Prologue: To ParticuloNot here translated
The Ass and Priests of CybeleThe luckless wretch that's born to woe
Must all his life affliction know-
And harder still, his cruel fate
Will on his very ashes wait,
Cybele's priests, in quest of bread,
An Ass about the village led,
With things for sale from door to door;
Till work'd and beaten more and more,
At length, when the poor creature died,
They made them drums out of his hide.
Then question'd "how it came to pass
They thus could serve ther darling Ass ?"
The answer was, " He thought of peace
In death, and that his toils would cease;
But see his mis'ry knows no bounds,
Still with our blows his back resounds."
PrologueTo you, who 've graver things bespoke,
This seems no better than a joke,
And light for mere amusement made;
Yet still we drive the scribbling trade,
And from the pen our pleasure find,
When we've no greater things to mind.
Yet if you look with care intense,
These tales your toil shall recompense;
Appearance is not always true,
And thousands err by such a view.
'Tis a choice spirit that has pried
Where clean contrivance chose to hide;
That this is not at random said,
I shall produce upon this head
A fable of an arch device,
About the Weasel and the Mice.
The Weasel and MiceA Weasel, worn with years, and lame,
That could not overtake its game,
Now with the nimble Mice to deal,
Disguised herself with barley meal;
Then negligent her limbs she spread
In a sly nook, and lay for dead.
A Mouse that thought she there might feed,
Leapt up, and perish'd in the deed;
A second in like manner died;
A third, and sundry more beside:
Then comes the brindled Mouse, a chap
That oft escaped both snare and trap,
And seeing how the trick was played,
Thus to his crafty foe he said:-
"So may'st thou prosper day and night,
As thou art not an errant bite."
The Fox and the GrapesAn hungry Fox with fierce attack
Sprang on a Vine, but tumbled back,
Nor could attain the point in view,
So near the sky the bunches grew.
As he went off, "They're scurvy stuff,"
Says he, "and not half ripe enough--
And I 've more rev'rence for my tripes
Than to torment them with the gripes."
For those this tale is very pat
Who lessen what they can't come at.
The Horse and BoarA Wild-Boar wallow'd in the flood,
And troubled all the stream with mud,
Just where a horse to drink repair'd-
He therefore having war declared,
Sought man's alliance for the fight,
And bore upon his back the knight;
Who being skill'd his darts to throw,
Despatched the Wild-Boar at a blow.
Then to the steed the victor said,
" I'm glad you came to me for aid,
For taught how useful you can be,
I've got at once a spoil and thee."
On which the fields he made him quit,
To feel the spur and champ the bit.
Then he his sorrow thus express'd:
"I needs must have my wrongs redress'd,
And making tyrant man the judge,
Must all my life become a drudge."
This tale the passionate may warn,
To bear with any kind of scorn;
And rather all complaint withdraw
Than either go to war or law.
Esop and the WillThat one man sometimes is more shrewd
Than a stupendous multitude,
To after-times I shall rehearse
In my concise familiar verse.
A certain man on his decease,
Left his three girls so much a-piece:
The first was beautiful and frail,
With eyes still hunting for the male;
The second giv'n to spin and card,
A country housewife working hard;
The third but very ill to pass,
A homely slut, that loved her glas.
The dying man had left his wife
Executrix, and for her life
Sole tenant, if she should fulfil
These strange provisos of his will:
" That she should give th' estate in fee
In equal portions to the three;
But in such sort, that this bequest
Should not be holden or possess'd;
Then soon as they should be bereav'n
Of all the substance that was giv'n,
They must for their good mother's ease
Make up an hundred sesterces."
This spread through Athens in a trice;
The prudent widow takes advice.
But not a lawyer could unfold
How they should neither have nor hold
The very things that they were left.
Besides, when once they were bereft,
How they from nothing should confer
The money that was due to her.
When a long time was spent in vain,
And no one could the will explain,
She left the counsellors unfeed,
And thus of her own self decreed:
The minstrels, trinkets, plate, and dres,
She gave the Lady to possess.
Then Mrs. Notable she stocks
With all the fields, the kine and flocks:
The workmen, farm, with a supply
Of all the tools of husbandry.
Last, to the Guzzler she consigns
The cellar stored with good old wine,
A handsome house to see a friend,
With pleasant gardens at the end.
Thus as she strove th' affair to close,
By giving each the things they chose,
And those that knew them every one
Highly applauded what was done
Esop arose, and thus address'd
The crowd that to his presence pressed:
"O that the dead could yet perceive!
How would the prudent father grieve,
That all th' Athenians had not skill
Enough to understand his will!
Then at their joint request he solved
That error, which had all involved.
" The gardens, house, and wine vaults too,
Give to the spinster as her due;
The clothes, the jewels, and such ware,
Be all the tippling lady's share;
The fields, the barns, and flocks of sheep,
Give the gay courtesan to keep.
Not one will bear the very touch
Of things that thwart their tastes so much '
The slut to fill her cellar straight
Her wardrobe will evacuate;
The lady soon will sell her farms,
For garments to set off her charms;
But she that loves the flocks and kine
Will alienate her stores of wine,
Her rustic genius to employ.
Thus none their portions shall enjoy,
And from the money each has made
Their mother shall be duly paid."
Thus one man by his wit disclosed
The point that had so many posed.
The Battle of the Mice and WeaselsThe routed Mice upon a day
Fled from the Weasels in array;
But in the hurry of the flight,
What with their weakness and their fright
Each scarce could get into his cave :
Howe'er, at last their lives they save.
But their commanders (who had tied
Horns to their heads in martial pride,
Which as a signal they design'd
For non-commission'd mice to mind)
Stick in the entrance as they go,
And there are taken by the foe,
Who, greedy of the victim, gluts
With mouse-flesh his ungodly guts.
Each great and national distress
Must chiefly mighty men oppress;
While folks subordinate and poor
Are by their littleness secure.
Phaedrus To the CavillersThou that against my tales inveigh'st,
As much too pleasant for thy taste;
Egregious critic, cease to scoff
While for a time I play you off,
And strive to soothe your puny rage.
As Esop comes upon the stage,
And dress'd entirely new in Rome,
Thus enters with the tragic plume.-
" O that the fair Thessalian pine
Had never felt the wrath divine,
And fearless of the axe's wound,
Had still the Pelian mountain crown'd!
That Argus by Palladian aid
Had ne'er the adventurous vessel made;
In which at first, without dismay,
Death's bold professors won their way,
In which th' inhospitable main
Was first laid open for the bane
Of Grecians and barbarians too.
Which made the proud AEetas rue,
And whence Medea's crimes to nought
The house and reign of Pelias brought.
She-while in various forms she tries
Her furious spirit to disguise,
At one place in her flight bestow'd
Her brother's limbs upon the road;
And at another could betray
The daughters their own sire to slay.
How think you now ?-What arrant trash
And our assertions much too rash!-
Since prior to th' AEgean fleet
Did Minos piracy defeat,
And made adventures on the sea.
How then shall you and I agree ?
Since, stern as Cato's self, you hate
All tales alike, both small and great.
Plague not too much the man of parts;
For he that does it surely smarts.-
This threat is to the fools, that squeam
At every thing of good esteem;
And that they may to taste pretend,
Ev'n heaven itself will discommend.
The Viper and the FileHe that a greater biter bites,
His folly on himself requites,
As we shall manifest forthwith.-
There was a hovel of a smith,
Where a poor Viper chanced to steal,
And being greedy of a meal,
When she had seized upon a file,
Was answer'd in this rugged style:
" Why do you think, 0 stupid snake!
On me your usual meal to make,
Who've sharper teeth than thine by far,
And can corrode an iron bar ?"
The Fox and the GoatA crafty knave will make escape,
When once he gets into a scrape,
Still meditating self-defence,
At any other man's expense.
A Fox by some disaster fell
Into a deep and fenced well:
A thirsty Goat came down in haste,
And ask'd about the water's taste,
If it was plentiful and sweet ?
At which the Fox, in rank deceit,
" So great the solace of the run,
I thought I never should have done.
Be quick, my friend, your sorrows drown,"
This said, the silly Goat comes down.
The subtle Fox herself avails,
And by his horns the mound she scales,
And leaves the Goat in all the mire,
To gratify his heart's desire.
The Two BagsGreat Jove, in his paternal care,
Has giv'n a man two Bags to bear;
That which his own default contains
Behind his back unseen remains;
But that which others' vice attests
Swags full in view before our breasts.
Hence we're inevitably blind,
Relating to the Bag behind;
But when our neighbours misdemean,
Our censures are exceeding keen.
The Sacrilegious ThiefA villain to Jove's altar came
To light his candle in the flame,
And robb'd the god in dead of night,
By his own consecrated light:
Then thus an awful voice was sent,
As with the sacrilege he went:
"Though all this gold and silver plate
As gifts of evil men I hate;
And their removal from the fane
Can cause the Deity no pain;
Yet, caitiff, at th' appointed time
Thy life shall answer for thy crime.
But, for the future, lest this blaLe,
At which the pious pray and praise,
Should guide the wicked, I decree
That no such intercourse there be."
Hence to this day all men decline
To light their candle at the shrine;
Nor from a candle e'er presume
The holy light to re-illume.
How many things are here contained,
By him alone can be explain'd
Who could this useful tale invent.
In the first place, herein is meant,
That they are often most your foes
Who from your fost'ring hand arose.
Next, that the harden'd villain's fate
Is not from wrath precipitate,
But rather at a destined hour.
Lastly, we're charg'd with all our pow'r,
To keep ourselves, by care intense,
From all connexions with offence.
Hercules and PlutusWealth by the brave is justly scorn'd,
Since men are from the truth suborn'd,
And a full chest perverts their ways
From giving or deserving praise.
When Hercules, for matchless worth,
Was taken up to heav'n from earth,
As in their turns to all the crowd
Of gratulating gods he bow'd,
When Plutus, Fortune's son, he spies,
He from his face averts his eyes.
Jove ask'd the cause of this disgust:
"I hate him, as he is unjust,
To wicked men the most inclined,
And grand corrupter of mankind."
The Lion KingNot here translated
PrometheusNot here translated
PrometheusNot here translated
The He-goats and She-goatsWhen the She-Goats from Jove obtain'd
A beard, th' indignant Males complain'd,
That females by this near approach
Would on their gravity encroach.
"Suffer, my sapient friends," says he,
"Their eminence in this degree,
And bear their beard's most graceful length,
As they can never have your strength."
Warn'd by this little tale, agree
With men in gen'ral form'd like thee
While you by virtue still exceed,
And in the spirit take the lead.
The Pilot and SailorsOn hearing a poor man lament
His worldly thoughts in discontent,
Esop this tale began to write,
For consolation and delight.
The ship by furious tempests tossed,
The Mariners gave all for lost;
But midst their tears and dread, the scene
Is changed at once, and all serene.
The wind is fair, the vessel speeds,
The Sailors' boisterous joy exceeds:
The Pilot then, by peril wise,
Was prompted to philosophise.
"'Tis right to put a due restraint
On joy, and to retard complaint,
Because alternate hope and fright
Make up our lives of black and white."
The Dogs' Ambassador To JoveNot here translated
The Man and the AdderHe, that malicious men relieves,
His folly in a season grieves.
A Man, against himself humane,
Took up an Adder, that had lain
And stiffen'd in the frosty air,
And in his bosom placed with care,
Where she with speed recovering breath,
Her benefactor stung to death.
Another Adder near the place,
On asking why she was so base,
Was told, " 'Tis others to dissuade
From giving wickedness their aid."
The Fox and the DragonA Fox was throwing up the soil,
And while with his assiduous toil
He burrow'd deep into the ground,
A Dragon in his den he found,
A-watching hidden treasure there,
Whom seeing, Renard speaks him fair:
" First, for your pardon I apply
For breaking on your privacy;
Then, as you very plainly see
That gold is of no use to me,
Your gentle leave let me obtain
To ask you, what can be the gain
Of all this care, and what the fruit,
That you should not with sleep recruit
Your spirits, but your life consume
Thus in an everlasting gloom ?"
"'Tis not my profit here to stay,"
He cries; " but I must Jove obey."
"What! will you therefore nothing take
Yourself, nor others welcome make ?"
"Ev'n so the fates decree." - "Then, sir,
Have patience, whilst I do aver
That he who like affections knows
Is born with all the gods his foes.
Since to that place you needs must speed,
Where all your ancestors precede,
Why in the blindness of your heart
Do you torment your noble part ?"
All this to thee do I indite,
Thou grudging churl, thy heir's delight,
Who robb'st the gods of incense due,
Thyself of food and raiment too;
Who hear'st the harp with sullen mien,
To whom the piper gives the spleen;
Who'rt full of heavy groans and sighs
When in their price provisions rise;
Who with thy frauds heaven's patience tire
To make thy heap a little higher,
And, lest death thank thee, in thy will
Hast tax'd the undertaker's bill.
Phaedrus, On His Fables.What certain envious hearts intend
I very clearly comprehend,
Let them dissemble e'er so much.-.
When they perceive the master's touch,
And find 'tis likely to endure,
They'll say 'tis Esop to be sure-
But what appears of mean design,
At any rate they'll vouch for mine.
These in a word I would refute:
Whether of great or no repute,
What sprung from Esop's fertile thought
This hand has to perfection brought;
But waiving things to our distaste,
Let's to the destined period haste.
The Shipwreck of SimonidesA man, whose learned worth is known,
Has always riches of his own.
Simonides, who was the head
Of lyric bards, yet wrote for bread,
His circuit took through every town
In Asia of the first renown,
The praise of heroes to rehearse,
Who gave him money for his verse.
When by this trade much wealth was earn'd,
Homewards by shipping he return'd
(A Cean born, as some suppose):
On board he went, a tempest rose,
Which shook th' old ship to that degree,
She founder'd soon as out at sea.
Some purses, some their jewels tie
About them for a sure supply;
But one more curious, ask'd the seer,
"Poet, have you got nothing here ?"
"My all," says he, "is what I am."-
On this some few for safety swam
(For most o'erburden'd by their goods,
Were smother'd in the whelming floods).
The spoilers came, the wealth demand,
And leave them naked on the strand.
It happen'd for the shipwreck'd crew
An ancient city was in view,
By name Clazomena, in which
There lived a scholar learned and rich,
Who often read, his cares to ease,
The verses of Simonides,
And was a vast admirer grown
Of this great poet, though unknown.
Him by his converse when he traced,
He with much heartiness embraced,
And soon equipp'd the bard anew,
With servants, clothes, and money too
The rest benevolence implored,
With case depicted on a board:
Which when Simonides espied,
"I plainly told you all," he cried,
"That all my wealth was in myself;
As for your chattels and your pelf.
On which ye did so much depend,
They're come to nothing in the end."
The Mountain in LaborThe Mountain labor'd, groaning loud,
On which a num'rous gaping crowd
Of noodles came to see the sight,
When, lo ! a mouse was brought to light!
This tale 's for men of swagg'ring cast,
Whose threats, voluminous and vast,
With all their verse and all their prose,
Can make but little on 't, God knows.
The Ant and the FlyAn Ant and Fly had sharp dispute
Which creature was of most repute;
When thus began the flaunting Fly:
"Are you so laudible as I ?
I, ere the sacrifice is carved,
Precede the gods; first come, first served--
Before the altar take my place,
And in all temples show my face,
Whene'er I please I set me down
Upon the head that wears a crown.
I with impunity can taste
The kiss of matrons fair and chaste,
And pleasure without labor claim-
Say, trollop, canst thou do the same ?"
"The feasts of gods are glorious fare,
No doubt, to those who're welcome there;
But not for such detested things.-
You talk of matron's lips and kings;
I, who with wakeful care and pains
Against the winter hoard my grains,
Thee feeding upon ordure view.-
The altars you frequent, 'tis true;
But still are driv'n away from thence,
And elsewhere, as of much offence.
A life of toil you will not lead,
And so have nothing when you need.
Besides all this, you talk with pride
Of things that modesty should hide.
You plague me here, while days increase,
But when the winter comes you cease.
Me, when the cold thy life bereaves,
A plenteous magazine receives.
I think I need no more advance
To cure you of your arrogance."
The tenor of this tale infers
Two very diff'rent characters;
Of men self-praised and falsely vain,
And men of real worth in grain.
The Escape of SimonidesTh' attention letters can engage,
Ev'n from a base degenerate age,
I've shown before; and now shall show
Their lustre in another view,
And tell a memorable tale,
How much they can with heav'n prevail,
Simonides, the very same
We lately had a call to name,
Agreed for such a sum to blaze
A certain famous champion's praise.
He therefore a retirement sought,
But found the theme on which he wrote
So scanty, he was forced to use
Th' accustomed license of the muse,
And introduced and praise bestow'd
On Leda's sons to raise his ode;
With these the rather making free,
As heroes in the same degree.
He warranted his work, and yet
Could but one third of payment get.
Upon demanding all the due,
" Let them," says he, "pay t' other two,
Who take two places in the song;
But lest you think I do you wrong
And part in dudgeon-I invite
Your company to sup this night,
For then my friends and kin I see,
'Mongst which I choose to reckon thee."
Choused and chagrined, yet shunning blame,
He promised, set the hour, and came;
As fearful lest a favour spurn'd
Should to an open breach be turn'd.
The splendid banquet shone with plate,
And preparations full of state
Made the glad house with clamors roar-
When on a sudden at the door
Two youths, with sweat and dust besmear'd,
Above the human form appear'd,
And charged forthwith a little scout
To bid Simonides come out,
That 'twas his interest not to stay.-
The slave, in trouble and dismay,
Roused from his seat the feasting bard,
Who scarce had stirr'd a single yard
Before the room at once fell in,
And crushed the champion and his kin.
No youths before the door are found.-
The thing soon spread the country round;
And when each circumstance was weighed,
They knew the gods that visit made,
And saved the poet's life in lieu
Of those two-thirds which yet were due.
Epilogue To Eutychus.I yet have stock in hand to spare,
And could write on-but will forbear-
First, lest I tire a friend, whose state
And avocations are so great:
And then, if other pens should try
This morals cheme as well as I,
They may have something to pursue:--
Yet if the spacious field we view,
More men are wanting for the plan,
Rather than matter for the man.
Now for that prize I make my plea
You promised to my brevity.
Keep your kind word; for life, my friend,
Is daily nearer to its end;
And I shall share your love the less
The longer you your hand repress:
The sooner you the boon insure,
The more the tenure must endure;
And if I quick possession take,
The greater profit must I make,
While yet declining age subsists,
A room for friendly aid exists.
Anon with tasteless years grown weak,
In vain benevolence will seek
To do me good-when Death at hand
Shall come and urge his last demand.
'Tis folly, you'll be apt to say,
A thousand times to beg and pray
Of one with so much worth and sense,
Whose gen'rous bounty is propense.
If e'er a miscreant succeeds,
By fair confession of his deeds,
An innocent offender's case
Is far more worthy of your grace.
You for example sake begin,
Then others to the lure you'll win,
And in rotation more and more
Will soon communicate their stoic.
Consider in your mind how far
At stake your word and honour are;
And let your closing the debate
By what I may congratulate.
I have been guilty of excess
Beyond my thought in this address
But 'tis not easy to refrain
A spirit work'd up to disdain
By wretches insolent and vile,
With a clear conscience all the while.
You'll ask me, sir, at whom I hint-
In time they may appear in print.
But give me leave to cite a phrase
I met with in my boyish days.
"'Tis dangerous for the mean and low
Too plain their grievances to show."
This is advice I shall retain
While life and sanity remain.