue,
Inventing more than AEsop knew;
And certain topics by-the-by,
To my own hindrence did I try.
But was there any of mankind,
Besides Sejanus, so inclined,
Who was alone to work my fall,
Informer, witness, judge and all;
I would confess the slander true,
And own such hardships were my due;
Nor would I fly, my grief to ease,
To such poor lenitives as these.
If any through suspicion errs,
And to himself alone refers,
What was design'd for thousands more
He 'll show too plainly, where he's sore
Yet ev'n from such I crave excuse,
For (far from personal abuse)
My verse in gen'ral would put down
True life and manners of the town.
But here, perhaps, some one will ask
Why I, forsooth, embraced this task ?
If Esop, though a Phrygian, rose,
And ev'n derived from Scythian snows;
If Anacharsis could devise
By wit to gain th' immortal prize;
Shall I, who to learn'd Greece belong,
Neglect her honour and her song,
And by dull sloth myself disgrace ?
Since we can reckon up in Thrace,
The authors that have sweetest sung,
Where Linus from Apollo sprung;
And he whose mother was a muse,
Whose voice could tenderness infuse
To solid rocks, strange monsters quell'd,
And Hebrus in his course withheld.
Envy, stand clear, or thou shalt rue
Th' attack, for glory is my due.
Thus having wrought upon your ear,
I beg that you would be sincere,
And in the poet's cause avow
That candor, all the world allow.
The Old Woman and Empty CaskAn ancient dame a firkin sees,
In which the rich Falernian lees
Send from the nobly tinctured shell
A rare and most delicious smell!
There when a season she had clung
With greedy nostrils to the bung,
"O spirit exquisitely sweet !"
She cried, "how perfectly complete
Were you of old, and at the best,
When ev'n your dregs have such a zest !"
They'll see the drift of this my rhyme,
Who knew the author in his prime.
The Panther and ShepherdsTheir scorn comes home to them again
Who treat the wretched with disdain.
A careless Panther long ago
Fell in a pit, which overthrow
The Shepherds all around alarm'd;
When some themselves with cudgels arm'd;
Others threw stones upon its head;
But some in pity sent her bread,
As death was not the creature's due.
The night came on - the hostile crew
Went home, not doubting in the way
To find the Panther dead next day.
But she, recovering of her strength,
Sprang from the pit and fled at length.
But rushing in a little space
From forth her den upon the place,
She tears the flock, the Shepherd slays,
And all the region round dismays.
Then they began to be afraid
Who spared the beast and lent their aid;
They reck not of the loss, but make
Their pray'r for life, when thus she spake:
"I well remember them that threw
The stones, and well remember you
Who gave me bread -- desist to fear,
For 'twas the oppressor brought me here."
Aesop and the Country ManNot here translated.
The Ape's Head.A certain person, as he stood
Within the shambles buying food,
Amongst the other kitchen fare
Beheld an Ape suspended there;
And asking how 'twould taste, when dress'd,
The butcher shook his head in jest;
"If for such prog your fancy is,
Judge of the flavour by the phiz."
This speech was not so true as keen,
For I in life have often seen
Good features with a wicked heart,
And plainness acting virtue's part.
Esop and the Insolent FellowFools from success perdition meet.
An idle wretch about the street
At Esop threw a stone in rage.
" So much the better," quoth the sage,
And gives three farthings for the job;
" I've no more money in my fob;
But if you 'll follow my advice,
More shall be levied in a trice."
It happen'd that the selfsame hour
Came by a man of wealth and pow'r.
" There, throw your pellet at my lord,
And you shall have a sure reward!"
The fellow did as he was told;
But mark the downfall of the bold;
His hopes are baulk'd, and, lo! he gains
A rope and gibbet for his pains.'
The Fly and the MuleA Fly that sat upon the beam
Rated the Mule: " Why, sure you dream ?
" Pray get on faster with the cart
Or I shall sting you till you smart!"
She answers: " All this talk I hear
With small attention, but must fear
Him who upon the box sustains
The pliant whip, and holds the reins.
Cease then your pertness-for I know
When to give back, and when to go."
This tale derides the talking crew,
Whose empty threats are all they do.
The Dog and the WolfI will, as briefly as I may,
The sweets of liberty display.
A Wolf half famish'd, chanced to see
A Dog, as fat as dog could be:
For one day meeting on the road,
They mutual compliments bestowed:
" Prithee," says Isgrim, faint and weak,
"How came you so well fed and sleek ?
I starve, though stronger of the two."
" It will be just as well with you,"
The Dog quite cool and frank replied,
"If with my master you'll abide."
"For what ?" "Why merely to attend,
And from night thieves the door defend."
" I gladly will accept the post,
What! shall I bear with snow and frost
And all this rough inclement plight,
Rather than have a home at night,
And feed on plenty at my ease ?"
" Come, then, with me "-the Wolf agrees.
But as they went the mark he found,
Where the Dog's collar had been bound:
"What's this, my friend ?" "Why, nothing." "Nay,
Be more explicit, sir, I pray."
" I'm somewhat fierce and apt to bite,
Therefore they hold me pretty tight,
That in the day-time I may sleep,
And night by night my vigils keep.
At eveningtide they let me out,
And then I freely walk about:
Bread comes without a care of mine.
I from my master's table dine;
The servants throw me many a scrap,
With choice of pot-liquor to lap;
So, I've my bellyful, you find."
"But can you go where you've a mind?"
"Not always, to be flat and plain."
"Then, Dog, enjoy your post again,
For to remain this servile thing,
Old Isgrim would not be a king."
The Brother and SisterWarn'd by our council, oft beware,
And look into yourself with care.
There was a certain father had
A homely girl and comely lad.
These being at their childish play
Within their mother's room one day,
A looking-glass was in the chair,
And they beheld their faces there.
The boy grows prouder as he looks;
The girl is in a rage, nor brooks
Her boasting brother's jests and sneers,
Affronted at each word she hears:
Then to her father down she flies,
Arid urges all she can devise
Against the boy, who could presume
To meddle in a lady's room.
At which, embracing each in turn,
With most affectionate concern,
" My dears," he says, " ye may not pass
A day without this useful glass;
You, lest you spoil a pretty face,
By doing things to your disgrace;
You, by good conduct to correct
Your form, and beautify defect."
A Saying of SocratesThough common be the name of friend,
Few can to faithfulness pretend,
That Socrates (whose cruel case,
I'd freely for his fame embrace,
And living any envy bear
To leave my character so fair)
Was building of a little cot,
When some one, standing on the spot,
Ask'd, as the folks are apt to do,
" How comes so great a man as you
Content with such a little hole ?"-
"I wish," says he, "with all my soul
That this same little house I build
Was with true friends completely fill'd."
Of Doubt and Credulity'Tis frequently of bad event
To give or to withhold assent.
Two cases will th' affair explain-
The good Hippolytus was slain;
In that his stepdame credit found,
And Troy was levell d with the ground;
Because Cassandra's prescious care
Sought, but obtain'd no credence there.
The facts should then be very strong,
Lest the weak judge determine wrong:
But that I may not make too free
With fabulous antiquity,
I now a curious tale shall tell,
Which I myself remember well.
An honest man, that loved his wife,
Was introducing into life
A son upon the man's estate.
One day a servant (whom, of late,
He with his freedom had endu'd)
Took him aside, and being shrewd,
Supposed that he might be his heir
When he'd divulged the whole affair.
Much did he lie against the youth,
But more against the matron's truth:
And hinted that, which worst of all
Was sure a lover's heart to gall,
The visits of a lusty rake,
And honour of his house at stake.
He at this scandal taking heat,
Pretends a journey to his seat;
But stopp'd at hand, while it was light,
Where, on a sudden, and by night,
He to his wife's apartment sped,
Where she had put the lad to bed,
As watchful of his youthful bloom.
While now they're running to the room,
And seek a light in haste, the sire,
No longer stifling of his ire,
Flies to the couch, where grouping round,
A head, but newly shaved, he found;
Then, as alone, he vengeance breath'd,
The sword within his bosom sheath'd-
The candle entering, when he spied
The bleeding youth, and by his side
The spotless dame, who being fast
Asleep, knew nothing that had pass'd,
Instant in utmost grief involved,
He vengeance for himself resolved;
And on that very weapon flew,
Which his too cred'lous fury drew.
Th' accusers take the woman straight,
And drag to the centumvirate;
Th' ill-natured world directly built
A strong suspicion of her guilts,
As she th' estate was to enjoy-
The lawyers all their skill employ;
And a great spirit those exert
Who most her innocence assert.
The judges then to Caesar pray'd
That he would lend his special aid;
Who, as they acted upon oath,
Declared themselves extremely loth
To close this intricate affair
He, taking then himself the chair,
The clouds of calumny displaced.
And Truth up to her fountain traced.
" Let the freedman to vengeance go,
The cause of all this scene of woe:
For the poor widow, thus undone,
Deprived of husband and of son,
To pity has a greater plea
Than condemnation, I decree-
But if the man, with caution due,
Had rather blamed than listen'd to
The vile accuser, and his lie
Had strictly search'd with Reason's eye,
This desp'rate guilt he had not known,
Nor branch and root his house o'erthrown."
Nor wholly scorn, nor yet attend
Too much at what the tatlers vend,
Because there's many a sad neglect.
Where you have little to suspect;
And treacherous persons will attaint
Men, against whom there's no complaint.
Hence simple folks too may be taught
How to form judgments as they ought,
And not see with another's glass;
For things are come to such a pass,
That love and hate work diff'rent ways
As int'rest or ambition sways.
Them you may know, in them confide,
Whom by experience you have tried.
Thus have I made a long amends
For that brief style which some offends.
(eunuchus Ad Improbum)Not here translated.
The Cock and the PearlA Cock, while scratching all around,
A Pearl upon the dunghill found:
"O splendid thing in foul disgrace,
Had there been any in the place
That saw and knew thy worth when sold,
Ere this thou hadst been set in gold.
But I, who rather would have got
A corn of barley, heed thee not;
No service can there render'd be
From me to you, and you to me."
I write this tale to them alone
To whom in vain my pearls are thrown.
The Bees and the DroneUp in a lofty oak the Bees
Had made their honey-combs: but these
The Drones asserted they had wrought.
Then to the bar the cause was brought
Before the wasp, a learned chief,
Who well might argue either brief,
As of a middle nature made.
He therefore to both parties said:
"You're not dissimilar in size,
And each with each your color vies,
That there's a doubt concerning both:
But, lest I err, upon my oath,
'Hives for yourselves directly choose,
And in the wax the work infuse,
That, from the flavor and the form,
We may point out the genuine swarm."
The Drones refuse, the Bees agree-
Then thus did Justice Wasp decree:
" Who can, and who cannot, is plain,
So take, ye Bees, your combs again."
This narrative had been suppress'd
Had not the Drones refused the test.
Esop PlayingAs Esop was with boys at play,
And had his nuts as well as they,
A grave Athenian, passing by,
Cast on the sage a scornful eye,
As on a dotard quite bereaved:
Which, when the moralist perceived,
(Rather himself a wit profess'd
Than the poor subject of a jest)
Into the public way he flung
A bow that he had just unstrung:
There solve, thou conjurer," he cries,
"The problem, that before thee lies."
The people throng; he racks his brain,
Nor can the thing enjoin'd explain.
At last he gives it up-the seer
Thus then in triumph made it clear:
" As the tough bow exerts its spring,
A constant tension breaks the string;
But if 'tis let at seasons loose,
You may depend upon its use."
Thus recreative sports and play
Are good upon a holiday,
And with more spirit they'll pursue
The studies which they shall renew.
The Dog and the LambA Dog bespoke a sucking Lamb,
That used a she-goat as her dam,
" You little fool, why, how you baa!
This goat is not your own mamma :"
Then pointed to a distant mead,
Where several sheep were put to feed.
" I ask not," says the Lamb, "for her
Who had me first at Nature's spur,
And bore me for a time about,
Then, like a fardel, threw me out;
But her that is content to bilk
Her own dear kids, to give me milk."
" Yet she that yean'd you sure," says Tray,
" Should be preferr'd"-- I tell thee nay---
Whence could she know that what she hid
Was black or white ?-but grant she did--
I being thus a male begot
'Twas no great favor, since my lot
Was hour by hour, throughout my life,
To dread the butcher and his knife.
Why should I therefore give my voice
For her who had no pow'r or choice
In my production, and not cleave
To her so ready to relieve,
When she beheld me left alone,
And has such sweet indulgence shown ?"
Kind deeds parental love proclaim
Not mere necessity and name.
The Owl and the GrasshopperThose who will not the forms obey
To be obliging in their way,
Must often punishment abide
For their ill-nature, and their pride.
A Grasshopper, in rank ill-will,
Was very loud and very shrill
Against a sapient Owl's repose,
Who was compelled by day to doze
Within a hollow oak's retreat,
As wont by night to quest for meat--
She is desired to hold her peace.
But at the word her cries increase;
Again requested to abate
Her noise, she's more importunate.
The Owl perceiving no redress,
And that her words were less and less
Accounted of, no longer pray'd,
But thus an artifice essay'd:
" Since 'tis impossible to nod,
While harping like the Delphian god,
You charm our ears, stead of a nap,
A batch of nectar will I tap,
Which lately from Minerva came;
Now if you do not scorn the same,
Together let us bumpers ply."
The Grasshopper, extremely dry,
And, finding she had hit the key
That gain'd applause, approach'd with glee;
At which the Owl upon her flew,
And quick the trembling vixen slew.
Thus by her death she was adjudged
To give what in her life she grudged.
The Trees ProtectedThe gods took certain trees (th' affair
Was some time since) into their care.
The oak was best approved by Jove,
The myrtle by the queen of love;
The god of music and the day
Vouchsafed to patronise the bay;
The pine Cybele chanced to please,
And the tall poplar Hercules.
Minerva upon this inquired
Why they all barren trees admired ?
" The cause," says Jupiter, "is plain,
Lest we give honour up for gain."
" Let every one their fancy suit,
I choose the olive for its fruit."
The sire of gods and men replies,
" Daughter, thou shalt be reckon'd wise
By all the world, and justly too;
For whatsover things we do,
If not a life of useful days,
How vain is all pretence to praise !"
Whate'er experiments you try,
Have some advantage in your eye.
Juno and the PeacockHer favorite bird to Juno came,
And was in dudgeon at the dame,
That she had not attuned her throat
With Philomela's matchless note;
" She is the wonder of all ears;
But when I speak the audience sneers
The goddess to the bird replied,
(Willing to have him pacified,)
" You are above the rest endued
With beauty and with magnitude;
Your neck the emerald's gloss outvie?,
And what a blaze of gemmeous dies
Shines from the plumage of your tail!"
" All this dumb show will not avail,"
Cries he, "if I'm surpass'd in voice."
" The fates entirely have the choice
Of all the lots-fair form is yours;
The eagle's strength his prey secures;
The nightingale can sing an ode;
The crow and raven may forebode:
All these in sheer contentment crave
No other voice than Nature gave."
By affectation be not sway'd,
Where Nature has not lent her aid;
Nor to that flattering hope attend,
Which must in disappointment end.
Esop and the Importunate FellowEsop (no other slave at hand)
Received himself his lord's command
An early supper to provide.
From house to house he therefore tried
To beg the favor of a light;
At length he hit upon the right.
But as when first he sallied out
He made his tour quite round about,
On his return he took a race
Directly, cross the market-place:
When thus a talkative buffoon,
" Esop, what means this light at noon ?'
He answer'd briefly, as he ran,
"Fellow, I'm looking for a man."
Now if this jackanapes had weighed
The true intent of what was said,
He'd found that Esop had no sense
Of manhood in impertinence.