THE TALKING BEASTS
A Book of Fable Wisdom
EDITED BY KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN AND NORA ARCHIBALD SMITH
Illustrations by Harold Nelson
"Accept, young Prince, the moral lay
And in these tales mankind survey;
With early virtues plant your breast
The specious arts of vice detest."
WILLIAM, DUKE OF CUMBERLAND
I. Fables of Aesop. (Greek)
II. Fables of Bidpai. (Indian)
III. Fables from the Hitopadesa. (Sanskrit)
IV. Fables from P. V. Ramaswami Raju. (Indian)
V. Malayan Fables
VI. Moorish Fables
VII. African Fables
VIII. Fables from Krilof. (Russian)
IX. Fables from the Chinese
X. Fables of La Fontaine. (French)
XI. Fables from the Spanish of Carlos Yriarte
XII. Fables of Gay, Cowper, and others. (English)
For Eastern princes, long ago,
These fables, grave and gay,
Were written as a friendly guide
On life's perplexing way.
When Rumour came to court and news
Of such a book was heard,
The monarch languished till he might
Secure the Golden Word.
Prince of To-day, this little hook
A store-house is of treasure.
Unlock it and where'er you look
Is wisdom without measure.
'Twill teach thee of the meed of greed,
Of sowing versus reaping,
Of that mad haste that makes for waste,
And looking before leaping.
'Twill teach thee what is like to hap
To self-conceit and folly;
And show that who begins in sin
Will end in melancholy.
So take the book and learn of beast
And animate creation
The lesson that the least may teach,
However mean his station.
NORA ARCHIBALD SMITH
"Among all the different ways of giving counsel I think
the finest and that which pleases the most universally is
fable, in whatever shape it appears."
How shall I bring to your mind the time and
distance that separate us from the Age of
Fable? Think of what seemed to you the
longest week of your life. Think of fifty-two of
these in a year; then think of two thousand five
hundred years and try to realize that Aesop—sometimes
called the Eighth Wise Man—lived
twenty-five centuries ago and made these wonderful
tales that delight us to-day.
Shakespeare is even yet something of a mystery,
although he was born in our own era, less than
five hundred years ago; but men are still trying
to discover any new facts of his life that might
better explain his genius. A greater mystery
is grand old Homer, who has puzzled the world
for centuries. Scholars are not certain whether
the "Iliad" or "Odyssey" are the work of one
or more than one mind. Who can say? for the
thrilling tales were told—probably after the
fashion of all the minstrels of his day—more than
eight hundred years before Christ.
On the background of that dim distant long ago,
perhaps two hundred years later than Homer,
looms the magnificent figure of another mysterious
being—Aesop the Greek slave.
Wherever and whenever he lived, and whether,
in fact, he ever lived at all, he seems very real to
us, even though more than two thousand years have
passed. Among all the stories that scholars and
historians have told of him—sifting through the
centuries the true from the false—we get a vivid
picture of the man. He was born in Greece,
probably in Phrygia, about 620 years before Christ.
He had more than one master and it was the last,
Iadmon, who gave him his liberty because of his
talents and his wisdom. The historian Plutarch
recounts his presence at the court of Croesus,
King of Lydia, and his meeting Thales and Solon
there, telling us also that he reproved the wise
Solon for discourtesy toward the king. Aesop
visited Athens and composed the famous fable
of Jupiter and the Frogs for the instruction of
the citizens. Whether he left any written fables
is very uncertain, but those known by his name
were popular in Athens when that city was
celebrated throughout the world for its wit and its
learning. Both Socrates and Plato delighted
in them; Socrates, we read, having amused himself
during the last days of his life with turning
into verse some of Aesop's "myths" as he called
them. Think of Socrates conning these fables
in prison four hundred years before Christ, and
then think of a more familiar picture in our own
day—a gaunt, dark-faced, black-haired boy
poring over a book as he lay by the fireside in a
little Western farmhouse; for you remember that
Abraham Lincoln's literary models were "Aesop's
Fables," "The Pilgrim's Progress" and the
Bible. Perhaps he read the fable of the Fig
Tree, Olive, Vine, and Bramble from the ninth
chapter of Judges, or that of the Thistle and
Cedar from the fourteenth chapter of II Kings
and noted that teaching by story-telling was
still well in vogue six hundred years after Aesop.
In later times the fables that had been carried
from mouth to mouth for centuries began to
be written down: by Phaedrus in Latin and
Babrius in Greek; also, in the fourteenth century,
by a Greek monk named Planudes. But do
not suppose they had their birth or flourished
in Greece alone. At the very time that Aesop
was telling them at the court of Croesus, or in
Delphi, Corinth, or Athens,—far, far away in
India the Buddhist priests were telling fables in
the Sanskrit language to the common people, the
blind, the ignorant and the outcast. Sanskrit,
you know, is the eldest brother of all the family
of languages to which our English belongs. When
the Buddhist religion declined, the Brahmins
took up the priceless inheritance of fable and
used it for educational purposes. Their ancient
Indian sages and philosophers compiled a treatise
for the education of princes which was supposed
to contain a system of good counsel for right
training in all the chief affairs of life. In it they
inserted the choicest treasures of their wisdom
and the best rules for governing a people, and the
Rajahs kept the book with great secrecy and care.
Then a Persian king heard of its existence and
sent a learned physician to India, where he spent
several years in copying and translating the
precious manuscript, finally bringing it hack to
the court, where he declined to accept all reward
but a dress of honour. In much the same way
it was rendered into Arabic and gradually,
century by century, crept into the literature of all
We give you some of these very fables in
the "Hitopadesa," which means "Friendly
Instruction" or "Amicable Advice" for the
original hooks contained many maxims, like the
"He who is not possessed of such a book as will dispel
many doubts, point out hidden treasures, and is, as it were,
a mirror of all things, is even an ignorant man."
"These six—the peevish, the niggard, the dissatisfied,
the passionate, the suspicious, and those who live upon
others' means—are forever unhappy."
"That mother is an enemy, and that father a foe, by whom
not having been instructed, their son shineth not in the
assembly; but appeareth there like a booby among geese."
"There are two kinds of knowledge in use: the knowledge
of arms, and the knowledge of books. The first is the scoff
if the wise, whilst the last is forever honoured."
We give you other Indian fables from the
collection of Bidpai. La Fontaine in one of the
prefaces to his French fables in verse expresses his
gratitude to "Bilpay the Indian sage." These
are the very manuscripts translated from the
Sanskrit into Persian by the physician who took
them back to his king. Sir William Jones says
that "Bidpai" signifies "beloved physician" and
that Bilpay is simply a mis-spelling of the word.
As other scholars contended that Bidpai was not
a man at all, but probably one of the two wise
camels that did most of the talking in the earlier
fables, you and I will not be able to settle the truth
of the question. All these points are interesting,
or, if they are not so to you, you must say, "Wake
up!" to your mind. It is the eager spirit of
inquiry that conquers difficulties and gains
knowledge. In another preface I reminded you that
in all the faery stories the youngest brother was
the one who always said, "I wonder!" and he it
was who triumphed over all the others. You are
holding between these crimson covers fables from
some of the oldest and most valuable books the
world has ever known. The "Hitopadesa" was
a very fountain of riches, as old as the hills
themselves, precious and inexhaustible. In its
innumerable translations it passed down the stream
of time, and the fables known as Aesop's made
their way among all races of people in the same
marvellous way. No one knows whether Aesop—through
the Assyrians with whom the Phrygians
had commercial relations—borrowed his stories
from the Orientals or whether they borrowed from
him. One thing is certain, nothing persists so
strongly and lives so long as a fable or folk tale.
They migrate like the birds and make their way
into every corner of the world where there are
lips to speak and ears to hear. The reasons are,
perhaps, because they are generally brief; because
they are simple; because they are trenchant and
witty; because they are fresh and captivating and
have a bite to them like the tang of salt water;
because they are strong and vital, and what is
thoroughly alive in the beginning always lives
And, now we come to La Fontaine the French
fabulist, who in 1668 published the first six books
of his fables. "Bonhomme La Fontaine," as
he was called, chose his subjects from Aesop and
Phaedrus and Horace, and, in the later volumes,
from such Oriental sources as may have been
within his reach. He rendered the old tales in
easy-flowing verse, full of elegance and charm,
and he composed many original ones besides.
La Bruyere says of him: "Unique in his way
of writing, always original whether he invents or
translates, he surpasses his models and is himself
a model difficult to imitate. . . . He instructs
while he sports, persuades men to virtue
by means of beasts, and exalts trifling subjects
to the sublime."
Voltaire asserts: "I believe that of all authors
La Fontaine is the most universally read. He is
for all minds and all ages."
Later, by a hundred years, than La Fontaine,
comes Krilof, the Russian fable-maker, who
was born in 1768. After failing in many kinds
of literary work the young poet became intimate
with a certain Prince Sergius Galitsin; lived in
his house at Moscow, and accompanied him to
his country place in Lithuania, where he taught
the children of his host and devised entertainments
for the elders. He used often to spend
hours in the bazaars and streets and among the
common people, and it was in this way probably
that he became so familiar with the peasant life
of the country. When he came back from his
wanderings on the banks of the Volga he used to
mount to the village belfry, where he could write
undisturbed by the gnats and flies, and the children
found him there one day fast asleep among the
bells. A failure at forty, with the publication of
his first fables in verse he became famous, and
for many years he was the most popular writer
in Russia. He died in 1844 at the age of seventy-six,
his funeral attended by such crowds that the great
church of St. Isaac could not hold those who
wished to attend the service. Soon after, a public
subscription was raised among all the children
of Russia, who erected a monument in the
Summer Garden at Moscow.
There the old man sits in bronze, as he used to
sit at his window, clad in his beloved dressing
gown, an open book in his hand.
Around the monument (says his biographer) a
number of children are always at play, and the
poet seems to smile benignly on them from his
bronze easy chair. Perhaps the Grecian children
of long ago played about Aesop's statue in Athens,
for Lysippus the celebrated sculptor designed and
erected a monument in his memory.
Read Krilof's "Education of a Lion" and
"The Lion and the Mosquitoes" while his life is
fresh in your mind. Then turn to "What
Employment our Lord Gave to Insects" and "How
Sense was Distributed," in the quaint African
fables. Glance at "The Long-tailed
Spectacled Monkey" and "The Tune that Made the
Tiger Drowsy," so full of the very atmosphere of
India. Then re-read some old favourite of
Aesop and imagine you are hearing his voice, or
that of some Greek story-teller of his day, ringing
down through more than two thousand years
There is a deal of preaching in all these fables,—that
cannot be denied,—but it is concealed as
well as possible. It is so disagreeable for people
to listen while their faults and follies, their foibles
and failings, are enumerated, that the fable-maker
told his truths in story form and thereby
increased his audience. Preaching from the mouths
of animals is not nearly so trying as when it
comes from the pulpit, or from the lips of your
own family and friends!
Whether or not our Grecian and Indian, African
and Russian fable-makers have not saddled the
animals with a few more faults than they possess—just
to bolster up our pride in human nature—I
sometimes wonder; but the result has been beneficial.
The human rascals and rogues see themselves
clearly reflected in the doings of the jackals,
foxes, and wolves and may get some little distaste
for lying, deceit and trickery.
We make few fables now-a-days. We might
say that it is a lost art, but perhaps the world is too
old to be taught in that precise way, and though
the story writers are as busy as ever, the
story-tellers (alas!) are growing fewer and fewer.
If your ear has been opened by faery tales you
will have learned already to listen to and interpret
a hundred voices unheard by others. A
comprehension of faery language leads one to
understand animal conversation with perfect ease, so
open the little green doors that lead into the forest,
the true Land of Fable. Open them softly and
you will hear the Beasts talk Wisdom.
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
THE FABLES OF AESOP
"'Twas the Golden Age when every brute
Had voice articulate, in speech was skilled,
And the mid-forests with its synods filled.
The tongues of rock and pine-leaf then were free;
To ship and sailor then would speak the sea;
Sparrows with farmers would shrewd talk maintain;
Earth gave all fruits, nor asked for toil again.
Mortals and gods were wont to mix as friends—
To which conclusion all the teaching tends
Of sage old Aesop."
THE FABLES OF AESOP
The Power of Fables
Demades, a famous Greek orator, was once addressing an assembly at
Athens on a subject of great importance, and in vain tried to fix the
attention of his hearers. They laughed among themselves, watched the
sports of the children, and in twenty other ways showed their want of
interest in the subject of the discourse.
Demades, after a short pause, spoke as follows:
"Ceres one day journeyed in company with a Swallow and an Eel." At
this there was marked attention and every ear strained now to catch the
words of the orator. "The party came to a river," continued he; "the
Eel swam across, and the Swallow flew over." He then resumed the
subject of his harangue.
A great cry, however, arose from the people, "And Ceres? and Ceres?"
cried they. "What did Ceres do?"
"Why, the goddess was, as she is now," replied he, "mightily offended
that people should have their ears open to any sort of foolery, and
shut to words of truth and wisdom."
The Wolf and the Lamb
A hungry Wolf one day saw a Lamb drinking at a stream, and wished to
frame some plausible excuse for making him his prey.
"What do you mean by muddling the water I am going to drink?" fiercely
said he to the Lamb.
"Pray forgive me," meekly answered the Lamb; "I should be sorry in any
way to displease you, but as the stream runs from you toward me, you
will see that such cannot be the case."
"That's all very well," said the Wolf; "but you know you spoke ill of
me behind my back a year ago."
"Nay, believe me," replied the Lamb, "I was not then born."
"It must have been your brother, then," growled the Wolf.
"It cannot have been, for I never had any," answered the Lamb.
"I know it was one of your lot," rejoined the Wolf, "so make no more
such idle excuses." He then seized the poor Lamb, carried him off to
the woods, and ate him, but before the poor creature died he gasped
out, feebly, "Any excuse will serve a tyrant."
Aesop and His Fellow Servants
A merchant, who was at one time Aesop's master, on a certain occasion
ordered all things to be made ready for an intended journey. When the
burdens were divided among the Servants, Aesop asked that he might have
the lightest. He was told to choose for himself, and he took up the
basket of bread. The other Servants laughed, for that was the largest
and heaviest of all the burdens.
When dinner-time came, Aesop, who had with some difficulty sustained
his load, was told to distribute an equal share all around. He did so,
and this lightened his burden one half, and when supper-time arrived he
got rid of the rest.
For the remainder of the journey he had nothing but the empty basket to
carry, and the other Servants, whose loads seemed to get heavier and
heavier at every step, could not but applaud his ingenuity.
The Kite and the Pigeons
A Kite, that had kept sailing around a dovecote for many days to no
purpose, was at last forced by hunger to have recourse to stratagem.
Approaching the Pigeons in his gentlest manner, he described to them in
an eloquent speech how much better their state would be if they had a
king with some firmness about him, and how well such a ruler would
shield them from the attacks of the Hawk and other enemies.
The Pigeons, deluded by this show of reason, admitted him to the
dovecote as their king. They found, however, that he thought it part
of his kingly prerogative to eat one of their number every day, and
they soon repented of their credulity in having let him in.
The Ant and the Fly
An Ant and a Fly one day disputed as to their respective merits. "Vile
creeping insect!" said the Fly to the Ant, "can you for a moment
compare yourself with me? I soar on the wing like a bird. I enter the
palaces of kings, and alight on the heads of princes, nay, of emperors,
and only quit them to adorn the yet more attractive brow of beauty.
Besides, I visit the altars of the gods. Not a sacrifice is offered
but it is first tasted by me. Every feast, too, is open to me. I eat
and drink of the best, instead of living for days on two or three
grains of corn as you do."
"All that is very fine," replied the Ant; "but listen to me. You boast
of your feasting, but you know that your diet is not always so choice,
and you are sometimes forced to eat what nothing would induce me to
touch. As for alighting on the heads of kings and emperors, you know
very well that whether you pitch on the head of an emperor or of an ass
(and it is as often on the one as the other), you are shaken off from
both with impatience. And, then, the 'altars of the gods,' indeed!
There and everywhere else you are looked upon as nothing but a
nuisance. In the winter, too, while I feed at my ease on the fruit of
my toil, what more common than to see your friends dying with cold,
hunger, and fatigue? I lose my time now in talking to you. Chattering
will fill neither my bin nor my cupboard."
The Frog Who Wished to Be as Big as an Ox
An Ox, grazing in a meadow, chanced to set his foot on a young Frog and
crushed him to death. His brothers and sisters, who were playing near,
at once ran to tell their mother what had happened.
"The monster that did it, mother, was such a size!" said they.
The mother, who was a vain old thing, thought that she could easily
make herself as large.
"Was it as big as this?" she asked, blowing and puffing herself out.
"Oh, much bigger than that," replied the young Frogs.
"As this, then?" cried she, puffing and blowing again with all her
"Nay, mother," said they; "if you were to try till you burst yourself,
you could never be so big."
The silly old Frog then tried to puff herself out still more, and burst
The Cat and the Mice
A certain house was overrun with mice. A Cat, discovering this, made
her way into it and began to catch and eat them one by one.
The Mice being continually devoured, kept themselves close in their
The Cat, no longer able to get at them, perceived that she must tempt
them forth by some device. For this purpose she jumped upon a peg,
and, suspending herself from it, pretended to be dead.
One of the Mice, peeping stealthily out, saw her, and said, "Ah, my
good madam, even though you should turn into a meal-bag, we would not
come near you."
The Cock and the Jewel
A brisk young Cock, scratching for something with which to entertain
his favourite Hens, happened to turn up a Jewel. Feeling quite sure
that it was something precious, but not knowing well what to do with
it, he addressed it with an air of affected wisdom, as follows: "You
are a very fine thing, no doubt, but you are not at all to my taste.
For my part, I would rather have one grain of dear delicious barley
than all the Jewels in the world."
The Man and the Lion
A Man and a Lion were discussing the relative strength of men and lions
in general, the Man contending that he and his fellows were stronger
than lions by reason of their greater intelligence.
"Come now with me," he cried to the beast, "and I will soon prove that
I am right." So he took him into the public gardens and showed him a
statue of Hercules overcoming the Lion. and tearing him to pieces.
"That is all very well," said the Lion, "but it proves nothing, for it
was a man who made the statue!"
The Discontented Ass
In the depth of winter a poor Ass once prayed heartily for the spring,
that he might exchange a cold lodging and a heartless truss of straw
for a little warm weather and a mouthful of fresh grass. In a short
time, according to his wish, the warm weather and the fresh grass came
on, but brought with them so much toil and business that he was soon as
weary of the spring as before of the winter, and he now became
impatient for the approach of summer. The summer arrived; but the
heat, the harvest work and other drudgeries and inconveniences of the
season set him as far from happiness as before, which he now flattered
himself would be found in the plenty of autumn. But here, too, he was
disappointed; for what with the carrying of apples, roots, fuel for the
winter, and other provisions, he was in autumn more fatigued than ever.
Having thus trod around the circle of the year, in a course of restless
labour, uneasiness and disappointment, and found no season, nor station
of life without its business and its trouble, he was forced at last to
acquiesce in the comfortless season of winter, where his complaint
began, convinced that in this world every situation has its
The Boasting Traveller
A Man was one day entertaining a lot of fellows in an ale-house with an
account of the wonders he had done when abroad on his travels. "I was
once at Rhodes," said he, "and the people of Rhodes, you know, are
famous for jumping. Well, I took a jump there that no other man could
come within a yard of. That's a fact, and if we were there I could
bring you ten men who would prove it."
"What need is there to go to Rhodes for witnesses?" asked one of his
hearers; "just imagine that you are there now, and show us your leap!"
The Lion and the Mouse
A Lion, tired with the chase, lay sleeping at full length under a shady
tree. Some Mice, scrambling over him while he slept, awoke him.
Laying his paw upon one of them, he was about to crush him, but the
Mouse implored his mercy in such moving terms that he let him go.
Now it happened that sometime afterward the Lion was caught in a net
laid by some hunters, and, unable to free himself, made the forest
resound with his roars. The Mouse, recognizing the voice of his
preserver, ran to the spot, and with his little sharp teeth gnawed the
ropes asunder and set the Lion free.
The Swallow and Other Birds
A Swallow, observing a Husbandman employed in sowing hemp, called the
little Birds together and informed them of what the farmer was about.
He told them that hemp was the material from which the nets, so fatal
to the feathered race, were composed; and advised them to join
unanimously in picking it up in order to prevent the consequences.
The Birds, either disbelieving his information or neglecting his
advice, gave themselves no trouble about the matter. In a little time
the hemp appeared above the ground, when the friendly Swallow again
addressed himself to them, and told them it was not yet too late,
provided they would immediately set about the work, before the seeds
had taken too deep root. But as they still rejected his advice, he
forsook their society, repaired for safety to towns and cities, there
built his habitation and kept his residence.
One day as he was skimming along the streets he happened to see a large
parcel of those very Birds imprisoned in a cage on the shoulders of a
"Unhappy wretches," said he. "You now feel punishment for your former
neglect; but those who, having no foresight of their own, despise the
wholesome admonition of their friends, deserve the mischief which their
own obstinacy or negligence brings upon their heads."
The Fox and the Crow
A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and
settle on a branch of a tree. "That's for me, as I am a Fox," said
Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree. "Good-day,
Mistress Crow," he cried. "How well you are looking to-day; how glossy
your feathers, how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must
surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but
one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds."
The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment
she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be
snapped up by Master Fox. "That will do," said he. "That was all I
wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice
for the future—Do not trust flatterers!"
The Dog and His Shadow
A Dog, bearing in his mouth a piece of meat that he had stolen, was
once crossing a smooth stream by means of a plank. Looking into the
still, clear water, he saw what he took to be another dog as big as
himself, carrying another piece of meat.
Snapping greedily to get this as well, he let go the meat that he
already had, and it fell to the bottom of the stream.
The Ass and His Master
A Diligent Ass, already loaded beyond his strength by a severe Master
whom he had long served, and who kept him on very short commons,
happened one day in his old age to be oppressed with a more than
ordinary burden of earthenware. His strength being much impaired, and
the road steep and uneven, he unfortunately made a misstep, and, unable
to recover himself, fell down and broke all the vessels to pieces. His
Master, transported with rage, began to beat him most unmercifully,
against whom the poor Ass, lifting up his head as he lay on the ground,
thus strongly remonstrated:
"Unfeeling wretch! To thine own avaricious cruelty in first pinching
me on food, and then loading me beyond my strength, thou owest the
misfortune which thou so unjustly imputest to me."
The Wolf and the Crane
A Wolf once devoured his prey so ravenously that a bone stuck in his
throat, giving him great pain. He ran howling up and down in his
suffering and offered to reward handsomely any one who would pull the
A Crane, moved by pity as well as by the prospect of the money,
undertook the dangerous task, and having removed the bone, asked for
the promised reward.
"Reward!" cried the Wolf; "pray, you greedy fellow, what greater reward
can you possibly require? You have had your head in my mouth, and
instead of biting it off I have let you pull it out unharmed. Get away
with you, and don't come again within reach of my paw."
The Hares and the Frogs
The Hares once took serious counsel among themselves whether death
itself would not be preferable to their miserable condition. "What a
sad state is ours," they said, "never to eat in comfort, to sleep ever
in fear, to be startled by a shadow, and to fly with beating heart at
the rustling of the leaves. Better death by far," and off they went
accordingly to drown themselves in a neighbouring lake.
Some scores of Frogs, who were enjoying the moonlight on the bank,
scared at the approach of the Hares, jumped into the water. The splash
awoke fresh fears in the breasts of the timid Hares, and they came to a
full stop in their flight.
Seeing this, one wise old fellow among them cried: "Hold, brothers! It
seems that, weak and fearful as we are, beings exist that are more weak
and fearful still. Why, then, should we seek to die? Let us rather
make the best of our ills and learn to bear them as we should."
The Invalid Lion
A Lion, who had grown too old and feeble to go out and hunt for prey,
could hardly find enough food to keep him from starving. But at last
he thought of a plan for bringing the game within his reach.
He kept quite still in his den and made believe that he was very ill.
When the other animals heard of his distress, they came, one by one, to
look at him and ask him how he felt. No sooner were they within his
reach, however, than he seized upon them and ate them up.
After a good many beasts had lost their lives in this way a Fox came
"How do you feel to-day, friend Lion?" he asked, taking care to stand
at a safe distance from the den.
"I am very ill," answered the Lion. "Won't you come inside a little
while? It does me a great deal of good to see my kind friends."
"Thank you," said the Fox; "but I notice that all the tracks point
toward your den and none point away from it," and so saying, he trotted
The Travellers and the Bear
Two Men, about to journey through a forest, agreed to stand by each
other in any dangers that might befall. They had not gone far before a
savage Bear rushed out from a thicket and stood in their path.
One of the Travellers, a light, nimble fellow, climbed up into a tree.
The other fell flat on his face and held his breath.
The Bear came up and smelled at him, and, taking him for dead, went off
again into the wood. The man in the tree then came down, and,
rejoining his companion, asked him, with a mischievous smile, what was
the wonderful secret that the Bear had whispered into his ear,
"Why," replied the other sulkily, "he told me to take care for the
future and not to put any confidence in such cowardly rascals as you
The Fox Without a Tail
A Fox was once caught in a trap by his tail, and in order to get away
was forced to leave it behind him. Knowing that without a tail he
would be a laughing-stock for all his fellows, he resolved to try to
induce them to part with theirs. At the next assembly of Foxes,
therefore, he made a speech on the unprofitableness of tails in
general, and the inconvenience of a Fox's tail in particular, adding
that he had never felt so easy as since he had given up his own.
When he had sat down, a sly old fellow rose, and waving his long brush
with a graceful air, said, with a sneer, that if, like the last
speaker, he had been so unfortunate as to lose his tail, nothing
further would have been needed to convince him; but till such an
accident should happen, he should certainly vote in favour of tails.
The Crab and Its Mother
One fine day two Crabs came out from their home to take a stroll on the
sand. "Child," said the mother, "you are walking very ungracefully.
You should accustom yourself to walking straight forward without
twisting from side to side."
"Pray, mother," said the young one, "do but set the example yourself,
and I will follow you!"
The Jackdaw with Borrowed Plumes
A Jackdaw, having dressed himself in feathers which had fallen from
some Peacocks, strutted about in the company of those birds and tried
to pass himself off as one of them.
They soon found him out, however, and pulled their plumes from him so
roughly, and in other ways so battered him, that he would have been
glad to rejoin his humble fellows, but they, in their turn, would have
nothing to do with him, and driving him from their society, told him to
remember that it is not only fine feathers that make fine birds.
The Farmer and His Dog
A Farmer who had just stepped into the field to close a gap in one of
his fences found on his return the cradle, where he had left his only
child asleep, turned upside down, the clothes all torn and bloody, and
his Dog lying near it besmeared also with blood. Convinced at once
that the creature had destroyed his child, he instantly dashed out its
brains with the hatchet in his hand; when, turning up the cradle, he
found the child unhurt and an enormous serpent lying dead on the floor,
killed by the faithful Dog, whose courage and fidelity in preserving
the life of his son deserved another kind of reward.
These affecting circumstances afforded him a striking lesson upon how
dangerous it is hastily to give way to the blind impulse of a sudden
The Fox and the Countryman
A Fox, having been hunted hard and chased a long way, saw a Countryman
at work in a wood and begged his assistance to some hiding-place. The
man said he might go into his cottage, which was close by.
He was no sooner in than the huntsmen came up. "Have you seen a Fox
pass this way?" said they. The Countryman said "No," but pointed at
the same time toward the place where the Fox lay. The huntsmen did not
take the hint, however, and made off again at full speed.
The Fox, who had seen all that took place through a chink in the wall,
thereupon came out and was walking away without a word.
"Why, how now!" said the Countryman, "haven't you the manners to thank
your host before you go?"
"Nay, nay," said the Fox; "if you had been as honest with your finger
as you were with your tongue, I shouldn't have gone without saying
Belling the Cat
A certain Cat that lived in a large country house was so vigilant and
active in the performance of her duties that the Mice, finding their
numbers grievously thinned, held a council with closed doors to
consider what they had best do.
Many plans had been started and dismissed, when a young Mouse, rising
and catching the eye of the President, said that he had a proposal to
make that he was sure must meet with the approval of all. "If," said
he, "the Cat should wear around her neck a little bell, every step she
took would make it tinkle; then, ever forewarned of her approach, we
should have time to reach our holes. By this simple means we should
live in safety and defy her power."
The speaker resumed his seat with a complacent air, and a murmur of
applause arose from the audience.
An old gray Mouse, with a merry twinkle in his eye, now got up and said
that the plan of the last speaker was an admirable one, but he feared
it had one drawback. He had not told them who should put the bell
around the Cat's neck!
The Old Woman and Her Maids
A certain Old Woman had several Maids, whom she used to call to their
work every morning at the crowing of the Cock.
The Maids, finding it grievous to have their sweet sleep disturbed so
early, killed the Cock, thinking that when he was quiet they might
enjoy their warm beds a little longer.
The Old Woman, however, vexed at the loss of the Cock, and suspecting
them to be concerned in his death, from that time made them rise soon
The Dog in the Manger
There was once a Dog who lay all day long in a manger where there was
plenty of hay. It happened one day that a Horse, a Cow, a Sheep, and a
Goat came one by one and wanted to eat the hay. The Dog growled at
them and would not let them have so much as a mouthful. Then an Ox
came and looked in, but the Dog growled at him also.
"You selfish fellow," said the Ox; "you cannot eat the hay. Why do you
want to keep it all to yourself?"
The Old Man and His Sons
An old Man had many Sons, who were always falling out with one another.
He had often exhorted them to live together in harmony, but without
One day he called them around him and, producing a bundle of sticks,
bade them each in turn to break it across. Each put forth all his
strength, but the bundle still resisted their efforts.
Then, cutting the cord which bound the sticks together, he told his
Sons to break them separately. This was done with the greatest ease.
"See, my Sons," exclaimed he, "the power of unity! Bound together by
brotherly love, you may defy almost every mortal ill; divided, you will
fall a prey to your enemies."
Hercules and the Wagoner
As a Wagoner was driving his wain through a miry lane, the wheels stuck
fast in the clay and the Horses could get on no farther. The Man
immediately dropped on his knees and began crying and praying with all
his might to Hercules to come and help him.
"Lazy fellow!" cried Hercules, "get up and stir yourself. Whip your
Horses stoutly, and put your shoulder to the wheel. If you want my
help then, you shall have it."
The Goose with the Golden Eggs
One day a poor countryman going to the nest of his Goose found there a
golden egg all yellow and glittering. When he took it up it felt as
heavy as lead and he was minded to throw it away, because he thought a
trick had been played on him.
On second thoughts, he took it home, however, and soon found to his
delight that it was an egg of pure gold. Every morning the same thing
occurred, and he soon became prosperous by selling his eggs.
As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the
gold the Goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to
The Frogs Desiring a King
The Frogs, living an easy, free sort of life among the lakes and ponds,
once prayed Jupiter to send them a King.
Jove, being at that time in a merry mood, threw them a Log, saying, as
he did so, "There, then, is a King for you."
Awed by the splash, the Frogs watched their King in fear and trembling,
till at last, encouraged by his stillness, one more daring than the
rest jumped upon the shoulder of the monarch. Soon, many others
followed his example, and made merry on the back of their unresisting
King. Speedily tiring of such a torpid ruler, they again petitioned
Jupiter, and asked him to send them something more like a King.
This time he sent them a Stork, who tossed them about and gobbled them
up without mercy. They lost no time, therefore, in beseeching the god
to give them again their former state.
"No, no," replied he, "a King that did you no harm did not please you.
Make the best of the one you have, or you may chance to get a worse in
The Porcupine and the Snakes
A Porcupine, seeking for shelter, desired some Snakes to give him
admittance into their cave. They accordingly let him in, but were
afterward so annoyed by his sharp, prickly quills that they repented of
their easy compliance, and entreated him to withdraw and leave them
their hole to themselves.
"No, no," said he, "let them quit the place that don't like it; for my
part, I am very well satisfied as I am."
The Lark and Her Young Ones
A Lark, who had Young Ones in a field of grain which was almost ripe,
was afraid that the reapers would come before her young brood was
fledged. Every day, therefore, when she flew off to look for food, she
charged them to take note of what they heard in her absence, and to
tell her of it when she came home.
One day, when she was gone, they heard the owner of the field say to
his son that the grain seemed ripe enough to be cut, and tell him to go
early the next day and ask their friends and neighbours to come and
help reap it.
When the old Lark came home, the Little Ones quivered and chirped
around her, and told her what had happened, begging her to take them
away as fast as she could. The mother bade them to be easy; "for,"
said she, "if he depends on his friends and his neighbours, I am sure
the grain will not be reaped tomorrow."
Next day, she went out again, and left the same orders as before. The
owner came, and waited. The sun grew hot, but nothing was done, for
not a soul came. "You see," said the owner to his son, "these friends
of ours are not to be depended upon; so run off at once to your uncles
and cousins, and say I wish them to come early to-morrow morning and
help us reap."
This the Young Ones, in a great fright, told also to their mother. "Do
not fear, children," said she; "kindred and relations are not always
very forward in helping one another; but keep your ears open, and let
me know what you hear to-morrow."
The owner came the next day, and, finding his relations as backward as
his neighbours, said to his son: "Now listen to me. Get two good
sickles ready for to-morrow morning, for it seems we must reap the
grain by ourselves." The Young Ones told this to their mother.
"Then, my dears," said she, "it is time for us to go; for when a man
undertakes to do his work himself, it is not so likely that he will be
disappointed." She took them away at once, and the grain was reaped
the next day by the old man and his son.
The Fox and the Stork
A Fox one day invited a Stork to dine with him, and, wishing to be
amused at his guest's expense, put the soup which he had for dinner in
a large flat dish, so that, while he himself could lap it up quite
well, the Stork could only dip in the tip of his long bill.
Some time after, the Stork, bearing his treatment in mind, invited the
Fox to take dinner with him. He, in his turn, put some minced meat in
a long and narrow-necked vessel, into which he could easily put his
bill, while Master Fox was forced to be content with licking what ran
down the sides of the vessel.
The Fox then remembered his old trick, and could not but admit that the
Stork had well paid him off. "I will not apologize for the dinner,"
said the Stork, "nor for the manner of serving it, for one ill turn
The Gnat and the Bull
A sturdy Bull was once driven by the heat of the weather to wade up to
his knees in a cool and swift-running stream. He had not been there
long when a Gnat that had been disporting itself in the air pitched
upon one of his horns.
"My dear fellow," said the Gnat, with as great a buzz as he could
manage, "pray excuse the liberty I take. If I am too heavy only say so
and I will go at once and rest upon the poplar which grows hard by the
edge of the stream.
"Stay or go, it makes no matter to me," replied the Bull. "Had it not
been for your buzz I should not even have known you were there."
The Deer and the Lion
One warm day a Deer went down to a brook to get a drink. The stream
was smooth and clear, and he could see himself in the water. He looked
at his horns and was very proud of them, for they were large and long
and had many branches, but when he saw his feet he was ashamed to own
them, they were so slim and small.
While he stood knee-deep in the water, and was thinking only of his
fine horns, a Lion saw him and came leaping out from the tall grass to
get him. The Deer would have been caught at once if he had not jumped
quickly out of the brook. He ran as fast as he could, and his feet
were so light and swift that he soon left the Lion far behind. But by
and by he had to pass through some woods, and, as he was running, his
horns were caught in some vines that grew among the trees. Before he
could get loose the Lion was upon him.
"Ah me!" cried the Deer, "the things which pleased me most will now
cause my death; while the things which I thought so mean and poor would
have carried me safe out of danger."
The Fox and the Grapes
There was a time when a Fox would have ventured as far for a Bunch of
Grapes as for a shoulder of mutton, and it was a Fox of those days and
that palate that stood gaping under a vine and licking his lips at a
most delicious Cluster of Grapes that he had spied out there.
He fetched a hundred and a hundred leaps at it, till, at last, when he
was as weary as a dog, and found that there was no good to be done:
"Hang 'em," says he, "they are as sour as crabs"; and so away he went,
turning off the disappointment with a jest.
The Farmer and the Stork
A Farmer placed nets on his newly sown plough lands, and caught a
quantity of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed. With them he
trapped a Stork also.
The Stork, having his leg fractured by the net, earnestly besought the
Farmer to spare his life. "Pray, save me, master," he said, "and let
me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity.
Besides, I am no Crane. I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character;
and see how I love and slave for my father and mother. Look, too, at
my feathers, they are not the least like to those of a Crane."
The Farmer laughed aloud, and said: "It may all be as you say, I only
know this, I have taken you with those robbers, the Cranes, and you
must die in their company."
The Hare and the Tortoise
The Hare, one day, laughing at the Tortoise for his slowness and
general unwieldiness, was challenged by the latter to run a race. The
Hare, looking on the whole affair as a great joke, consented, and the
Fox was selected to act as umpire and hold the stakes.
The rivals started, and the Hare, of course, soon left the Tortoise far
behind. Having come midway to the goal, she began to play about,
nibble the young herbage, and amuse herself in many ways. The day
being warm, she even thought she would take a little nap in a shady
spot, as, if the Tortoise should pass her while she slept, she could
easily overtake him again before he reached the end.
The Tortoise meanwhile plodded on, unwavering and unresting, straight
toward the goal.
The Hare, having overslept herself, started up from her nap, and was
surprised to find that the Tortoise was nowhere in sight. Off she went
at full speed, but on reaching the winning-post found that the Tortoise
was already there, waiting for her arrival!
The Old Woman and the Doctor
An old Woman who had bad eyes called in a clever Doctor, who agreed for
a certain sum to cure them. He was a very clever physician, but he was
also a very great rogue; and when he called each day and bound up the
Old Woman's eyes he took advantage of her blindness to carry away with
him some article of her furniture. This went on until he pronounced
his patient cured and her room was nearly bare.
He claimed his reward, but the Old Woman protested that, so far from
being cured, her sight was worse than ever.
"We will soon see about that, my good dame," said he; and she was
shortly after summoned to appear in court.
"May it please Your Honour," said she to the Judge, "before I called in
this Doctor I could see a score of things in my room that now, when he
says I am cured, I cannot see at all."
This opened the eyes of the court to the knavery of the Doctor, who was
forced to give the Old Woman her property back again, and was not
allowed to claim a penny of his fee.
The Boy and the Wolf
A mischievous Lad, who was set to mind some Sheep, often used, in jest,
to cry "Wolf! Wolf!" and when the people at work in the neighbouring
fields came running to the spot he would laugh at them for their pains.
One day the beast came in reality, and the Boy, this time, called
"Wolf! Wolf!" in earnest; but the men, having been so often deceived,
disregarded his cries, and he and his Sheep were left at the mercy of
A certain Man who had bought a Blackamoor said he was convinced that it
was all nonsense about black being the natural colour of his skin. "He
has been dirty in his habits," said he, "and neglected by his former
masters. Bring me some hot water, soap, and scrubbing-brushes, and a
little sand, and we shall soon see what his colour is."
So he scrubbed, and his servants scrubbed till they were all tired.
They made no difference in the colour of the Blackamoor; but the end of
it all was that the poor fellow caught cold and died.
The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
A Wolf, wrapping himself in the skin of a Sheep, by that means got
admission into a sheepfold, where he devoured several of the young
Lambs. The Shepherd, however, soon found him out and hung him up to a
tree, still in his assumed disguise.
Some other Shepherds, passing that way, thought it was a sheep hanging
and cried to their friend: "What, brother! is that the way you serve
Sheep in this part of the country?"
"No, friends," cried he, giving at the same time the carcass a swing
around, so that they might see what it was; "but it is the way to serve
Wolves, even though they be dressed in Sheep's clothing."
The Two Travellers
As two men were travelling through a wood, one of them took up an axe
which he saw lying upon the ground. "Look here," said he to his
companion, "I have found an axe."
"Don't say, 'I have found it,'" said the other, "but 'We have found
it.' As we are companions, we ought to share it between us." The
first would not agree to this idea, however.
They had not gone far when they heard the owner of the axe calling
after them in a great passion. "We are in for it!" cried he who had
"Nay," answered the other, "say 'I'm in for it!'—not we. You would
not let me share the prize, and I am not going to share the danger."
The Fox in the Well
An unlucky Fox, having fallen into a well, was able, by dint of great
efforts, just to keep his head above water.
While he was struggling there and sticking his claws into the side of
the Well, a Wolf came and looked in. "What! my dear brother," cried
he, with affected concern, "can it really be you that I see down there?
How cold you must feel! How long have you been in the water? How came
you to fall in? I am so pained to see you. Do tell me all about it!"
"The end of a rope would be of more use to me than all your pity,"
answered the Fox.
"Just help me to get my foot on solid ground once more, and you shall
have the whole story."
The Hen and the Fox
A Fox, having crept into an outhouse, looked up and down for something
to eat, and at last espied a Hen sitting upon a perch so high that he
could be no means come at her. He therefore had recourse to an old
"Dear cousin," said he to her, "how do you do? I heard that you were
ill and kept at home; I could not rest, therefore, till I had come to
see you. Pray let me feel your pulse. Indeed, you do not look well at
He was running on in this impudent manner, when the Hen answered him
from the roost: "Truly, dear Reynard, you are in the right. I was
seldom in more danger than I am now. Pray excuse my coming down; I am
sure I should catch my death."
The Fox, finding himself foiled by the Hen's cleverness, made off and
tried his luck elsewhere.
The Ass and His Shadow
A Man, one hot day, hired an Ass, with his Driver, to carry some
merchandise across a sandy plain. The sun's rays were overpowering,
and unable to advance farther without a temporary rest he called upon
the Driver to stop, and proceeded to sit down in the shadow of the Ass.
The Driver, however, a lusty fellow, rudely pushed him away, and sat
down on the spot himself.
"Nay, friend," said the Driver, "when you hired this Ass of me you said
nothing about the shadow. If now you want that, too, you must pay for
The Ass in the Lion's Skin
An Ass, finding a Lion's skin, put it on, and ranged about the forest.
The beasts fled in terror, and he was delighted at the success of his
disguise. Meeting a Fox, he rushed upon him, and this time he tried to
imitate as well the roaring of the Lion.
"Ah," said the Fox, "if you had held your tongue I should have been
deceived like the rest; but now you bray I know who you are!"
The Wolf and the Sheep
A Wolf, sorely wounded and bitten by dogs, lay sick and maimed in his
lair. Parched with thirst, he called to a Sheep who was passing and
asked her to fetch some water from a stream flowing close by. "For,"
he said, "if you will bring me drink, sister, I will find means to
provide myself with meat."
"Yes," said the Sheep, "but if I should bring you the draught, you
would doubtless make me provide the meat also."
Jupiter's Two Wallets
When Jupiter made Man, he gave him two Wallets; one for his neighbour's
faults, the other for his own. He threw them over the Man's shoulder,
so that one hung in front and the other behind.
The Man kept the one in front for his neighbour's faults, and the one
behind for his own; so that, while the first was always under his nose,
it took some pains to see the latter.
This custom, which began thus early, is not quite unknown at the
The Satyr and the Traveller
A Satyr, ranging in the forest in winter, came across a Traveller, half
starved with the cold. He took pity on him and invited him to go to
his cave. On their way the Man kept blowing upon his fingers.
"Why do you do that?" said the Satyr, who had seen little of the world.
"To warm my hands, they are nearly frozen," replied the Man.
Arrived at the cave, the Satyr poured out a mess of smoking pottage and
laid it before the Traveller, who at once commenced blowing at it with
all his might.
"What, blowing again!" cried the Satyr. "Is it not hot enough?"
"Yes, faith," answered the Man, "it is hot enough in all conscience,
and that is just the reason why I blow it."
"Be off with you!" cried the Satyr, in alarm; "I will have no part with
a man who can blow hot and cold from the same mouth."
The Two Travellers and the Oyster
As two men were walking by the seaside at low water they saw an Oyster,
and they both stooped at the same time to pick it up. Immediately, one
pushed the other away, and a dispute ensued.
A third Traveller coming along at the time, they determined to refer
the matter to him, as to which of the two had the better right to the
While they were each telling his story the Arbitrator gravely took out
his knife, opened the shell and loosened the Oyster.
When they had finished, and were listening for his decision, he just as
gravely swallowed the Oyster, and offered them the two halves of the
shell. "The Court," said he, "awards you each a Shell. The Oyster
will cover the costs."
The Young Mouse, the Cock, and the Cat
A young Mouse, on his return to his hole after leaving it for the first
time, thus recounted his adventures to his mother: "Mother," said he,
"quitting this narrow place where you have brought me up, I was
rambling about to-day like a Young Mouse of spirit, who wished to see
and to be seen, when two such notable creatures came in my way! One
was so gracious, so gentle and benign; the other, who was just as noisy
and forbidding, had on his head and under his chin pieces of raw meat,
which shook at every step he took; and then, all at once, beating his
sides with the utmost fury, he uttered such a harsh and piercing cry
that I fled in terror; and this, too, just as I was about to introduce
myself to the other stranger, who was covered with fur like our own,
only richer looking and much more beautiful, and who seemed so modest
and benevolent that it did my heart good to look at her."
"Ah, my son," replied the Old Mouse, "learn while you live to distrust
appearances. The first strange creature was nothing but a Fowl, that
will ere long be killed, and, when put on a dish in the pantry, we may
make a delicious supper of his bones, while the other was a nasty, sly,
and bloodthirsty hypocrite of a Cat, to whom no food is so welcome as a
young and juicy Mouse like yourself."
The Wolf and the Mastiff
A Wolf, who was almost skin and bone, so well did the Dogs of the
neighbourhood keep guard over their masters' property, met, one
moonshiny night, a sleek Mastiff, who was, moreover, as strong as he
was fat. The Wolf would gladly have supped off him, but saw that there
would first be a great fight, for which, in his condition, he was not
prepared; so, bidding the Dog good-evening very humbly, he praised his
"It would be easy for you," replied the Mastiff, "to get as fat as I am
if you liked. Quit this forest, where you and your fellows live so
wretchedly, and often die with hunger. Follow me, and you will fare
"What shall I have to do?" asked the Wolf.
"Almost nothing," answered the Dog; "only chase away the beggars and
fawn upon the folks of the house. You will, in return, be paid with
all sorts of nice things—bones of fowls and pigeons—to say nothing of
many a friendly pat on the head."
The Wolf, at the picture of so much comfort, nearly shed tears of joy.
They trotted off together, but, as they went along, the Wolf noticed a
bare spot on the Dog's neck.
"What is that mark?" said he. "Oh, nothing," said the Dog.
"How nothing?" urged the Wolf. "Oh, the merest trifle," answered the
Dog; "the collar which I wear when I am tied up is the cause of it."
"Tied up!" exclaimed the Wolf, with a sudden stop; "tied up? Can you
not always run where you please, then?"
"Well, not quite always," said the Mastiff; "but what can that matter?"
"It matters so much to me," rejoined the Wolf, "that your lot shall not
be mine at any price"; and, leaping away, he ran once more to his
The Tail of the Serpent
The Tail of a Serpent once rebelled against the Head, and said that it
was a great shame that one end of any animal should always have its
way, and drag the other after it, whether it was willing or no. It was
in vain that the Head urged that the Tail had neither brains nor eyes,
and that it was in no way made to lead.
Wearied by the Tail's importunity, the Head one day let him have his
will. The Serpent now went backward for a long time quite gayly, until
he came to the edge of a high cliff, over which both Head and Tail went
flying, and came with a heavy thump on the shore beneath.
The Head, it may be supposed, was never again troubled by the Tail with
a word about leading.
The Falcon and the Capon
A Capon, who had strong reasons for thinking that the time of his
sacrifice was near at hand, carefully avoided coming into close
quarters with any of the farm servants or domestics of the estate on
which he lived. A glimpse that he had once caught of the kitchen, with
its blazing fire, and the head cook, like an executioner, with a
formidable knife chopping off the heads of some of his companions, had
been sufficient to keep him ever after in dread.
Hence, one day when he was wanted for roasting, all calling, clucking,
and coaxing of the cook's assistants were in vain.
"How deaf and dull you must be," said a Falcon to the Capon, "not to
hear when you are called, or to see when you are wanted! You should
take pattern by me. I never let my master call me twice."
"Ah," answered the Capon, "if Falcons were called like Capons, to be
run upon a spit and set before the kitchen fire, they would be just as
slow to come and just as hard of hearing as I am now."
The Crow and the Pitcher
A Crow, ready to die with thirst, flew with joy to a Pitcher, hoping to
find some water in it.
He found some there, to be sure, but only a little drop at the bottom
which he was quite unable to reach.
He then tried to overturn the Pitcher, but it was too heavy. So he
gathered up some pebbles, with which the ground near was covered and,
taking them one by one in his beak, dropped them into the Pitcher.
By this means the water gradually reached the top, and he was enabled
to drink at his ease.
The Eagle and the Owl
The Eagle and the Owl, after many quarrels, swore that they would be
fast friends forever, and that they would never harm each other's
"But do you know my little ones?" said the Owl. "If you do not, I fear
it will go hard with them when you find them."
"Nay, then, I do not," replied the Eagle.
"The greater your loss," said the Owl; "They are the sweetest prettiest
things in the world. Such bright eyes! such charming plumage! such
winning little ways! You'll know them now from my description."
A short time after the Eagle found the owlets in a hollow tree.
"These hideous little staring frights, at any rate, cannot be neighbour
Owl's delicious pets," said the Eagle; "so I may make away with them
without the least misgiving."
The Owl, finding her young ones gone, loaded the Eagle with reproaches.
"Nay," answered the Eagle, "blame yourself rather than me. If you
paint with such flattering colours, it is not my fault if I do not
recognize your portraits."
The Buffoon and the Countryman
On the occasion of some festivities that were given by a Roman
nobleman, a Merry-Andrew of a fellow caused much laughter by his tricks
upon the stage, and, more than all, by his imitation of the squeaking
of a Pig, which seemed to the hearers so real that they called for it
again and again.
A Countryman, however, in the audience, thought the imitation was not
perfect; and he made his way to the stage and said that, if he were
permitted, he to-morrow would enter the lists and squeak against the
Merry-Andrew for a wager.
The mob, anticipating great fun, shouted their consent, and
accordingly, when the next day came, the two rival jokers were in their
The hero of the previous day went first, and the hearers, more pleased
than ever, fairly roared with delight.
Then came the turn of the Countryman, who having a Pig carefully
concealed under his cloak, so that no one would have suspected its
existence, vigorously pinched its ear with his thumbnail, and made it
squeak with a vengeance.
"Not half as good—not half as good!" cried the audience, and many
among them even began to hiss.
"Fine judges you!" replied the Countryman, rushing to the front of the
stage, drawing the Pig from under his cloak, and holding the animal up
on high. "Behold the performer that you condemn!"
The Old Man, His Son, and the Ass
An Old Man and his Little Boy were once driving an Ass before them to
the next market-town, where it was to be sold.
"Have you no more wit," said a passerby, "than for you and your Son to
trudge on foot and let your Ass go light?" So the Man put his Boy on
the Ass, and they went on again.
"You lazy young rascal!" cried the next person they met; "are you not
ashamed to ride and let your poor old Father go on foot?" The Man then
lifted off the Boy and got up himself.
Two women passed soon after, and one said to the other, "Look at that
selfish old fellow, riding along while his little Son follows after on
foot!" The Old Man thereupon took up the Boy behind him.
The next traveller they met asked the Old Man whether or not the Ass
was his own. Being answered that it was: "No one would think so," said
he, "from the way in which you use it. Why, you are better able to
carry the poor animal than he is to carry both of you."
So the Old Man tied the Ass's legs to a long pole, and he and his Son
shouldered the pole and staggered along under the weight. In that
fashion they entered the town, and their appearance caused so much
laughter that the Old Man, mad with vexation at the result of his
endeavours to give satisfaction to everybody, threw the Ass into the
river and seizing his Son by the arm went his way home again.
The Lion, the Bear, the Monkey, and the Fox
The Tyrant of the Forest issued a proclamation commanding all his
subjects to repair immediately to his royal den.
Among the rest, the Bear made his appearance, but pretending to be
offended with the odour which issued from the Monarch's apartments, be
was imprudent enough to hold his nose in his Majesty's presence.
This insolence was so highly resented that the Lion in a rage laid him
dead at his feet.
The Monkey, observing what had passed, trembled for his skin, and
attempted to conciliate favour by the most abject flattery. He began
with protesting that, for his part, he thought the apartments were
perfumed with Arabian spices; and, exclaiming against the rudeness of
the Bear, admired the beauty of his Majesty's paws, so happily formed,
he said, to correct the insolence of clowns.
This adulation, instead of being received as he expected, proved no
less offensive than the rudeness of the Bear, and the courtly Monkey
was in like manner extended by the side of Sir Bruin.
And now his Majesty cast his eye upon the Fox.
"Well, Reynard," Said he, "and what scent do you discover here?"
"Great Prince," replied the cautious Fox, "my nose was never esteemed
my most distinguishing sense; and at present I would by no means
venture to give my opinion, as I have unfortunately caught a terrible
The Wolf and the Lamb
A flock of Sheep was feeding in the meadow while the Dogs were asleep,
and the Shepherd at a distance playing on his pipe beneath the shade of
a spreading elm.
A young, inexperienced Lamb, observing a half-starved Wolf peering
through the pales of the fence, began to talk with him.
"Pray, what are you seeking for here?" said the Lamb.
"I am looking," replied the Wolf, "for some tender grass; for nothing,
you know, is more pleasant than to feed in a fresh pasture, and to
slake one's thirst at a crystal stream, both which I perceive you enjoy
within these pales in their utmost perfection. Happy creature,"
continued he, "how much I envy you who have everything which I desire,
for philosophy has long taught me to be satisfied with a little!"
"It seems, then," returned the Lamb, "those who say you feed on flesh
accuse you falsely, since a little grass will easily content you. If
this be true, let us for the future live like brethren, and feed
together." So saying, the simple Lamb crept through the fence, and at
once became a prey to the pretended philosopher, and a sacrifice to his
own inexperience and credulity.
Two Travellers happened on their journey to be engaged in a warm
dispute about the colour of the Chameleon. One of them affirmed that
it was blue and that he had seen it with his own eyes upon the naked
branch of a tree, feeding in the air on a very clear day.
The other strongly asserted it was green, and that he had viewed it
very closely and minutely upon the broad leaf of a fig-tree.
Both of them were positive, and the dispute was rising to a quarrel;
but a third person luckily coming by, they agreed to refer the question
to his decision.
"Gentlemen," said the Arbitrator, with a smile of great
self-satisfaction, "you could not have been more lucky in your
reference, as I happen to have caught one of them last night; but,
indeed, you are both mistaken, for the creature is totally black."
"Black, impossible!" cried both the disputants!"
"Nay," quoth the Umpire, with great assurance, "the matter may be soon
decided, for I immediately inclosed my Chameleon in a little paper box,
and here it is." So saying, he drew it out of his pocket, opened his
box, and, lo! it was as white as snow.
The Travellers looked equally surprised and equally confounded; while
the sagacious reptile, assuming the air of a philosopher, thus
admonished them: "Ye children of men, learn diffidence and moderation
in your opinions. 'Tis true, you happen in this present instance to be
all in the right, and have only considered the subject under different
circumstances, but, pray, for the future allow others to have eyesight
as well as yourselves; nor wonder if every one prefers to accept the
testimony of his own senses."
The Eagle, the Jackdaw, and the Magpie
The kingly Eagle kept his court with all the formalities of sovereign
state, and was duly attended by all his plumed subjects in their
These solemn assemblies, however, were frequently disturbed by the
impertinent conduct of two, who assumed the importance of high-fliers;
these were no other than the Jackdaw and the Magpie, who were forever
contending for precedence which neither of them would give up to the
The contest ran so high that at length they mutually agreed to appeal
to the sovereign Eagle for his decision in this momentous affair.
The Eagle gravely answered that he did not wish to make an invidious
distinction by deciding to the advantage of either party, but would
give them a rule by which they might determine between themselves;
"for," added he, "the greater fool of the two shall in future always
take precedence, but which of you it may be, yourselves must settle."
The Boy and the Filberts
A Boy once thrust his hand into a pitcher which was full of figs and
He grasped as many as his fist could possibly hold, but when he tried
to draw it out the narrowness of the neck prevented him.
Not liking to lose any of them, but unwilling to draw out his hand, he
burst into tears and bitterly bemoaned his hard fortune.
An honest fellow who stood by gave him this wise and reasonable advice:
"Take only half as many, my boy, and you will easily get them."
The Passenger and the Pilot
In a violent storm at sea, the whole crew of a vessel was in imminent
danger of shipwreck.
After the rolling of the waves was somewhat abated, a certain
Passenger, who had never been at sea before, observing the Pilot to
have appeared wholly unconcerned, even in their greatest danger, had
the curiosity to ask him what death his father died.
"What death?" said the Pilot, "Why, he perished at sea, as my
grandfather did before him."
"And are you not afraid of trusting yourself to an element that has
proved thus fatal to your family?"
"Afraid? By no means; why, we must all die; is not your father dead?"
"Yes, but he died in his bed."
"And why, then, are you not afraid of trusting yourself to your bed?"
"Because I am perfectly secure there."
"It may be so," replied the Pilot; "but if the hand of Providence is
equally extended over all places, there is no more reason for me to be
afraid of going to sea than for you to be afraid of going to bed."
The Dog and the Crocodile
A Dog, running along the banks of the Nile, grew thirsty, but fearing
to be seized by the monsters of that river, he would not stop to
satiate his drought, but lapped as he ran.
A Crocodile, raising his head above the surface of the water, asked him
why he was in such a hurry. He had often, he said, wished for his
acquaintance, and should be glad to embrace the present opportunity.
"You do me great honour," said the Dog, "but it is to avoid such
companions as you that I am in so much haste!"
A Matter of Arbitration
Two Cats, having stolen some cheese, could not agree about dividing the
prize. In order, therefore, to settle the dispute, they consented to
refer the matter to a Monkey.
The proposed Arbitrator very readily accepted the office, and,
producing a balance, put a part into each scale. "Let me see," said
he, "aye—this lump outweighs the other"; and immediately bit off a
considerable piece in order to reduce it, he observed, to an
equilibrium. The opposite scale was now heavier, which afforded our
conscientious judge a reason for a second mouthful.
"Hold, hold," said the two Cats, who began to be alarmed for the event,
"give us our shares and we are satisfied." "If you are satisfied,"
returned the Monkey, "justice is not; a cause of this intricate nature
is by no means so soon determined." Upon which he continued to nibble
first one piece then the other, till the poor Cats, seeing their cheese
rapidly diminishing, entreated to give himself no further trouble, but
to deliver to them what remained.
"Not so fast, I beseech ye, friends," replied the Monkey; "we owe
justice to ourselves as well as to you. What remains is due to me in
right of my office."
Thus saying, he crammed the whole into his mouth, and with great
gravity dismissed the court.
The Crow and the Mussel
A Crow having found a Mussel on the seashore; took it in his beak and
tried for a long time to break the shell by hammering it upon a stone.
Another Crow—a sly old fellow—came and watched him for some time in
"Friend," said he at last, "you'll never break it in that way. Listen
to me. This is the way to do it: Fly up as high as you can, and let
the tiresome thing fall upon a rock. It will be smashed then sure
enough, and you can eat it at your leisure."
The simple-minded and unsuspecting Crow did as he was told, flew up and
let the Mussel fall.
Before he could descend to eat it, however, the other bird had pounced
upon it and carried it away.
The Ass and His Purchaser
A Man wished to purchase an Ass, and agreed with his owner that he
should try him before he bought him. He took the Ass home, and put him
in the straw-yard with his other asses, upon which the beast left all
the others and joined himself at once to the most idle and the greatest
eater of them all.
The Man put a halter on him, and led him back to his owner: and when he
was asked how, in so short a time, he could have made a trial of him,
"I do not need," he answered, "a trial; I know that he will be just
such another as the one whom of all the rest he chose for his
A Country Fellow and the River
A stupid Boy, who was sent to market by the good old woman, his Mother,
to sell butter and cheese, made a stop by the way at a swift river, and
laid himself down on the bank there, until it should run out.
About midnight, home he went to his Mother, with all his market trade
"Why, how now, my Son?" said she. "What ill fortune have you had, that
you have sold nothing all day?"
"Why, Mother, yonder is a river that has been running all this day, and
I stayed till just now, waiting for it to run out; and there it is,
"My Son," said the good woman, "thy head and mine will be laid in the
grave many a day before this river has all run by. You will never sell
your butter and cheese if you wait for that."
The Playful Ass
An Ass climbed up to the roof of a building and, frisking about there,
broke in the tiling. His Master went up after him, and quickly drove
him down, beating him severely with a thick wooden cudgel.
The Ass then cried out in astonishment, "Why, I saw the monkey do this
very thing yesterday, and you all laughed heartily, as if it afforded
you great amusement!"
The Boys and the Frogs
Some idle boys, playing near a pond, saw a number of Frogs in the
water, and began to pelt them with stones. They had killed several of
them, when one of the Frogs, lifting his head out of the water, cried
out: "Pray stop, my Boys: you forget that what is sport to you is death
The Camel and His Master
One night a Camel looked into the tent where his Master was lying and
said: "Kind Master, will you not let me put my head inside of the door?
The wind blows very cold to-night."
"Oh, yes," said the Man. "There is plenty of room."
So the Camel moved forward and stretched his head into the tent. "Ah!"
he said, "this is what I call comfort."
In a little while he called to his Master again. "Now if I could only
warm my neck also," he said.
"Then put your neck inside," said his Master, kindly. "You will not be
in my way."
The Camel did so, and for a time was very well contented. Then,
looking around, he said: "If I could only put my forelegs inside I
should feel a great deal better."
His Master moved a little and said: "You may put your forelegs and
shoulders inside, for I know that the wind blows cold to-night."
The Camel had hardly planted his forefeet within the tent when he spoke
"Master," he said, "I keep the tent open by standing here. I think I
ought to go wholly within."
"Yes, come in," said the Man. "There is hardly room for us both, but I
do not want to keep you out in the cold."
So the Camel crowded into the tent, but he was no sooner inside than he
said: "You were right when you said that there was hardly room for us
both. I think it would be better for you to stand outside and so give
me a chance to turn around and lie down."
Then, without more ado, he rudely pushed the Man out at the door, and
took the whole tent for himself.
The Flies and the Honey-pot
A jar of Honey having been upset in a housekeeper's room, a number of
Flies were attracted by its sweetness, and placing their feet in it ate
Their feet, however, became so smeared with the Honey that they could
not use their wings, nor release themselves, and so were suffocated.
Just as they were expiring, they exclaimed, "O foolish creatures that
we are; for the sake of a little pleasure we have destroyed ourselves!"
Jupiter, one day, enjoying himself over a bowl of nectar, and in a
merry humour, determined to make mankind a present.
Momus was appointed to convey it, who, mounted on a rapid car, was
presently on earth. "Come hither," said he, "ye happy mortals; great
Jupiter has opened for your benefit his all-gracious hands. 'Tis true
he made you somewhat short-sighted, but, to remedy that inconvenience,
behold now he has favoured you!"
So saying, he opened his portmanteau, when an infinite number of
spectacles tumbled out, and were picked up by the crowd with all the
eagerness imaginable. There were enough for all, for every man had his
But it was soon found that these spectacles did not represent objects
to all mankind alike; for one pair was purple, another blue; one was
white and another black; some of the glasses were red, some green, and
some yellow. In short, there were all manner of colours, and every
shade of colour. However, notwithstanding this diversity, every man
was charmed with his own, as believing it the best, and enjoyed in
opinion all the satisfaction of truth.
The Bear and the Fowls
A Bear, who was bred in the savage desert, wished to see the world, and
he travelled from forest to forest, and from one kingdom to another,
making many profound observations on his way.
One day he came by accident into a farmer's yard, where he saw a number
of Fowls standing to drink by the side of a pool. Observing that after
every sip they turned up their heads toward the sky, he could not
forbear inquiring the reason of so peculiar a ceremony.
They told him that it was by way of returning thanks to Heaven for the
benefits they received; and was indeed an ancient and religious custom,
which they could not, with a safe conscience, or without impiety, omit.
Here the Bear burst into a fit of laughter, at once mimicking their
gestures, and ridiculing their superstition, in a most contemptuous
On this the Cock, with a spirit suitable to the boldness of his
character, addressed him in the following words: "As you are a
stranger, sir, you may perhaps be excused for the indecency of your
behaviour; yet give me leave to tell you that none but a Bear would
ridicule any religious ceremonies in the presence of those who believe
them of importance."
THE FABLES OF BIDPAI
"In English now they teach us wit. In English now they say:
Ye men, come learn of beasts to live, to rule and to obey,
To guide you wisely in the world, to know to shun deceit,
To fly the crooked paths of guile, to keep your doings straight."
SIR THOMAS NORTH
THE FABLES OF BIDPAI
The Snake and the Sparrows
It is related that two Sparrows once made their nest in the roof of a
house; and, contenting themselves with a single grain, so lived. Once
on a time they had young ones, and both the mother and father used to
go out in search of food for their support; and what they procured they
made up into grains and dropped into their crops.
One day, the male Sparrow had gone out somewhere. When he came back he
beheld the female Sparrow fluttering in the greatest distress around
the nest, while she uttered piteous cries. He exclaimed, "Sweet
friend! what movements are these which I behold in thee?" She replied,
"How shall I not lament, since, when I returned after a moment's
absence, I saw a huge Snake come and prepare to devour my offspring,
though I poured forth piteous cries. It was all in vain, for the Snake
said, 'Thy sigh will have no effect on my dark-mirrored scales.' I
replied, 'Dread this, that I and the father of these children will gird
up the waist of vengeance, and will exert ourselves to the utmost for
thy destruction.' The Snake laughed on hearing me, and that cruel
oppressor has devoured my young and has also taken his rest in the
When the male Sparrow heard this story, his frame was wrung with
anguish; and the fire of regret for the loss of his offspring fell on
his soul. At that moment the master of the house was engaged in
lighting his lamp; and holding in his hand a match, dipped in grease
and lighted, was about to put it into the lamp-holder. The Sparrow
flew and snatched the match from his hand and threw it into the nest.
The master of the house, through fear that the fire would catch to the
roof, and that the consequences would be most pernicious, immediately
ran up on the terrace and began clearing away the nest from beneath, in
order to put out the fire. The Snake beheld in front the danger of the
fire, and heard above the sound of the pickaxe. It put out its head
from a hole which it had near the roof, and no sooner did it do so than
it received a blow of death from the pickaxe.
And the moral of this fable is, that the Snake despised its enemy, and
made no account of him, until in the end that enemy pounded his head
with the stone of vengeance.
The Geese and the Tortoise
It is related that in a pool whose pure water reflected every image
like a clear mirror, once resided two Geese and a Tortoise, and in
consequence of their being neighbours, the thread of their
circumstances had been drawn out into sincere friendship, and they
passed their lives contentedly.
In that water which was the source of their life and the support of
their existence, however, a complete failure began to manifest itself,
and a glaring alteration became evident. When the Geese perceived that
state of things they withdrew their hearts from the home to which they
were accustomed and determined on emigrating. Therefore with hearts
full of sorrow and eyes full of tears, they approached the Tortoise,
and introduced the subject of parting.
The Tortoise wept at the intelligence and piteously exclaimed, "What
words are these, and how can existence be supported without
sympathizing friends? And since that I have not power even to take
leave, how can I endure the load of separation?"
The Geese replied: "Our hearts, too, are wounded by the sharp points of
absence, but the distress of being without water is impossible to
endure, and therefore of necessity we are about to forsake our friend
The Tortoise rejoined: "O friends! ye know that the distress of the
want of water affects me more, and that without water I cannot support
myself. At this crisis the rights of ancient companionship demand that
ye should take me with you, and not leave me alone in the sorrowful
abode of separation."
The Geese answered: "O esteemed comrade! the pang of parting from thee
is sharper than that of exile, and wherever we go, though we should
pass our time in the utmost comfort, yet, deprived of seeing thee, the
eye of our rejoicing would be darkened; but for us to proceed on the
earth's surface and so to traverse a great and long distance is
impossible, and for thee, too, to fly through the expanse of air and
accompany us is impracticable; and such being the case, how can we
The Tortoise answered: "Your sagacity will be able to devise a remedy
for this matter, and what plan can develop while my spirit is broken by
the thought of parting?"
The Geese replied: "O friend! during this period of our friendship we
have observed in thee somewhat of hastiness and rashness; perhaps thou
wilt not act upon what we say, nor keep firm to thy promise after thou
hast made it."
The Tortoise rejoined; "How can it be that ye should speak with a view
to my advantage, and I fail to perform a compact which is for my own
Said the Geese: "The condition is that when we take thee up and fly
through the air thou wilt not utter a single syllable, for any one who
may happen to see us will be sure to throw in a word, and say something
in reference to us directly or indirectly. Now, how many soever
allusions thou mayest hear, or whatever manoeuvres thou mayest observe,
thou must close the path of reply, and not loose thy tongue."
The Tortoise answered: "I am obedient to your commands, and I will
positively place the seal of silence on my lips, so that I shall not be
even disposed to answer any creature."
The Geese then brought a stick, and the Tortoise laid hold of the
middle of it firmly with his teeth, and they, lifting the two ends of
the stick, bore him up. When they got to a height in the air, they
happened to pass over a village, and the inhabitants thereof having
discovered them, were astonished at their proceedings, and came out to
look at the sight, and raised a shout from left and right, "Look! how
two geese are carrying a tortoise!"
And as in those days the like of it had never been witnessed by that
people, their cries and exclamations increased every moment. The
Tortoise was silent for a time, but at length the cauldron of his
self-esteem began to boil, and his patience being exhausted, he
exclaimed: "You who are shouting to others to look at what is plain
enough to every one, hold your peace!" No sooner had he opened his
lips, however, than he fell from on high, and the Geese exclaimed, "It
is the part of friends to give advice and of the well-disposed to
listen to it."
And the moral of this story is, that whoever listens not to the
admonition of friends, with the hearing of acceptance, will have
hastened his own destruction.
The Sagacious Snake
It is related that the infirmities of age had taken effect upon a Snake
and through loss of strength he was unable to pursue his prey, and was
bewildered in his proceedings how to obtain food. Life was impossible
without food, and to hunt for it, had, through his weakness, become
impracticable. Accordingly he thus reflected:
"Alas! for the strength of my youth; and now to expect its return and
to hope for the recurrence of my animal vigour is a thing of the same
complexion as to light a fire from water." He felt that what was
passed could not be recalled, and he therefore busied himself with
taking thought for the future, and said: "In lieu of the strength of
youth I have a little experience which I have acquired, and a trifle of
prudence. I must now base my proceedings on abstaining from injuring
others and must begin to consider how I may obtain, for the remainder
of my life, what may be the means of support."
He then went to the brink of a spring of water in which there were a
number of frogs who had a potent King and one who was obeyed and
renowned. The Snake cast himself down there in the dust of the road,
like to a sufferer on whom calamity has fallen. A Frog speedily made
up to him, and asked him: "I see thou art very sorrowful. What is the
cause of it?" The Snake replied: "Who deserves more to grieve than I,
whose maintenance was from hunting frogs? Today an event has occurred
which has rendered the pursuit of them unlawful to me, and if I
seriously designed to seize one, I could not." The Frog went away and
told the King, who was amazed at this strange circumstance, and coming
to the Snake, asked him: "What is the cause of this accident that has
befallen thee and what act has brought down this upon thee?"
The Snake replied: "O King, greed plunged me into calamity, and this
befell as follows: One day I attempted to seize a Frog, which fled from
me and took refuge in the house of a holy man. My appetite led me to
follow him into the house, which happened to be dark. The son of the
holy man lay there asleep, and his great toe coming against me I
fancied it was the Frog. From the ardour of my greediness I closed my
teeth upon it, and the child died on the spot. The holy man discovered
the fact, and from regret for his son, attacked me, and I, turning
toward the open country, fled with speed, and the recluse pursued me
and cursed me, and said: 'I desire of my Creator that He will make thee
base and powerless, and cause thee to be the vehicle of the Frog-king.
And, verily, thou shalt not have power to eat Frogs, save what their
King shall bestow on thee as alms.' And now, of necessity, I have come
hither that the King may ride upon me, and I have acquiesced in the
will of God."
The matter pleased the King of the Frogs, and he thought that it would
redound to his advantage; and he at once seated himself upon the Snake,
and indulged in vainglorious airs in consequence.
Some time passed in this way. At last the Snake said: "May the life of
the King be prolonged! I cannot do without food and sustenance, that I
may support life thereon and fulfil this service." The King said: "The
case is as thou sayest; I cannot do without my steed, and my steed
cannot have strength without food." He then fixed two Frogs as his
daily allowance, that he might use as his regular supply for breakfast
and dinner. The Snake maintained himself on that allowance; and
inasmuch as the attention he paid to the Frog-king involved a benefit
to himself he did not find fault with it.
And this story is adduced to make it apparent that courtesy and
humility are readier means to uproot an enemy than war and contest.
The Old Woman's Cat
In former times there lived an old woman in a state of extreme
debility. She possessed a cot more narrow than the heart of the
ignorant and darker than the miser's grave; and a Cat was her
companion, which had never seen, even in the mirror of imagination, the
face of a loaf, nor had heard from friend or stranger the name of meat.
It was content if occasionally it smelt the odour of a mouse from its
hole, or saw the print of the foot of one on the surface of a board,
and if, on some rare occasion, by the aid of good fortune one fell into
its claws, it subsisted a whole week, more or less, on that amount of
And, inasmuch as the house of the old woman was the famine-year of that
Cat, it was always miserable and thin, and from a distance appeared
like an idea.
One day, through excessive weakness, it had, with the utmost
difficulty, mounted on the top of the roof; thence it beheld a Cat
which walked proudly on the wall of a neighbouring house, and after the
fashion of a destroying lion advanced with measured steps, and from
excessive fat lifted its feet slowly. When the Cat of the old woman
saw this, it was astonished and cried out, saying: "Thou, whose state
is thus pleasant, whence art thou? and since it appears that thou
comest from the banquet-chamber of the Khan of Khata, whence is this
sleekness of thine, and from what cause this thy grandeur and strength?"
The Neighbour-Cat replied: "I am the crumb-eater of the tray of the
Sultan. Every morning I attend on the court of the king, and when they
spread the tray of invitation, I display boldness and daring, and in
general I snatch off some morsels of fat meats, and of loaves made of
the finest flour; and thus I pass my time happy and satisfied till the
The Cat of the old woman inquired: "What sort of a thing may fat meat
be? and what kind of relish has bread, made of fine flour? I, during
my whole life, have never seen nor tasted aught save the old woman's
broths, and mouse's flesh."
The Neighbour-Cat laughed, and said: "Therefore it is that one cannot
distinguish thee from a spider, and this form and appearance that thou
hast is a reproach to our whole race. If thou shouldst see the court
of the Sultan and smell the odour of those delicious viands, thou
wouldst acquire a fresh form."
The Cat of the old woman, said, most beseechingly, "O brother! thou art
bound to me by neighbourship and kinship; why not this time, when thou
goest, take me with thee? Perchance, by thy good fortune, I may obtain
The heart of the Neighbour-Cat melted at the speaker's lamentable
position, and he resolved that he would not attend the feast without
him. The Cat of the old woman felt new life at these tidings, and
descending from the roof stated the case to his mistress. The old dame
began to advise the Cat, saying: "O kind companion, be not deceived by
the words of worldly people and abandon not the corner of content, for
the vessel of covetousness is not filled save with the dust of the
grave." But the Cat had taken into its head such a longing for the
delicacies of the Sultan's table that the medicine of advice was not
profitable to it.
In short, the next day, along with its neighbour, the old woman's Cat,
with tottering steps conveyed itself to court, but before it could
arrive there ill-fortune had poured the water of disappointment on the
fire of its wish, and the reason was as follows:
The day before, the cats had made a general onslaught on the table, and
raised an uproar beyond bounds, and annoyed, to the last degree, the
guests and their host. Wherefore, on this day, the Sultan had
commanded that a band of archers, standing in ambush, should watch, so
that for every cat who, holding before its face the buckler of
impudence should enter the plain of audacity, the very first morsel
that it ate should be a liver-piercing shaft.
The old woman's Cat, ignorant of this circumstance, as soon as it smelt
the odour of the viands, turned its face like a falcon to the
hunting-ground of the table, and the scale of the balance of appetite
had not yet been weighted by heavy mouthfuls, when the heart-piercing
arrow quivered in its breast.
Dear friend! the honey pays not for the sting,
Content with syrup is a better thing.
The Young Tiger
In the environs of Basrah there was an island of excessively pleasant
climate, where limpid waters flowed on every side and life-bestowing
zephyrs breathed around.
From its excessive exquisiteness they called it the "Joy-expanding
Wilderness," and a Tiger bore sway there, such that from dread of him
fierce lions could not set foot in that retreat.
He had lived much time in that wild, according to his wish, and had
never seen the form of disappointment in the mirror of existence. He
had a young one whose countenance made the world seem bright to him,
and his intention was that when that young one came to years he would
commit that solitude to his charge, and pass the rest of his life at
ease in the corner of retirement. The blossom of his wish had not yet
expanded on the stem of desire when the autumn of death gave the fruit
of the garden of his existence to the mind of destruction.
And when this Tiger was seized by the claw of the Lion, Death, several
wild beasts who for a long time entertained a desire for that
wilderness made a unanimous movement and set about appropriating it.
The young Tiger saw that he possessed not the strength to resist. He
went voluntarily into exile, and amongst the wild beasts a huge contest
arose. A blood-spilling Lion overcame all the others and brought the
island into his own possession, and the young Tiger, having for some
time endured distress in the mountains and wastes, conveyed himself to
another haunt, and disclosed his affliction to the wild beasts of that
district, asking their aid to find a remedy.
They, having received intelligence of the victory of the Lion, and his
overpowering might, said: "O unfortunate! thy place is now in the
possession of a Lion such that from terror of him the wild birds will
not fly over that wilderness, and from fear of him the elephant will
not approach. We have not strength to fight with him and thou too art
not able to enter with him the arena of strife. Our opinion demands
that thou shouldst betake thyself to his court, and with perfect
loyalty enter his service."
These words seemed reasonable to the young Tiger, and he looked upon
his best course to be this—that he should voluntarily enter the
service of the Lion, and, to the extent of his ability, offer the
duties of attendance. Through the intervention of one of the nobles he
obtained the honour of waiting on the Lion, and, having become the
object of the imperial regard, was appointed to an office suited to his
spirit. Having tightly fastened the belt of obedience on the waist of
affection the royal favour was constantly augmented and he incessantly
displayed increased exertion in the affairs of the state.
Upon a certain time an important matter arose which called the Lion
away to a distant jungle; and at that time the heat of the oven of the
sky was unmitigated, and the expanse of waste and mountain like a
furnace of glass fiercely inflamed. From the excessive heat of the
air, the brains of animals were boiled in their craniums, and the crabs
in the water were fried like fish in the frying-pan.
The Lion reflected: "At such a time, when the shell at the bottom of
the deep, like a fowl on a spit, is roasting, an affair of this
importance has occurred. Who may there be among my attendants who
would not be affected by the labour and who, undeterred by the heat of
the atmosphere, would approach this undertaking?"
In the midst of this reflection the Tiger came in with the line of
attendants and observed that the Lion was thoughtful. On the ground of
his tact and affection, he advanced near the throne of royalty, and was
emboldened to ask the cause of that thoughtfulness, and having learned
how the case stood, he took upon himself to accomplish the matter, and
having been honoured with permission, he set off with a body of
attendants, and, arriving at that place at noon, he betook himself to
the accomplishment of that affair, and the instant that the business
was settled to his satisfaction he changed his reins to return.
The officers who had been appointed to attend him unanimously
represented as follows: "In such heat as this, all this distance has
been traversed by the steps of completion, and now that the affair has
been settled and the confidence placed in you by his majesty been
demonstrated, it will certainly be advisable if you should repose a
short time in the shade of a tree and allay the fiery tongue of thirst
by drinking cool water."
The Tiger smiled and said: "My intimacy and rank with his majesty the
king is a banner that I have by toil and effort set up. It would not
be well to level it with the ground by indulgence and sloth. Without
supporting trouble it is impossible to arrive at the carrying off of
treasure, and unaccompanied by the thorn we cannot reap the enjoyment
of the rose garden."
The informers furnished intelligence of this to the Lion, and recited
the book of the affair, from preface to conclusion. The Lion nodded
the head of approval, and said: "The people may be at peace in the just
reign of that ruler who does not place his head on the pillow of
repose." He then sent for the Tiger, and having distinguished him with
special honours, committed that jungle to him, and, having bestowed on
him the place of his sire, conferred on him, in addition, the dignity
of being his heir.
And the use of this fable is, that thou mayest learn that to no one
does the sun of his wish rise from the eastern quarter of hope without
the diligent use of great exertion.
The Fox and the Drum
It is related that a Fox was once prowling over a moor, and was roaming
in every direction in hope of scenting food. Presently he came to the
foot of a tree, at the side of which they had suspended a drum, and
whenever a gust of wind came, a branch of the tree was put in motion,
and struck the surface of the drum, when a terrible noise arose from it.
The Fox, seeing a domestic fowl under the tree, who was pecking the
ground with her beak, and searching for food, planted himself in
ambush, and wished to make her his prey, when all of a sudden the sound
of a drum reached his ear. He looked and saw a very fat form, and a
prodigious sound from it reached his hearing. The appetite of the Fox
was excited, and he thought to himself, "Assuredly its flesh and skin
will be proportioned to its voice."
He issued from his lurking-place and turned toward the tree. The fowl
being put on its guard by that circumstance, fled, and the Fox, by a
hundred exertions, ascended the tree. Much did he labour till he had
torn the drum, and then he found nought save a skin and a piece of
wood. The fire of regret descended into his heart, and the water of
contrition began to run from his eyes, and he said: "Alas! that by
reason of this huge bulk which is all wind, that lawful prey has
escaped from my hand, and from this empty form no advantage has
resulted to me."
Loudly ever sounds the labour,
But in vain—within is nought:
Art thou wise, for substance labour,
Semblance will avail thee nought.
The Sparrows and the Falcon
Two Sparrows once fixed their nest on the branch of a tree; and of
worldly gear, water and grain sufficed them; while on the summit of a
mountain, beneath which that tree lay, a Falcon had its abode, which,
at the time of stooping on its quarry, issued from its lurking-place
like lightning, and, like heaven's bolt, clean consumed the feebler
Whenever the Sparrows produced young, and the time was near at hand for
them to fly, that Falcon, rushing forth from its ambush, used to carry
them off and make them food for its own young. Now, to those
Sparrows—in accordance with the saying, "The law of home is a part of
faith"—to migrate from that place was impossible, and yet from the
cruelty of the tyrannous Hawk it was difficult to reside there.
On one occasion their young ones, having gained strength and put forth
feathers and wings, were able to move; and the father and mother,
pleased with the sight of their offspring, testified their joy at their
attempt to fly.
Suddenly the thought of the Falcon passed through their minds, and, all
at once, they began to lament from anxiety.
One of their children—in whose countenance the signs of ripe
discretion were visible—having inquired the reason of their
despondency, they recounted the history of the Falcon's oppression and
of its carrying off their young, with all the particulars.
The son said; "The Causer of Causes has sent a cure for every sorrow.
It is probable that if ye exert yourselves in repelling this misfortune
both this calamity will be averted from our heads and this burden
removed from your hearts."
These words pleased the Sparrows; and while one of them stopped to
attend the young ones, the other flew forth in search of relief. He
resolved in his mind on the way that he would tell his story to
whatsoever animal his eyes first fell upon, and ask a remedy for his
heart's distress from it.
It happened that a Salamander, having come forth from a mine of fire,
was wandering in the spreading plain of the desert. When the glance of
the Sparrow lighted upon him, and that strange form came into his view,
he said to himself: "I have fallen upon good! Come on, I will disclose
the grief of my heart to this marvellous bird; perhaps he may undo the
knot of my affairs and may show me the way to a remedy." Then with the
utmost respect, he advanced to the Salamander, and after the usual
salutation, paid the compliment of offering service. The Salamander,
too, in a kind tone, expressed the courtesy required toward travellers
and said: "The traces of weariness are discernible in thy countenance.
If this arises from journeying, be pleased to halt some days in this
neighbourhood; and if the case be aught else, explain it, that, to the
extent of my power, I may exert myself to remedy it."
The Sparrow loosed his tongue, and represented to the Salamander his
piteous condition, after a fashion, that, had he told it to a rock, it
would have been rent in pieces by his distress.
After hearing his tale, the Salamander, too, felt the fire of
compassion kindled, and he said; "Grieve not! for I will this night
take such measures as to consume the Falcon's abode and nest and all
that therein is. Do thou point out to me thy dwelling, and go to thy
offspring until the time I come to thee."
The Sparrow indicated his dwelling in such a way as not to leave a
doubt in the mind of the Salamander; and with a glad heart turned
toward his own nest. When the night came on, the Salamander, with a
number of its own kind, each carrying a quantity of naphtha and
brimstone, set off in the direction of the spot, and under the guidance
of that Sparrow conveyed themselves to the vicinity of the Falcon's
The latter, unaware of the impending misfortune, had, with its young,
eaten plentifully and fallen asleep. The Salamanders cast upon their
nest all the naphtha and brimstone that they had brought with them and
turned back and the blast of justice fell upon those oppressors. They
rose up from the sleep of negligence and all of them, with their abode
and nest, were at once consumed to ashes.
And this instance is given that thou mayest know that every one who
labours to repel an enemy, though he be small and weak, and his foe
great and strong, may yet hope for victory and triumph.
The Hermit, the Thief, and the Demon
It is related that a Hermit of pure disposition, abstemious and
virtuous, had made his cell in one of the environs of Baghdad, and
passed his morning and evening hours in the worship of the All-wise
King, and by these means had shaken his skirt clear from the dust of
worldly affairs. He had bowed his head in the corner of contentment
under the collar of freedom from care, and rested satisfied with the
portion that was supplied to him from the invisible world.
One of his sincere disciples got knowledge of the poverty and fastings
of the Holy Man, and by way of offering, brought to the hermitage a she
buffalo, young and fat, with whose delicious milk the palate of desire
was oiled and sweetened.
A thief beheld the circumstance, and his hungry appetite was excited;
and he set off for the cell of the recluse. A demon, too, joined him
in the likeness of a man. The thief asked him: "Who art thou, and
whither goest thou?" He replied: "I am a demon, who have assumed this
shape, and, putting on this guise, am going to the hermitage of the
recluse, for many of the people of this country, through the blessing
of his instruction, have begun to repent and to be converted and the
market of our temptations has become flat. I wish to get an
opportunity and kill him. This is my story which thou hast heard; now,
tell me, who art thou and what is thy story?" The thief replied:
"I am a man whose trade is roguery, and I am occupied night and day
with thinking how to steal some one's goods and impose the scar of
affliction on his heart. I am now going, as the recluse has got a fat
buffalo, to steal it and use it for my own wants." The demon said;
"Praise be to God that the bond of kinship is strong between us, and
this alone is sufficient to ally us, since the object of both is to
They then proceeded on their way, and at night reached the cell of the
recluse. The latter had finished the performance of his daily worship,
and had gone to sleep, just as he was, on his prayer-carpet. The thief
bethought himself, that if the demon attempted to kill him he would
probably awake and make an outcry; and the other people who were his
neighbours, would be alarmed, and in that case it would be impossible
to steal the buffalo. The demon, too, reflected that if the thief
carried off the buffalo from the house, he must of course open the
door. Then the noise of the door would very likely awaken the recluse,
and he should have to postpone killing him. He then said to the thief:
"Do thou wait and give me time to kill the hermit, and then do thou
steal the buffalo." The thief rejoined: "Stop thou till I steal the
buffalo, and then kill the hermit."
This difference was prolonged between them, and at last the words of
both came to wrangling. The thief was so annoyed that he called out to
the recluse: "There is a demon here who wants to kill thee." The
demon, too, shouted: "Here is a thief, who wants to steal thy buffalo."
The hermit was roused by the uproar, and raised a cry, whereupon the
neighbours came, and both the thief and the demon ran way; and the life
and property of the Holy Man remained safe and secure through the
quarrel of his enemies.
When the two hostile armies fall to strife,
Then from its sheath what need to draw the knife?
The King and the Hawk
It is related that in ancient times there was a King fond of hunting.
He was ever giving reins to the courser of his desire in the pursuit of
game, and was always casting the lasso of gladness over the neck of
sport. Now this King had a Hawk, who at a single flight could bring
down a pebble from the peak of the Caucasus, and in terror of whose
claws the constellation Aquila kept himself in the green nest of the
sky; and the King had a prodigious fondness for this Hawk and always
cared for it with his own hands.
It happened one day that the Monarch, holding the Hawk on his hand, had
gone to the chase. A stag leapt up before him and he galloped after it
with the utmost eagerness. But he did not succeed in coming up with
it, and became separated from his retinue and servants; and though some
of them followed him, the King rode so hotly that the morning breeze
could not have reached the dust he raised.
Meantime the fire of his thirst was kindled, and the intense desire to
drink overcame the King. He galloped his steed in every direction in
search of water until he reached the skirt of a mountain, and beheld
that from its summit limpid water was trickling. The King drew forth a
cup which he had in his quiver, and riding under the mountain filled
the cup with that water, which fell drop by drop, and was about to take
a draught, when the Hawk made a blow with his wing, and spilled all the
water in the goblet. The King was vexed at this action, but held the
cup a second time under the rock, until it was brimful. He then raised
it to his lips again, and again the Hawk made a movement and overthrew
the cup. The King rendered impatient by thirst, dashed the Hawk on the
ground and killed it.
Shortly after a stirrup-holder of the King came up and saw the Hawk
dead, and the Monarch athirst. He then undid a water-vessel from his
saddle-cord and washed the cup clean, and was about to give the King a
drink. The latter bade him ascend the mountain, as he had an
inclination for the pure water which trickled from the rock; and could
not wait to collect it in the cup, drop by drop. The stirrup-holder
ascended the mountain and beheld a spring giving out a drop at a time
with a hundred stintings; and a huge serpent lay dead on the margin of
the fountain; and as the heat of the sun had taken effect upon it, the
poisonous saliva mixed with the water of that mountain, and it trickled
drop by drop down the rock.
The stirrup-holder was overcome with horror, and came down from the
mountain bewildered, and represented the state of the case, and gave
the King a cup of cold water from his ewer. The latter raised the cup
to his lips, and his eyes overflowed with tears. The attendant asked
the reason of his weeping. The King drew a sigh from his anguished
heart and relating in full the story of the Hawk and the spilling of
the water in the cup, said: "I grieve for the death of the Hawk, and
bemoan my own deed in that without inquiry I have deprived a creature,
so dear to me, of life." The attendant replied: "This Hawk protected
thee from a great peril, and has established a claim to the gratitude
of all the people of this country. It would have been better if the
King had not been precipitate in slaying it, and had quenched the fire
of wrath with the water of mildness."
The King replied; "I repent of this unseemly action; but my repentance
is now unavailing, and the wound of this sorrow cannot be healed by any
salve"; and this story is related in order that it may be known that
many such incidents have occurred where, through the disastrous results
of precipitation, men have fallen into the whirlpool of repentance.
The Mouse and the Frog
It is related that a Mouse had taken up its abode on the brink of a
fountain and had fixed its residence at the foot of a tree.
A Frog, too, passed his time in the water there, and sometimes came to
the margin of the pool to take the air. One day, coming to the edge of
the water, he continued uttering his voice in a heart-rending cadence
and assumed himself to be a nightingale of a thousand melodies.
At that time the Mouse was engaged in chanting in a corner of his cell.
Directly he heard the uproarious yelling of the Frog he was astounded,
and came out with the intention of taking a look at the reciter; and
while occupied with listening to him, kept smiting his hands together
and shaking his head. These gestures, which seemed to display
approbation, pleased the Frog and he made advances toward acquaintance
with him. In short, being mutually pleased with each other, they
became inseparable companions, and used to narrate to each other
entertaining stories and tales.
One day the Mouse said to the Frog: "I am oftentimes desirous of
disclosing to thee a secret and recounting to thee a grief which I have
at heart, and at that moment thou art abiding under the water. However
much I shout thou nearest me not, owing to the noise of the water, and
in spite of my crying to thee, the sound cannot reach thee, because of
the clamour of the other frogs. We must devise some means by which
thou mayest know when I come to the brink of the water, and thus mayest
be informed of my arrival without my shouting to thee."
The Frog said: "Thou speakest the truth. I, too, have often pondered
uneasily, thinking, should my friend come to the brink of the water,
how shall I, at the bottom of this fountain, learn his arrival? And it
sometimes happens that I, too, come to the mouth of thy hole, and thou
hast gone out from another side, and I have to wait long. I had
intended to have touched somewhat on this subject before, but now the
arrangement of it rests with thee."
The Mouse replied: "I have got hold of the thread of a plan, and it
appears to me the best thing to get a long string, and to fasten one
end to thy foot, and tie the other tight around my own, in order that
when I come to the water's edge and shake the string, thou mayest know
what I want; and if thou, too, art so kind as to come to the door of my
cell, I may also get information by thy jerking the string." Both
parties agreed to this, and the knot of friendship was in this manner
firmly secured, and they were also kept informed of one another's
condition. One day, the Mouse came to the water's edge to seek the
Frog, in order to renew their friendly converse. All of a sudden a
Crow, like an unforeseen calamity, flew down from the air, and
snatching up the Mouse, soared aloft, with him. The string which was
tied to the leg of the Mouse drew forth the Frog from the bottom of the
water, and, as the other leg was fastened to the Frog's leg, he was
suspended head downward in the air. The Crow flew on, holding the
Mouse in its beak, and lower still the Frog hanging head downward.
People witnessing that extraordinary sight were uttering in the road
various jokes and sarcasms: "A strange thing this, that contrary to his
wont, a crow has made a prey of a frog!" and "Never before was a frog
the prey of a crow!"
The Frog was howling out in reply: "Now, too, a Frog is not the prey of
a Crow, but from the bad luck of associating with a Mouse, I have been
caught in this calamity, and he who associates with a different species
deserves a thousand times as much."
And this story carries with it this beneficial advice: That no one
ought to associate with one of a different race, in order that, like
the Frog, he may not be suspended on the string of calamity.
The Crow and the Partridge
It is related that one day a Crow was flying and saw a Partridge, which
was walking gracefully on the ground with a quick step and graceful
gait that enchanted the heart of the looker-on.
The Crow was pleased with the gait of the Partridge, and amazed at its
agility. The desire of walking in the same manner fixed itself in his
mind, and the insane longing to step proudly, after this fascinating
fashion, made its appearance. He forthwith girt his loins in
attendance on the Partridge, and abandoning sleep and food, gave
himself up to that arduous occupation, and kept continually running in
the traces of the Partridge and gazing on its progress.
One day the Partridge said: "O crazy, black-faced one! I observe that
thou art ever hovering about me, and art always watching my motions.
What is it that thou dost want?"
The Crow replied: "O thou of graceful manners and sweet smiling face,
know that having conceived a desire to learn thy gait, I have followed
thy steps for a long time past, and wish to acquire thy manner of
walking, in order that I may place the foot of preeminence on the head
of my fellows."
The Partridge uttered a merry laugh, and said: "Alack! alack! My
walking gracefully is a thing implanted in me by nature, and thy style
of going is equally a natural characteristic. My going is in one way,
and thy mode of procedure is quite another. Leave off this fancy and
relinquish this idea."
The Crow replied: "Since I have plunged into this affair, no idle
stories shall make me give it up; and until I grasp my wished-for
object, I will not turn back from this road."
So the unfortunate Crow for a long time ran after the Partridge, and
having failed to learn his method of going, forgot his own too, and
could in nowise recover it.
FABLES FROM THE HITOPADESA
"This work entitled Hitopadesa, or Friendly Instructor, affordeth
elegance in the Sanskrit idioms, in every part variety of language, and
inculcateth the doctrine of prudence and policy."
FABLES FROM THE HITOPADESA
The Traveller and the Tiger
A traveller, through lust of gold, being plunged into an inextricable
mire, is killed and devoured by an old tiger.
As I was travelling on the southern road, once upon a time, I saw an
old Tiger seated upon the bank of a large river, with a bunch of kusa
grass in his paw, calling out to every one who passed: "Ho! ho!
traveller, take this golden bracelet," but every one was afraid to
approach him to receive it. At length, however, a certain wayfarer,
tempted by avarice, regarded it as an instance of good fortune; but,
said he, in this there is personal danger, in which we are not
warranted to proceed. Yet, said he, there is risk in every undertaking
for the acquisition of wealth.
The Traveller then asked where was the bracelet; and the Tiger, having
held out his paw, showed it to him and said, "Look at it, it is a
golden bracelet." "How shall I place confidence in thee?" said the
Traveller; and the Tiger replied: "Formerly, in the days of my youth, I
was of a very wicked disposition, and as a punishment for the many men
and cattle I had murdered, my numerous children died, and I was also
deprived of my wife; so, at present, I am destitute of relations. This
being the case, I was advised, by a certain holy person, to practise
charity and other religious duties, and I am now grown extremely
devout. I perform ablutions regularly, and am charitable. Why, then,
am I not worthy of confidence?"
"So far, you see," continued the Tiger, "I have an interest in wishing
to give away to some one this golden bracelet from off my own wrist;
and as thou appearest to be rather a poor man, I prefer giving it to
thee; according to this saying:
"'Make choice of the poor, and bestow not thy gifts on others.' Then
go, and having purified thyself in this stream, take the golden
The Traveller no sooner began to enter the river to purify himself,
than he stuck fast in the mud, and was unable to escape. The Tiger
told him he would help him out; and creeping softly toward him, the
poor man was seized, and instantly exclaimed to himself: "Alas! the
career of my heart is cut short by fate!"
But whilst the unfortunate fellow was thus meditating, he was devoured
by the Tiger. Hence also, it is at no time proper to undertake
anything without examination.
The Jackal and the Cat
To one whose family and profession are unknown, one should not give
residence: the Jackal Jarad-gava was killed through the fault of a Cat.
On the banks of the river Bhageerathee, and upon the mountain
Greedhra-koota, there is a large parkattee tree, in the hollow of whose
trunk there dwelt a Jackal, by name Jarad-gava, who, by some accident,
was grown blind, and for whose support the different birds who roosted
upon the branches of the same tree were wont to contribute a trifle
from their own stores, by which he existed. It so fell out, that one
day a certain Cat, by name Deerga-karna, came there to prey upon the
young birds, whom perceiving, the little nestlings were greatly
terrified, and began to be very clamorous; and their cries being heard
by Jarad-gava, he asked who was coming. The Cat Deerga-karna, too,
seeing the Jackal, began to be alarmed, and said to himself: "Oh! I
shall certainly be killed, for now that I am in his sight, it will not
be in my power to escape. However, let what will be the consequence, I
will approach him." So, having thus resolved, he went up to the
Jackal, and said: "Master, I salute thee!" "Who art thou?" demanded
the Jackal. Said he, "I am a Cat." "Ah! wicked animal," cried the
Jackal, "get thee at a distance; for if thou dost not, I will put thee
"Hear me for a moment," replied Puss, "and then determine whether I
merit either to be punished or to be killed; for what is any one,
simply by birth, to be punished or applauded? When his deeds have been
scrutinized, he may, indeed, be either praiseworthy or punishable."
The Jackal after this desired the Cat to give some account of himself,
and he complied in the following words: "I am," said he, "in the
constant habit of performing ablutions on the side of this river; I
never eat flesh, and I lead that mode of life which is called
Brahma-Charya. So, as thou art distinguished amongst those of thy
own species, noted for skill in religious matters, and as a repository
of confidence, and as the birds here are always speaking before me in
praise of thy good qualities, I am come to hear from thy mouth, who art
so old in wisdom, the duties of religion. Thou, master, art acquainted
with the customs of life; but these young birds, who are in ignorance,
would fain drive me, who am a stranger, away. The duties of a
housekeeper are thus enjoined:
"Hospitality is commanded to be exercised, even toward an enemy, when
he cometh to thine house. The tree doth not withdraw its shade, even
from the wood-cutter.
"Some straw, a room, water, and in the fourth place, gentle words.
These things are never to be refused in good men's houses."
To all this the Jackal replied: "Cats have a taste for animal food, and
above is the residence of the young birds: it is on this account I
speak to thee."
The Cat, having touched his two ears, and then the ground, exclaimed:
"I, who have read books upon the duties of religion, and am freed from
inordinate desires, have forsaken such an evil practice; and, indeed,
even amongst those who dispute with one another about the authority of
the Sastras, there are many by whom this sentence: 'Not to kill is a
supreme duty,' is altogether approved."
The Cat by these means having satisfied the jackal, he remained in the
hollow of the tree with him and passed the time in amusing
conversation; and the Jackal told the young birds that they had no
occasion to go out of the way.
After this, when many days had passed, it was discovered that the Cat
had, by degrees, drawn all the little birds down into the hollow of the
tree, and there devoured them; but when he found inquiry was about to
be made by those whose young ones had been eaten, he slipped out of the
hole and made his escape. In the meantime, the bones of the young ones
having been discovered in the hollow of the tree by the parent birds,
who had been searching here and there, they concluded that their little
ones had been devoured by the Jackal, and so, being joined by other
birds, they put him to death.
Wherefore I say, "To one whose family and profession are unknown, one
should not give residence."
Forsaking all worldly concerns to lead a godly life.
The Greedy Jackal
A hoard should always be made; but not too great a hoard. A Jackal,
through the fault of hoarding too much, was killed by a bow.
A certain Huntsman, by name Bhirava, being fond of flesh, once upon a
time went to hunt in the forests of the Vindhya mountains and having
killed a Deer, as he was carrying him away, he chanced to see a wild
Boar of a formidable appearance. So, laying the Deer upon the ground,
he wounded the Boar with an arrow; but, upon his approaching him, the
horrid animal set up a roar dreadful as the thunder of the clouds, and
wounding the Huntsman in the groin, he fell like a tree cut off by the
axe. At the same time, a Serpent, of that species which is called
Ajagara, pressed by hunger and wandering about, rose up and bit the
Boar, who instantly fell helpless upon him, and remained upon the spot.
The body having encountered some efficient cause, water, fire, poison,
the sword, hunger, sickness, or a fall from an eminence, is forsaken by
the vital spirits.
In the meantime, a Jackal, by name Deergharava, prowling about in
search of prey, discovered the Deer, the Huntsman, and the Boar; and
having observed them, he said to himself: "Here is a fine feast
prepared for me; with their flesh I shall have food to eat. The Man
will last me for a whole month, and the Deer and the Boar for two more;
then the Serpent will serve me a day; and let me taste the bow-string
too. But, in the first place, let me try that which is the least
savoury. Suppose, then, I eat this catgut line which is fastened to
the bow": saying so, he drew near to eat it; but the instant he had bit
the line in two, he was torn asunder by the spring of the bow; and he
was reduced to the state of the five elements. I say, therefore, "A
hoard should always be made; but not too great a hoard."
The Elephant and the Jackal
That which cannot be effected by force may be achieved by cunning. An
Elephant was killed by a Jackal, in going over a swampy place.
In the forest Brahmaranya there was an Elephant, whose name was
Karphooratilaka, who having been observed by the jackals, they all
determined that if he could by any stratagem be killed, he would be
four months' provisions for them all. One of them, who was of
exceeding vicious inclination and by nature treacherous, declared that
he would engage, by the strength of his own judgment, to effect his
death. Some time after, this deceitful wretch went up to the
Elephant, and having saluted him, said: "Godlike sir! Condescend to
grant me an audience." "Who art thou?" demanded the Elephant, "and
whence comest thou?" "My name," replied he, "is Kshudrabuddhi, a
jackal, sent into thy presence by all the inhabitants of the forest,
assembled for that purpose, to represent that, as it is not expedient
to reside in so large a forest as this without a chief, your Highness,
endued with all the cardinal virtues, hath been selected to be anointed
Rajah of the Woods. Then, that we may not lose the lucky moment,"
continued the Jackal, "be pleased to follow quickly." Saying this, he
cocked his tail and went away.
The Elephant, whose reason was perverted by the lust of power, took the
same road as the Jackal, and followed him so exactly that, at length,
he stuck fast in a great mire. "O my friend!" cried the Elephant,
"what is to be done in this disaster? I am sinking in a deep mire!"
The Jackal laughed, and said: "Please, your divine Highness, take hold
of my tail with your trunk, and get out! This is the fruit of those
words which thou didst place confidence in."
As often as thou shalt be deprived of the society of the good, so often
shalt thou fall into the company of knaves.
After a few days, the Elephant dying for want of food, his flesh was
devoured by the Jackals. I say, therefore: "That which cannot be
effected by force, may be achieved by cunning."
Marked with white spots.
Low-minded, mean-spirited, bad-hearted.
The Lion, the Mouse, and the Cat
The master should never be rendered free from apprehension by his
servants, for a servant having quieted the fears of his master may
experience the fate of Dahdikarna.
Upon the mountain Arbuda-sikhara, there was a Lion, whose name was
Maliavikrama the tips of whose mane a Mouse was wont to gnaw, as he
slept in his den. The noble beast, having discovered that his hair was
bitten, was very much displeased; and as he was unable to catch the
offender, who always slipped into his hole, he meditated what was best
to be done; and having resolved, said he:
"Whoso hath a trifling enemy, who is not to be overcome by dint of
valour, should employ against him a force of his own likeness."
With a review of this saying, the Lion repaired to the village, and by
means of a piece of meat thrown into his hole, with some difficulty
caught a Cat, whose name was Dadhikarna. He carried him home, and the
Mouse for some time being afraid to venture out, the Lion remained with
his hair unnipped. At length, however, the Mouse was so oppressed with
hunger, that creeping about he was caught and devoured by the Cat. The
Lion now, no longer hearing the noise of the Mouse, thought he had no
further occasion for the services of the Cat, and so began to be
sparing of his allowance; and, in consequence, poor Puss pined away and
died for want. Wherefore, I say: "The master should never be rendered
free from apprehension by his servants."
Whose ears are the colour of curds.
The Poor Woman and the Bell
It is not proper to be alarmed by a mere sound, when the cause of that
sound is unknown. A poor woman obtaineth consequence for discovering
the cause of a sound.
Between the mountains Sree-parvata there is a city called Brahma-puree,
the inhabitants of which used to believe that a certain giant, whom
they called Ghautta-Karna, infested one of the adjacent hills.
The fact was thus: A thief, as he was running away with a Bell he had
stolen, was overcome and devoured by a tiger; and the Bell falling from
his hand having been picked up by some monkeys, every now and then they
used to ring it. Now the people of the town finding that a man had
been killed there, and at the same time hearing the Bell, used to
declare that the giant Ghautta-Karna being enraged, was devouring a
man, and ringing his Bell; so that the city was abandoned by all the
principal inhabitants. At length, however, a certain Poor Woman having
considered the subject, discovered that the Bell was rung by the
She accordingly went to the Rajah, and said:
"If, divine sir, I may expect a very great reward, I will engage to
silence this Ghautta-Karna."
The Rajah was exceedingly well pleased, and gave her some money. So
having displayed her consequence to the priesthood of the country, to
the leaders of the army, and to all the rest of the people, she
provided such fruits as she conceived the monkeys were fond of, and
went into the wood; where strewing them about, they presently quitted
the Bell, and attached themselves to the fruit. The Poor Woman, in the
meantime, took away the Bell, and repaired to the city, where she
became an object of adoration to its inhabitants. Wherefore, I say:
"It is not proper to be alarmed by a mere sound, when the cause of the
sound is unknown."
The Lion and the Rabbit
He who bath sense hath strength. Where hath he strength who wanteth
judgment? See how a Lion, when intoxicated with anger, was overcome by
Upon a certain mountain there lived a Lion, whose name was Durganta,
who was perpetually sacrificing animals to his gods; so that, at
length, all the different species assembled, and, in a body,
represented that, as by his present mode of proceeding the forest would
be cleared all at once; if it pleased his Highness, they would, each of
them in his turn, provide him an animal for his daily food; and the
Lion gave, his consent accordingly. So every beast delivered his
stipulated provision, till at length, in coming to the Rabbit's turn he
began to meditate in this manner: "Policy should be practised by him
who would save his life; and I myself shall lose mine, if I do not take
care. Suppose I lead him after another Lion? Who knows how that may
turn out for me? Then I will approach him slowly, as if fatigued."
The Lion by this time began to be very hungry; so, seeing the Rabbit
coming toward him, he called out in a great passion: "What is the
reason thou comest so late?" "Please your Highness," said the Rabbit
"as I was coming along, I was forcibly detained by another of your
species; but having given him my word that I would return immediately I
came here to represent it to your Highness." "Go quickly," said the
Lion in a rage, "and show me where this vile wretch may be found?"
Accordingly the Rabbit conducted the Lion to the brink of a deep well,
where being arrived, "There," said the Rabbit, "look down and behold
him"; at the same time he pointed to the reflected image of the Lion in
the water; who swelling with pride and resentment, leaped into the
well, as he thought, upon his adversary, and thus put an end to his own
life. I repeat, therefore: "He who hath sense, hath strength."
Hard to go near.
The Birds and the Monkeys
A wise man is worthy to be advised; but an ignorant one never.
Certain birds, having given advice to a troop of monkeys, have their
nests torn to pieces, and are obliged to fly away.
On the banks of the river Navmoda, upon a neighbouring mountain, there
was a large Salmalee tree wherein certain Birds were wont to build
their nests and reside, even during the season of the rains. One day
the sky being overcast with a troop of thick dark clouds, there fell a
shower of rain in very large streams. The Birds seeing a troop of
Monkeys at the foot of the tree, all wet, and shivering with cold,
called out to them; "Ho, Monkeys! why don't you invent something to
protect you from the rain? We build ourselves nests with straws
collected with nothing else but our bills. How is this, that you, who
are blessed with hands and feet, yield to such sufferings?"
The Monkeys hearing this, and understanding it as a kind of reproach,
were exceedingly irritated and said amongst themselves: "Those Birds
there, sitting comfortably out of the wind within their warm nests, are
laughing at us! So let them, as long as the shower may last." In
short, as soon as the rain subsided, the whole troop of them mounted
into the tree, where tearing all the nests to pieces, the eggs fell
upon the ground and were broken. I say, therefore: "A wise man is
worthy to be advised, but an ignorant one never."
The Rabbits and the Elephants
Great things may be effected by wise counsel, when a sovereign enemy
may be too powerful. Certain Rabbits were enabled to live in comfort,
through the policy of one of their brethren.
Once upon a time, for want of rain in due season, a troop of Elephants
being greatly distressed for water, addressed their chief in these
words: "What resource have we, except in that hollow sinking ground
inhabited by those little animals! but deprived of that too, whither,
sir, shall we go? What shall we do?"
Upon hearing their complaints, their chief, after travelling with them
a great way, discovered a fountain of clear water. But, as many
Rabbits who happened, to be in their burrows were crushed to death
under the feet of so many Elephants trampling over their warren, at
length, one of them, reflected in this manner: "This troop of
Elephants, oppressed with thirst, will be coming here every day to
drink, and, at length, our whole race will be destroyed!" But an old
buck said to him, "Brother, don't be uneasy; for I am going to prevent
what thou dreadest." Saying which, he set off to try how he could
oppose them; but as he went along, he began to consider how he should
approach so formidable a troop; "for," observed he, "they say:
"'An elephant killeth even by touching, a serpent even by smelling, a
king even by ruling, and a wicked man by laughing at one.'
"Wherefore, I will mount the summit of a rock to address the head of
This being put in execution accordingly, the chief Elephant asked him
who he was, and whence he came. "I am," he replied, "an ambassador
sent here by the god Chandra." "Declare the purport of thy
commission," said the Elephant. "Sir," replied the Rabbit, "as
ambassadors, even when the weapons of war are lifted up, speak not
otherwise than for the benefit of their State; and although they speak
boldly according as it is their advantage, they are not to be put to
death; then I will declare what are the commands of the god Chandra.
He bade me say, that in driving away and destroying the Rabbits who are
appointed to guard the fountain which is consecrated to that duty, you
have done ill; 'for,' said he, 'they are my guards and it is notorious
that the figure of a Rabbit is my emblem.'"
The head Elephant, upon hearing this became greatly alarmed, declared
that they had offended through ignorance, and would never go to the
"If this be your resolution," said the ambassador, "go this once, and
make your submission before the diety himself, whom you will see in the
fountain, quite agitated with anger; and when you have pacified him,
you may depart."
Accordingly, as soon as it was night, the ambassador Vijaya having
conducted the chief of the Elephants to the fountain, there showed him
the image of the moon, trembling, as it were, upon the smooth surface
of the water and when he had made him bow down to it, in token of
submission, he said: "Please your divinity! What hath been done having
been done through ignorance, I pray thee pardon them!" and upon saying
this, he caused the Elephant to depart. I repeat, therefore, "Great
things may be effected by wise counsel, when a sovereign enemy may be
The Blue Jackal
The fool who forsaketh his own party, and delighteth to dwell with the
opposite side may be killed by them; as was the case with the Blue
A certain Jackal, as he was roaming about the borders of a town, just
as his inclinations led him, fell into a dyer's vat; but being
unable to get out in the morning he feigned himself dead. At length,
the master of the vat, which was filled with indigo, came, and seeing a
Jackal lying with his legs uppermost, his eyes closed, and his teeth
bare, concluded that he was dead, and so, taking him out, he carried
him a good way from the town, and there left him. The sly animal
instantly got up, and ran into the woods; when, observing that his coat
was turned blue, he meditated in this manner: "I am now of the finest
colour! what great exaltation may I not bring about for myself?"
Saying this, he called a number of Jackals together, and addressed them
in the following words: "Know that I have lately been sprinkled king of
the forests, by the hands of the goddess herself who presides over
these woods, with a water drawn from a variety of choice herbs.
Observe my colour, and henceforward let every business be transacted
according to my orders."
The rest of the Jackals, seeing him of such a fine complexion,
prostrated themselves before him, and said: "According as your Highness
commands!" By this step he made himself honoured by his own relations,
and so gained the supreme power over those of his own species, as well
as all the other inhabitants of the forests. But after a while,
finding himself surrounded by a levee of the first quality, such as the
tiger and the like, he began to look down upon his relations; and, at
length, he kept them at a distance. A certain old Jackal perceiving
that his brethren were very much cast down at this behaviour, cried:
"Do not despair! If it continues thus, this imprudent friend of ours
will force us to be revenged. Let me alone to contrive his downfall.
The lion, and the rest who pay him court, are taken by his outward
appearance; and they obey him as their king, because they are not aware
that he is nothing but a Jackal: do something then by which he may be
found out. Let this plan be pursued: Assemble all of you in a body
about the close of the evening, and set up one general howl in his
hearing; and I'll warrant you, the natural disposition of his species
will incline him to join in the cry for:
"'Whatever may be the natural propensity of any one is very hard to be
overcome. If a dog were made king, would he not gnaw his shoe straps?'
"And thus, the tiger discovering that he is nothing but a Jackal, will
presently put him to death."
In short, the plan was executed, and the event was just as it had been
foretold. I repeat, therefore: "The fool who forsaketh his own party
and delighteth to dwell with the opposite side, may be killed by them."
A dyer's vat, in Hindostan, is a large pan sunk in the ground, often
in the little court before the dyer's house.
The Mouse Who Became a Tiger
One of low degree, having obtained a worthy station, seeketh to
destroy his master; like the mouse, who having been raised to the state
of a Tiger, went to kill the Hermit.
In a certain forest, there once dwelt a Hermit whose name was
Maha-tapa. One day seeing a young Mouse fall from the mouth of a crow
near his hermitage, out of compassion be took it up and reared it with
broken particles of rice. He now observed that the cat was seeking to
destroy it; so, by the sacred powers of a saint, he metamorphosed his
Mouse into a cat; but his cat being afraid of his dog, he changed her
into a dog; and the dog being terrified at the tiger, at length he was
transformed into a Tiger. The holy man now regarded the Tiger as no
way superior to his Mouse. But the people who came to visit the
Hermit, used to tell one another that the Tiger which they saw there
had been made so by the power of the saint, from a Mouse; and this
being overheard by the Tiger, he was very uneasy, and said to himself:
"As long as this Hermit is alive, the disgraceful story of my former
state will be brought to my ears"; saying which he went to kill his
protector; but as the holy man penetrated his design with his
supernatural eye, he reduced him to his former state of a Mouse. I
repeat, therefore: "One of low degree, having obtained a worthy
station, may seek to destroy his master."
The Brahmin and the Goat
He who, judging by what passeth in his own breast, believeth a knave
to be a person of veracity, is deceived; as the Brahmin was concerning
In a certain forest, a Brahmin, having determined to make an offering,
went to a neighbouring village and purchased a Goat, which having
thrown across his shoulder, he turned toward home. As he was
travelling along, he was perceived by three thieves. "If," said they,
"we could by some artifice get the Goat from that man, it would be a
great proof of our address."
Saying this, they agreed upon their stratagem, and executed it in this
manner: They stationed themselves before the Brahmin, and sat down
under the trees in the road which led to his habitation, till he should
come up to them. Soon after, he was accosted by one of them in this
manner: "Is not that a dog? Brahmin, what is the reason thou carriest
it upon thy shoulder?" The Brahmin replied: "No, it is not a dog; it
is a Goat, which I have purchased to make an offering of." About a
mile farther on he met another of them, who repeating the same
question, he took the Goat from his shoulder, and putting it upon the
ground, examined it again and again; and at length, replacing it upon
his shoulder, he went on, quite staggered as it were, for:
The minds even of good men are staggered by the arguments of the
wicked; but those who place confidence in them may suffer by it.
At length the Brahmin, having heard the third thief, like the former
two, insist upon it that he had a dog upon his shoulder, was convinced
that it was indeed a dog; and so, leaving his Goat behind him, which
the thieves presently took away and made a feast of, the good man
washed himself and went home. Whence, I say, "He who, judging by what
passeth in his own breast, believeth a knave to be a person of
veracity, is deceived."
FABLES FROM INDIA
"These simple children's stories have lived on, and maintained their
place of honour and their undisputed sway in every schoolroom of the
East and every nursery of the West."
F. MAX MULLER
FABLES FROM INDIA
The Lion, the Fox, and the Story-teller
A Lion who was the king of a great forest once said to his subjects: "I
want some one among you to tell me stories one after another without
ceasing. If you fail to find somebody who can so amuse me, you will
all be put to death."
In the East there is a proverb which says; "The king kills when he
will," so the animals were in great alarm.
The Fox said: "Fear not; I shall save you all. Tell the king the
Story-teller is ready to come to court when ordered." So the animals
had orders to send the Story-teller at once to the presence. The Fox
bowed respectfully, and stood before the king, who said: "So you are to
tell us stories without ceasing?"
"Yes, your Majesty," said the Fox.
"Then begin," said the Lion.
"But before I do so," said the Fox, "I would like to know what your
Majesty means by a story."
"Why," said the Lion, "a narrative containing some interesting event or
"Just so," said the Fox, and began: "There was once a fisherman who
went to sea with a huge net, and spread it far and wide. A great many
fish got into it. Just as the fisherman was about to draw the net the
coils snapped. A great opening was made. First one fish escaped."
Then the Fox stopped.
"What then?" said the Lion.
"Then two escaped," said the Fox.
"What then?" asked the impatient Lion.
"Then three escaped," said the Fox. Thus, as often as the Lion
repeated his query, the Fox increased the number by one, and said as
many escaped. The Lion was vexed, and said: "Why you are telling me
"I wish that your majesty may not forget your royal word," said the
Fox. "Each event occurred by itself, and each lot that escaped was
different from the rest."
"But wherein is the wonder?" said the Lion.
"Why, your majesty, what can be more wonderful than for Fish to escape
in lots, each exceeding the other by one?"
"I am bound by my word," said the Lion, "else I would see your carcass
stretched on the ground."
The Fox replied in a whisper: "If tyrants that desire things
impossible are not at least bound by their own word, their subjects can
find nothing to bind them."
The Fox in the Well
A Fox fell into a well, and was holding hard to some roots at the side
of it, just above the water. A Wolf who was passing by saw him, and
said, "Hollo, Reynard; after all you have fallen into a well!"
"But not without a purpose, and not without the means of getting out of
it," said the Fox.
"What do you mean?" said the Wolf.
"Why," said the Fox, "there is a drought all over the country now, and
the water in this well is the only means of appeasing the thirst of the
thousands that live in this neighbourhood. They held a meeting, and
requested me to keep the water from going down lower; so I am holding
it up for the public good."
"What will be your reward?" asked the Wolf.
"They will give me a pension, and save me the trouble of going about
every day in quest of food, not to speak of innumerable other
privileges that will be granted me. Further, I am not to stay here all
day. I have asked a kinsman of mine, to whom I have communicated the
secret of holding up the water, to relieve me from time to time. Of
course he will also get a pension, and have other privileges. I expect
him here shortly."
"Ah, Reynard, may I relieve you, then? May I hope to get a pension,
and other privileges? You know what a sad lot is mine, especially in
"Certainly," said the Fox, "but you must get a long rope, that I may
come up and let you down."
So the Wolf got a rope. Up came the Fox, and down went the Wolf; when
the former observed, with a laugh, "My dear sir, you may remain there
till doomsday, or till the owner of the well throws up your carcass,"
and left the place.
"Alas!" said the Wolf, when it was too late, "greed hath its meed!"
The Fawn and the Little Tiger
A Fawn met a little Tiger, and said: "What fine stripes you have!"
The little Tiger said: "What fine spots you have!"
Then the Fawn said: "It would be such a nice thing if you and I were to
live together as friends. We might then roam through the woods as we
like, and be so happy!"
"I think so too," said the Tiger.
The two joined hands, and went out for a long walk. It was breakfast
time. The Fawn saw some fine grass in the lawn, and said to himself:
"One should first see his friend fed and then feed." So he turned to
the Tiger and said, "Will you have some of this fine grass for your
The Tiger put his nose to the grass but could not bring himself to feed
upon it, because it was against his nature; so he replied, "I am so
sorry, I cannot eat it!"
Then the Fawn said: "Allow me to go home for one moment and ask mamma
for something that would suit you for breakfast."
So the Fawn went home and told the Hind of the happy friendship he had
formed, and of all that had happened since.
The Hind replied, "Child, how lucky it is that you have come away! You
must know the Tiger is the most deadly enemy we have in the woods."
At these words the Fawn drew near to his dam and trembled.
The Hind said: "It is indeed lucky to get away from the wicked at the
The Fox and the Villagers
A Fox that had long been the dread of the village poultry yard was one
day found lying breathless in a field. The report went abroad that,
after all, he had been caught and killed by some one. In a moment,
everybody in the village came out to see the dead Fox. The village
Cock, with all his hens and chicks, was also there, to enjoy the sight.
The Fox then got up, and, shaking off his drowsiness, said: "I ate a
number of hens and chicks last night; hence I must have slumbered
longer than usual."
The Cock counted his hens and chicks, and found a number wanting.
"Alas!" said he, "how is it I did not know of it?"
"My dear sir," said the Fox, as he retreated to the wood, "it was last
night I had a good meal on your hens and chicks, yet you did not know
of it. A moment ago they found me lying in the field, and you knew of
it at once. Ill news travels fast!"
Tinsel and Lightning
A piece of Tinsel on a rock once said to a Pebble: "You see how bright
I am! I am by birth related to the lightning."
"Indeed!" said the Pebble; "then accept my humble respects."
Some time after, a flash of lightning struck the rock, and the Tinsel
lost all its brilliancy by the scorching effects of the flash.
"Where is your brilliancy now?" said the Pebble.
"Oh, it is gone to the skies," said the Tinsel, "for I have lent it to
the lightning that came down a moment ago to borrow it of me."
"Dear me!" said the Pebble; "how many fibs doth good bragging need!"
The Glow-worm and the Daw
A Jackdaw once ran up to a Glow-worm and was about to seize him. "Wait
a moment, good friend," said the Worm; "and you shall hear of something
to your advantage."
"Ah! what is it?" said the Daw.
"I am but one of the many Glow-worms that live in this forest. If you
wish to have them all, follow me," said the Glow-worm.
"Certainly!" said the Daw.
Then the Glow-worm led him to a place in the wood where a fire had been
kindled by some woodmen, and pointing to the sparks flying about, said:
"There you find the Glow-worms warming themselves around a fire. When
you have done with them, I will show you some more, at a distance from
The Daw darted at the sparks, and tried to swallow some of them; but
his mouth being burnt by the attempt, he ran away exclaiming, "Ah, the
Glow-worm is a dangerous little creature!"
Said the Glow-worm with pride: "Wickedness yields to wisdom!"
The Lion and the Gadfly
Once a Lion was sleeping in his den at the foot of a great mountain
when a Gadfly that had been sipping the blood from his mouth bit him
severely. The Lion started up with a roar, and catching the Fly in his
huge paws, cried: "Villain, you are at my mercy! How shall I punish
"Sire," said the Fly, "if you would pardon me now, and let me live, I
shall be able to show ere long how grateful I am to you."
"Indeed!" said the Lion; "who ever heard of a Gadfly helping a Lion?
But still I admire your presence of mind and grant your life."
Some time after, the Lion, having made great havoc on the cattle of a
neighbouring village, was snoring away in his den after a heavy meal.
The village hunters approached with the object of surrounding him and
putting an end to his depredations.
The Fly saw them, and hurrying into the den, bit the Lion. He started
up with a roar as before, and cried: "Villain, you will get no pardon
"Sire," said the Fly, "the village hunters are on their way to your
den; you can't tarry a moment here without being surrounded and killed."
"Saviour of my life!" cried the lion as he ran up the mountain.
"There is nothing like forgiving, for it enables the humblest to help
In the good old days a Clown in the East, on a visit to a city kinsman,
while at dinner pointed to a burning candle and asked what it was. The
city man said, in jest, it was a Sunling, or one of the children of the
The Clown thought that it was something rare; so he waited for an
opportunity, and hid it in a chest of drawers close by. Soon the chest
caught fire, then the curtains by its side, then the room, then the
After the flames had been put down, the city man and the Clown went
into the burnt building to see what remained. The Clown turned over
the embers of the chest of drawers. The city man asked what he was
seeking for. The Clown said: "It is in this chest that I hid the
bright Sunling; I wish to know if he has survived the flames."
"Alas," said the city man, who now found out the cause of all the
mischief, "Never jest with fools!"
The Despot and the Wag
A Despot in the East wished to have a great name as a very munificent
prince, so he gave large presents to every one of note that came to his
court, but at the same time his officers had secret orders to waylay
the recipients of his gifts and recover them.
In this manner many a man had been rewarded and plundered. Once a wag
came to court, and amused every one by his drolleries. The King gave
him a great many presents, including a horse. After taking leave of
the King and his courtiers, the Wag bundled up the presents and put
them over his shoulders, and mounting the horse, facing the tail, was
going out. The King asked him why he acted in that manner.
"Sire," said the Wag, "simply to see if your officers were coming
behind, that I may at once hand over the bundle to them and go about my
The Despot was abashed, and stopped giving any more presents, saying:
"Giving is but giving in vain, when we give to take again."
The Crane and the Fool
In the East there lived a Fool, who went one day to his fields and
said: "I sowed a month ago; should the crops stand two months more, I
shall get three hundred bushels of corn. But I am in a hurry, so if I
should reap now, I dare say I shall have one hundred bushels at least."
A Crane who heard his words said: "If I were you, I should have all the
three hundred bushels this very day."
"How?" said the Fool.
"Why," said the Crane, "you stored up water in the tank to feed the
crops for three months. A month has elapsed, so water enough for two
months more remains in the tank. Should you open the sluices and let
all the water flow into the fields, you will have all the corn at once."
"Are you sure I shall have all the corn at once?" said the Fool.
"Oh, yes," said the Crane, "there is not the slightest doubt. My
geographical knowledge is extensive, for I have travelled over a great
part of the world; so you may depend on my wide knowledge and
The Fool then let all the water flow into the fields. The Crane
invited his kindred, and they together ate all the big fish left in the
tank first, and then, hovering over the fields, picked up all the small
fish that had gone out with the water. A great portion of the crops
was swept away; what remained was soon buried in the mud.
The Fool sat on the bank of the lake and wept, saying: "The Crane's
geography ruined me."
"My friend," said the Crane, "my geography was as good as your
arithmetic. It is all the same whether you fall into the ditch from
this side or that!"
The Lion and the Goat
A Lion was eating up one after another the animals of a certain
country. One day an old Goat said: "We must put a stop to this. I
have a plan by which he may be sent away from this part of the country."
"Pray act up to it at once," said the other animals.
The old Goat laid himself down in a cave on the roadside, with his
flowing beard and long curved horns. The Lion on his way to the
village saw him, and stopped at the mouth of the cave.
"So you have come, after all," said the Goat.
"What do you mean?" asked the Lion.
"Why, I have long been lying in this cave. I have eaten up one hundred
elephants, a hundred tigers, a thousand wolves, and ninety-nine lions.
One more lion has been wanting. I have waited long and patiently.
Heaven has, after all, been kind to me," said the Goat, and shook his
horns and his beard, and made a start as if he were about to spring
upon the Lion.
The latter said to himself: "This animal looks like a Goat, but it does
not talk like one, so it is very likely some wicked spirit in this
shape. Prudence often serves us better than valour, so for the present
I shall return to the wood," and he turned back.
The Goat rose up and, advancing to the mouth of the cave, said, "Will
you come back to-morrow?"
"Never again," said the Lion.
"Do you think I shall be able to see you, at least, in the wood
"Neither in the wood, nor in this neighbourhood any more," said the
Lion, and running to the forest, soon left it with his kindred.
The animals in the country, not hearing him roar any more, gathered
around the Goat, and said: "The wisdom of one doth save a host."
The Man and His Piece of Cloth
A Man in the East, where they do not require as much clothing as in
colder climates, gave up all worldly concerns and retired to a wood,
where he built a hut and lived in it.
His only clothing was a Piece of Cloth which he wore round his waist.
But, as ill-luck would have it, rats were plentiful in the wood, so he
had to keep a cat. The cat required milk to feed it, so a cow had to
be kept. The cow required tending, so a cowboy was employed. The boy
required a house to live in, so a house was built for him. To look
after the house, a maid had to be engaged. To provide company for the
maid, a few more houses had to be built, and people invited to live in
them. In this manner a little township sprang up.
The man said: "The farther we seek to go from the world and its cares,
the more they multiply!"
The Tiger, the Fox, and the Hunters
A Fox was once caught in a trap. A hungry Tiger saw him and said, "So
you are here!"
"Only on your account," said the Fox, in a whisper.
"How so?" said the Tiger.
"Why, you were complaining you could not get men to eat, so I got into
this net to-day, that you may have the men when they come to take me,"
said the Fox, and gave a hint that if the Tiger would wait a while in a
thicket close by, he would point out the men to him.
"May I depend upon your word?" said the Tiger.
"Certainly," said the Fox.
The hunters came, and, seeing the Fox in the net, said: "So you are
"Only on your account," said the Fox, in a whisper.
"How so?" said the men.
"Why, you were complaining you could not get at the Tiger that has been
devouring your cattle. I got into this net to-day that you may have
him. As I expected, he came to eat me up, and is in yonder thicket,"
said the Fox, and gave a hint that if they would take him out of the
trap he would point out the Tiger. "May we depend upon your word?"
said the men.
"Certainly," said the Fox, while the men went with him in a circle to
see that he did not escape.
Then the Fox said to the Tiger and the men: "Sir Tiger, here are the
men; gentlemen, here is the Tiger."
The men left the Fox and turned to the Tiger. The former beat a hasty
retreat to the wood, saying, "I have kept my promise to both; now you
may settle it between yourselves."
The Tiger exclaimed, when it was too late: "Alas! what art for a
The Hare and the Pig
A Hare and a Pig once agreed to leap over a ditch. The Hare went a
great way, and fell into it, just short by an inch. The Pig went some
way and fell into it; but far behind the Hare. Yet they were eager to
know which of them leapt more, and was therefore the better animal.
So they said to a Fox, who had been watching the race: "Will you tell
us which of us is superior, and which inferior, in the race?"
The Fox said: "Both in the ditch: can't say which!"
The Peacock and the Fox
A Fox, who had an eye on a Peacock, was one day standing in a field
with his face turned up to the sky.
"Reynard," said the Peacock, "what have you been doing?"
"Oh, I have been counting the stars," said the Fox.
"How many are they?" said the Peacock.
"About as many as the fools on earth," said the Fox.
"But which do you think is the greater, the number of the stars or of
the fools?" asked the Peacock.
"If you put it so, I should say the fools are more by one," said the
"Who is that one?" said the Peacock.
"Why, my own silly self!" said the Fox.
"How are you silly, Reynard?" questioned the Peacock.
"Why, was it not foolish of me to count the stars in the sky, when I
could have counted the stars in your brilliant plumage to better
advantage?" said the Fox.
"No, Reynard," said the Peacock, "therein is not your folly—although
there is neither wit nor wisdom in your prattle—but in the thought
that your fine words would make an easy prey of me!"
The Fox quietly left the place, saying: "The Knave that hath been
found out cannot have legs too quick."
The Tiger and the Giraffe
A Tiger, named Old Guile, who had grown weak with age, was lying under
a tree by the side of a lake in quest of some animal off which he could
make a meal.
A Giraffe, named Tall Stripes, who came to the lake to quench his
thirst, attracted his attention, and Old Guile addressed him as
follows: "Oh, what a happy day! I see there the son of my old friend
Yellow Haunch, who lived in the great forest near that distant
Tall Stripes was astonished to hear the words of Old Guile, and asked
him how he, a Tiger, could be the friend of his father, a Giraffe.
"I am not surprised at your question," replied Old Guile; "it is a
truth known to very few indeed that the Tiger and the Giraffe belong to
the same family. Just look at your skin and my own: yours is of a pale
yellow colour, mine is very nearly the same; you have stripes, I have
them, too. What more proofs do you want?"
Tall Stripes, who was extremely simple and guileless, believed these
words, and said: "I am very happy to know that my father was your
friend, and that we are of the same family. Can I do anything for you?"
Old Guile replied, "No, thank you; old as I am, I make it a point of
relying on myself. Further, a great part of my time is spent in prayer
and meditation; for I consider it necessary, at this age, to devote all
my attention to spiritual things. It will, however, be a great
gratification to me to have your company whenever you should chance to
pass by this lake."
Tall Stripes acceded to this request, and was about to go on his Way,
when Old Guile observed; "My dear Tall Stripes, you are well aware of
the instability of all earthly things. I am old and infirm, and who
knows what may happen to me to-morrow. Perhaps I may not see you
again; so let me do myself the pleasure of embracing you before you
leave me for the present."
"Certainly," said Tall Stripes. Thereupon Old Guile rose up slowly
from his seat, like one devoid of all energy, and embracing him,
plunged his deadly teeth into his long neck, and stretching him on the
ground made a hearty breakfast on him.
Beware of the crafty professions of the wicked.
The Man of Luck and the Man of Pluck
A King in the East said to his Minister; "Do you believe in luck?"
"I do," said the Minister.
"Can you prove it?" said the King.
"Yes, I can," said the Minister.
So one night he tied up to the ceiling of a room a parcel containing
peas mixed with diamonds, and let in two men, one of whom believed in
luck and the other in human effort alone. The former quietly laid
himself down on the ground; the latter after a series of efforts
reached the parcel, and feeling in the dark the peas and the stones,
ate the former, one by one, and threw down the latter at his companion,
saying, "Here are the stones for your idleness." The man below
received them in his blanket.
In the morning the king and the minister came to the room and bade each
take to himself what he had got. The Man of Effort found he had
nothing beyond the peas he had eaten. The Man of Luck quietly walked
away with the diamonds.
The Minister said to the King: "Sire, there is such a thing as luck;
but it is as rare as peas mixed with diamonds. So I would say: 'Let
none hope to live by luck.'"
The Fox and the Crabs
One day a Fox seated himself on a stone by a stream and wept aloud.
The Crabs in the holes around came up to him and said: "Friend, why are
you wailing so loud?"
"Alas!" said the Fox, "I have been turned by my kindred out of the
wood, and do not know what to do."
"Why were you turned out?" asked the Crabs in a tone of pity.
"Because," said the Fox, sobbing, "they said they should go out
to-night hunting Crabs by the stream, and I said it would be a pity to
lull such pretty little creatures."
"Where will you go hereafter?" said the Crabs.
"Where I can get work," said the Fox; "for I would not go to my kindred
again, come what would."
Then the Crabs held a meeting, and came to the conclusion that, as the
Fox had been thrown out by his kindred on their account, they could do
nothing better than engage his services to defend them. So they told
the Fox of their intention. He readily consented, and spent the whole
day in amusing the Crabs with all kinds of tricks.
Night came. The moon rose in full splendour. The Fox said: "Have you
ever been out for a walk in the moonlight?"
"Never, friend," said the Crabs; "we are such little creatures that we
are afraid of going far from our holes."
"Oh, never mind!" said the Fox; "follow me! I can defend you against
So the Crabs followed him with pleasure. On the way the Fox told them
all sorts of delightful things, and cheered them on most heartily.
Having thus gone some distance, they reached a plain, where the Fox
came to a stand, and made a low moan in the direction of an adjacent
wood. Instantly a number of foxes came out of the wood and joined
their kinsman, and all of them at once set about hunting the poor
Crabs, who fled in all directions for their lives, but were soon caught
When the banquet was over, the Foxes said to their friend: "How great
thy skill and cunning!"
The heartless villain replied, with a wink: "My friends, There is
cunning in cunning."
The Camel and the Pig
A Camel said: "Nothing like being tall! Look how tall I am!"
A Pig, who heard these words, said: "Nothing like being short! Look
how short I am!"
The Camel said: "Well, if I fail to prove the truth of what I said, I
shall give up my hump."
The Pig said: "If I fail to prove the truth of what I have said, I
shall give up my snout."
"Agreed!" said the Camel.
"Just so!" said the Pig.
They came to a garden, enclosed by a low wall without any opening. The
Camel stood on this side the wall, and reaching the plants within by
means of his long neck made a breakfast on them. Then he turned
jeeringly to the Pig, who had been standing at the bottom of the wall
without even a look at the good things in the garden, and said: "Now,
would you be tall, or short?"
Next they came to a garden, enclosed by a high wall, with a wicket gate
at one end. The Pig entered by the gate and, after having eaten his
fill of the vegetables within, came out, laughing at the poor Camel,
who had had to stay outside, because he was too tall to enter the
garden by the gate, and said: "Now, would you be tall, or short?"
Then they thought the matter over, and came to the conclusion that the
Camel should keep his hump and the Pig his snout, observing: "Tall is
good, where tall would do; if short, again, 'tis also true!"
"He who is not possessed of such a book as will dispel many doubts,
point out hidden treasures, and is, as it were, a mirror of all things,
is even an ignorant man."
Father "Lime-stick" and the Flower-pecker
Old Father Lime-stick once limed a tree for birds and caught a
Flower-pecker. He was just about to kill and eat it when the bird
cried out, "O Grandfather, surely you are not going to eat me? Why,
flesh, feathers and all, I am no bigger than your thumb!" "What!" said
the old man; "do you expect me then to let you go?" "Yes," said the
bird, "only let me go, and I will fetch you such a talisman as never
was—a Bezoar-stone as big as a cocoanut and worth at least a
thousand." Said the old man, "Do you really mean it?" "Really, I do,"
replied the bird. "Just let me go, and I'll bring it to you." Then,
on being released, he flew off and perched on a tree, and began to
preen his feathers, to get rid of the bird-lime.
Presently the old man said: "Where has that bird got to? Bird, where
is the Bezoar-stone you promised to bring me, the one that was worth at
least a thousand?" "Out-on-you," was the reply, "this is really too
ridiculous. Just think of me, with my body as big as your thumb,
carrying a Bezoar-stone as big as a cocoanut! It really is too absurd.
Why, have I even got the strength to lift it?" At this the old man
held his peace. "Well," continued the bird, "you will gain nothing by
repenting that you set me free. Only remember in future not to
undertake an affair quite out of keeping with your own powers. Neither
try to get your arms round a tree too big for your embrace, nor attempt
to climb one higher than your strength permits you."
The Mouse-deer's Shipwreck
"Come," said the Mouse-deer to the Stump-tailed Heron, "come and sail
with me to Java." So they set sail, and Friend Mouse-deer held the
tiller and Friend Heron spread the sail, and the wind blew from the
north. Soon however Friend Mouse-deer got drowsy, and let the boat
fall out of the wind.
At this Friend Heron said: "Why does the boat fall off? How is your
helm, Friend Mouse-deer?" "I was only taking a few winks," said he.
"Bring her up to the wind again," said the Heron. And the Mouse-deer
replied: "All right, I'm 'on the spot.'" Presently, however, he dozed
again and the Heron exclaimed: "Oh, if that's to be it, you may die and
be done with. I'll peck a hole in this boat of ours and you'll go to
But the Mouse-deer said: "Please don't, I'm such a bad hand at
swimming." So they sailed on. And the Mouse-deer dozed a third time.
At this the Heron could contain himself no longer, and said, "Confound
you, Friend Mouse-deer, for sleeping at the helm." And losing his
temper he pecked a hole in the boat, and the boat let in the water and
Friend Heron flew away. But the Mouse-deer swam struggling with his
feet in the midst of the sea.
Presently there came up a young Shark who exclaimed, "I'll have a meal
off you this time at all events." But the Mouse-deer answered, "What,
Friend Shark, you'll make a meal off me? Why, in place of the little
flesh I've got, if you'll carry me ashore, I'll teach you some
excellent Magic which will save you from ever having to hunt for your
food again." To this the Shark replied, "Agreed. If you'll teach me
'your excellent Magic' I'll carry you ashore." So the Mouse-deer got
upon Friend Shark's back, and was carried straight ashore.
And on their arrival the Mouse-deer said: "Wait here a bit, while I go
and get the simples." And going a-land he hunted up a rattan creeper
and took it back with him and said: "Now I'll give you the simples I
spoke of," and bound it fast to Friend Shark's tail. And presently the
Shark said: "Why have you made the line fast to my tail?" But the
Mouse-deer replied: "'Keep quite quiet till I have tied you up
properly, and then I'll give you the simples." But presently he
dragged the Shark up on to the dry beach, and made butcher's meat of
him. Just then, however, a Tiger came up, exclaiming, "Here's really a
good meal for Me, for once in a way!" To this, however, the Mouse-deer
replied: "What is the use of eating me, when there's already plenty of
butcher's meat and to spare?" "Very well, I'll share it with you,"
said the Tiger. The Mouse-deer replied, "You may share it with me by
all means, if you will only go and get some water to do the cooking."
So the Tiger went off to get water and presently came back with it.
"Wash the meat before you roast it," said the Mouse-deer. The Tiger
took the meat and washed it in the water. "Go and fetch fire and roast
it," said the Mouse-deer. The Tiger fetched fire and came back to do
the cooking. And when the meat was done, "Now go and fetch some
drinking water," said the Mouse-deer, "and we'll have our meal
together." So the Tiger went off again to fetch the drinking water.
But the Mouse-deer in the meantime made off with the Shark's meat and
climbed up with it to the top of a She-oak Tree. And presently the
Tiger came back and found both Mouse-deer and meat missing. At this he
exclaimed: "For once in a way, Mr. Mouse-deer, you've fairly cheated
Me; if we don't meet again no matter, but if we do, I'll be the death
of you." And here the story ends.
The Tiger Gets His Deserts
A Tiger which had been caught in a trap, seeing a man, begged to be
released. The man said to the Tiger: "If I let you out of the trap
will you promise not to attack me?" "Certainly," said the Tiger, and
the man therefore let the Tiger go; but the moment the Tiger was loose
it sprang upon the man and caught him. At this the man begged the
Tiger to wait until he had inquired how the law stood with reference to
their contract, and the Tiger agreed to do so. The man and the Tiger
therefore set out together; and on coming to a Road the man said: "O
Road, Road, is it lawful to requite evil for good, or good for good
only?" The Road replied: "I do good to mankind, but they requite me
with evil, defiling my surface as they go." Then they came to a Tree,
of which the man asked the same question. The Tree replied: "I do good
to mankind, but they requite me with evil, lopping off my branches and
cutting me down." At last they came to the Mouse-deer and the man made
the same inquiry as before. The Mouse-deer replied: "I must really go
into the question thoroughly before I answer it; let us go back
together to the trap." On reaching the trap, he requested the Tiger to
"Step inside," and the Tiger entering the trap, the Mouse-deer let down
the door of the trap, and exclaimed, "Accursed Brute, you have returned
evil for good and now you shall die for it." He then called in the
neighbours and had the Tiger killed.
The Tune That Makes the Tiger Drowsy
There is a tune which when played upon the "Kerotong" (a two-stringed
bamboo harp) makes Rimau the Tiger drowsy, but only a few old people
know it. One evening two men were sitting together and playing in a
hut in the jungle when two tigers overheard them.
The Tigers took counsel together, and one of them said to the other,
"You shall be the first to go into the house. Whatever you seize shall
therefore be your portion, but Whatever plunges down the steps to
escape shall be mine."
At this the second Tiger ascended the house-ladder and was just
crouching upon the topmost rung when one of the men to amuse himself
commenced to play the Tune that makes the Tiger drowsy. As soon as the
Tiger heard it he began to grow sleepy, and presently fell plump down
the steps to the ground, where he was seized by his companion. When he
objected his companion exclaimed, "Did we not agree that Whatever
plunged down the steps was to be my portion?" and, so saying, he
proceeded to devour him at his leisure.
The Tiger and the Shadow
There was a "salt-lick" in the jungle to which all the beasts of the
forest resorted, but they were greatly afraid by reason of an old Tiger
which killed one of them every day. At length, therefore, P'lando' the
Mouse-deer said to the Tiger, "Why not permit me to bring you a beast
every day, to save you from hunting for your food?" The Tiger
consented and P'lando' went off to make arrangement with the beasts.
But he could not persuade any of them to go, and after three days he
set off, taking nobody with him but Kuwis the smallest of the Flying
On their arrival P'lando' said to the Tiger: "I could not bring you any
of the other beasts because the way was blocked by a fat old Tiger with
a Flying Squirrel sitting astride its muzzle." On hearing this the
Tiger exclaimed, "Let us go and find it and drive it away." The three
therefore set out, the Flying Squirrel perched upon the Tiger's muzzle
and the Mouse-deer sitting astride upon its hind quarters. On reaching
the river, the Mouse-deer pointed to the Tiger's likeness in the water
and exclaimed, "Look there! That is the fat old Tiger that I saw." On
hearing this, the Tiger sprang into the river to attack his own shadow,
and was drowned immediately.
The King-crow and the Water-snail
A Water-snail was coming up-stream from the lower reaches, when a
King-crow heard it. Said the King-crow to himself: "Who can it be
coming up-stream that exclaims so loudly at the rapids? One might say
it was a man, but that there is nothing to be seen." So the King-crow
settled on a tree to watch, but as he could see nothing from his perch
on the tree he flew down to the ground, and walked along by the
water-side. And when he thought to see some man exclaiming, he caught
sight of the Water-snail.
"Hullo, you there," said he, "where do you come from?" "I come from
the eddy below the rapids," said the Water-snail, "and I only want to
get as far as the head-waters of this river." Said the King-crow:
"Wait a bit. Suppose you go down to the river-mouth as quickly as you
can and we will have a wager on it." (Now rivers are the Water-snail's
domain, in which he has many comrades.)
"What is to be the stake?" asked the Water-snail. "If I am beaten I
will be your slave, and look after your aroids and wild caladiums on
which all Water-snails feed." Then the King-crow asked: "And what will
you stake?" The Water-snail replied, "If I am beaten, the river shall
be handed over to you and you shall be King of the River." But the
Water-snail begged for a delay of twice seven days, saying that he felt
knocked up after ascending the rapids, and the delay was granted
Meanwhile, however, the Water-snail hunted up a great number of his
friends and instructed them to conceal themselves in each of the higher
reaches of the river, and to reply immediately when the King-crow
The day arrived, and the King-crow flew off, and in each of the higher
reaches the Water-snail's friends replied to the challenge, while at
the river-mouth the Water-snail replied in person. So the King-crow
was defeated and has ever since remained the slave of the Water-snail.
The Elephant Has a Bet with the Tiger
In the beginning Gajah the Elephant and Rimau the Tiger were sworn
friends. But one day they came to a clearing and presently encountered
Lotong, the long-tailed Spectacle-monkey. And when he saw the Monkey,
the Elephant said, "Mr. Lotong yonder is far too noisy; let us try and
shake him off; if he falls to me I am to eat you; and if he falls to
you, you are to eat me—we will make a wager of it." The Tiger said,
"Agreed"; and the Elephant replied, "Agreed." "Very well!" said the
Tiger; "you shall try and menace him first." So the Elephant tried to
menace the Monkey. "AU! AU! AU!" he trumpeted, and each time he
trumpeted the Monkey was scared. But the Monkey went jumping head
foremost through the branches and never fell to the ground at all.
Presently, therefore, the Tiger asked the Elephant, "Well, Friend
Elephant, would you like to try your luck again?" But the Elephant
said, "No, thank you. It shall be your turn now; and if he falls to
you, you shall eat me—if you really can make him fall!" Then the
Tiger went and roared his longest and loudest, and shortened his body
as for a spring and growled and menaced the Monkey thrice. And the
Monkey leaped and fell at the Tiger's feet, for his feet and hands were
paralyzed and would not grip the branches any more. Then the Tiger
said: "Well, Friend Elephant, I suppose I may eat you now." But the
Elephant said: "You have, I admit, won the wager; but I beg you to
grant me just seven days' respite, to enable me to visit my wife and
children and to make my will." The Tiger granted the request, and the
Elephant went home, bellowing and sobbing every foot of the way.
Now the Elephant's wife heard the sound of her husband's voice, and
said to her children, "What can be the matter with your Father that he
keeps sobbing so?" And the children listened to make sure, and said,
"Yes, it really is Father's voice, the sobbing, and not that of anybody
else." Presently Father Elephant arrived, and Mother Elephant asked:
"What were you sobbing for, Father? What have you done to yourself?"
Father Elephant replied: "I made a wager with Friend Tiger about
shaking down a Monkey, and Friend Tiger beat me; I menaced the Monkey,
but he did not fall; if he had fallen to me, I was to have eaten Friend
Tiger, but if he fell to Friend Tiger, Friend Tiger was to eat me. I
was beaten, and now Friend Tiger says he is going to eat me. So I
begged leave to come home and see you, and he has given me just seven
Now for the seven days Father Elephant kept sobbing aloud, and neither
ate nor slept. And the thing came to the hearing of Friend Mouse-deer.
"What can be the matter with Friend Elephant that he keeps bellowing
and bellowing; neither does he sleep, so that night is turned into day,
and day into night? What on earth is the matter with him? Suppose I
go and see," said the Mouse-deer. Then the Mouse-deer went to see what
was wrong, and asked: "What is the matter with you, Friend Elephant,
that we hear you bellowing and bellowing every single day and every
single night, just now, too, when the Rains are upon us? You are far
But the Elephant said: "It is no mere empty noise, Friend Mouse-deer; I
have got into a dreadful scrape." "What sort of a scrape?" inquired
the Mouse-deer. "I made a wager with Friend Tiger about shaking down a
Monkey, and he beat me." "What was the stake?" asked the Mouse-deer.
"The stake was that Friend Tiger might eat me if Friend Tiger
frightened it down; and if I frightened it down, I might eat Friend
Tiger. It fell to Friend Tiger, and now Friend Tiger wants to eat me.
And my reason for not eating or sleeping any more is that I have got
only just seven days' respite to go home and visit my wife and children
and to make my will." Then the Mouse-deer said: "If it came to Friend
Tiger's eating you, I should feel exceedingly sorrowful, exceedingly
distressed; but things being only as you say, I feel neither." "If you
will assist me," said the Elephant, "I will become your slave, and my
descendants shall be your slaves forever." "Very well, it that is the
case, I will assist you," said the Mouse-deer. "Go and look for a jar
full of molasses." Friend Elephant promised to do so, and went to look
for it at the house of a maker of palm-wine. The owner of the house
fled for his life, and the jar fell into Friend Elephant's possession,
who bore it back to the Mouse-deer.
Then Friend Mouse-deer said, "When does your promise expire?" and
Friend Elephant replied, "To-morrow." So when next morning arrived
they started, and the Mouse-deer said, "Now pour the molasses over your
back and let it spread and spread and run down your legs." Friend
Elephant did as he was ordered. Friend Mouse-deer then instructed the
Elephant as follows: "As soon as I begin to lick up the molasses on
your back, bellow as loud as you can and make believe to be hurt, and
writhe and wriggle this way and that."
And presently Friend Mouse-deer commenced to lick hard, and Friend
Elephant writhed and wriggled and made believe to be hurt, and made a
prodigious noise of trumpeting. In this way they proceeded and Friend
Mouse-deer got up and sat astride upon Friend Elephant's back. And the
Elephant trumpeted and trumpeted all the way till they met with Friend
Tiger. At this Friend Mouse-deer exclaimed, "A single Elephant is very
short commons; if I could only catch that big and fat old Tiger there,
it would be just enough to satisfy my hunger."
Now when Friend Tiger heard these words of the Mouse-deer, he said to
himself, "So I suppose if you catch me, you'll eat me into the bargain,
will you?" And Friend Tiger stayed not a moment longer, but fled for
his life, fetching very lofty bounds.
And soon he met with the Black Ape, and Friend Ape asked, "Why running
so hard, Friend Tiger? Why so much noise, and why, just when the Rains
are upon us, too, do you go fetching such lofty bounds?" Friend Tiger
replied, "What do you mean by 'so much noise'? What was the Thing that
was got upon Friend Elephant's back, that had caught Friend Elephant
and was devouring him so that he went writhing and wriggling for the
pain of it, and the blood went streaming down in floods? Moreover the
Thing that was got on Friend Elephant's back said, to my hearing, that
a single Elephant was very short commons: but if It could catch a fat
old Tiger like myself that would be just enough to satisfy Its hunger."
Friend Ape said, "What was that Thing, Friend Tiger?" "I don't know,"
said the Tiger. "Ah," mused the Ape, "I wonder if it could be Friend
Mouse-deer!" "Certainly not," said the Tiger; "why, how in the world
could Friend Mouse-deer swallow Me? To say nothing of his not being
used to meat food." "Come and let us go back again," said the Ape.
Then they went back again to find the Elephant, and first the Ape went
the faster, and then the Tiger went the faster, and then the Ape got in
front again. But Friend Mouse-deer sitting on Friend Elephant's back
saw them coming and shouted. "Hullo, Father Ape," said he, "this is a
dog's trick indeed; you promised to bring me two tigers and you only
bring me one. I refuse to accept it, Father Ape."
Now when Friend Tiger heard this, he ran off at first as fast as he
could, but presently he slackened his pace and said, "It is too bad of
you, Friend Ape, to try to cozen me in order to pay your own debts.
For shame, Father Ape! It was only through good luck that he refused
to accept me; if he had accepted, I should have been dead and done
with. So now, if you come down to the ground, you shall die the death
yourself, just for your trying to cheat me."
Thus the Tiger and the Ape were set at enmity, and to this day the
Tiger is very wroth with the Ape for trying to cheat him. And here the
"While watching man in all his phases,
And seeing that, in many cases,
He acts just like the brute creation—
I've thought the lord of all these races
Of no less failings showed the traces
Than do his lieges in relation."
The Wagtail and the Jackal
At a time when the animals spoke, a Wagtail laid her eggs on the
ground. The little ones grew up. A Jackal and a Fox came to them.
The Jackal said to the Fox:
"Swear to me that the Wagtail owes me a pound of butter."
The Fox swore to it. The Bird began to weep. A Greyhound came to her
and asked her what was the matter. She answered him:
"The Fox has calumniated me."
"Well," said the Hound, "put me in this sack of skin."
She put him in the sack. "Tie up the top well," said the Hound. When
the Jackal returned she said to him,
"Come and measure out the butter."
The Jackal advanced and unfastened the sack. He saw the Hound, who
stretched out his paws and said to the Fox,
"I am ill; come and measure, Fox."
The Fox approached. The Hound seized him. The Jackal said:
"Remember your false testimony."
A Wren had built its nest on the side of a road. When the eggs were
hatched, a Camel passed that way. The little Wrens saw it and said to
their father when he returned from the fields:
"O papa, a gigantic animal passed by."
The Wren stretched out his foot. "As big as this, my children?"
"O papa, much bigger."
He stretched out his foot and his wing. "As big as this?"
"O papa, much bigger."
Finally he stretched out fully his feet and legs.
"As big as this then?"
"That is a lie; there is no animal bigger than I am."
"Well, wait," said the little ones, "and you will see."
The Camel came back while browsing the grass of the roadside.
The Wren stretched himself out near the nest. The Camel seized the
bird, which passed through its teeth safe and sound.
"Truly," he said to them, "the Camel is a gigantic animal, but I am not
ashamed of myself."
On the earth it generally happens that the vain are as if they did not
exist; but sooner or later a rock falls and crushes them.
Mule, Jackal, and Lion
The Mule, the Jackal, and the Lion went in company.
"We will eat the one whose race is bad," they said to each other.
"Lion, who is your father?"
"My father is a lion, and my mother is a lioness."
"And you, Jackal, what is your father?"
"My father is a jackal, and my mother too."
"And you, Mule, what is your father?"
"My father is an ass, and my mother is a mare."
"Your race is bad; we will eat you."
He answered them: "I will consult an old man. If he says that my race
is bad, you may devour me."
He went to a farrier, and said to him, "Shoe my hind feet, and make the
nails stick out well."
He went back home. He called the Camel and showed him his feet,
saying, "See what is written on this tablet."
"The writing is difficult to decipher," answered the Camel. "I do not
understand it, for I only know three words—outini, ouzatini,
He called the Lion, and said to him, "I do not understand these
letters; I only know three words—outini, ouzatini, ouazakin."
"Show it to me," said the Lion. He approached. The Mule struck him
between the eyes and stretched him out level.
He who goes with a knave is betrayed by him.
"The world is old, they say; I don't deny it;
But, infant still
In taste and will,
Whoe'er would teach, must gratify it."
The Hen and the Cat
A Cat arose in her house, went to a Hen and said to her: "Let us make
The Hen replied to the Cat: "Dost thou like me for a friend?"
The Cat said, "Yes," and went away, and after having been at home for a
while, she sent her child to the Hen, saying, "Go and tell the Hen to
rise up early to-morrow morning, and to come and accompany me to a
The child arose, went to the Hen's house and saluted her.
The Hen arose, and asked it: "Thou child of the Cat, dost thou come to
me in peace?"
The Cat's child replied, "I come in peace; my mother has sent me to
The Hen said to the Cat's child, "Say what thy mother has sent thee
for; let me know."
After the Cat's child had told it to the Hen, it said: "I will go," and
set out and went home.
When it was gone the Hen arose, called a child of hers, and said: "Go
and ask the Cat at what time we shall go to the neighbouring town?"
When the child had already started, she called it back again, saying,
"Come back, I will tell thee something."
The child returned, and when it had come to its mother, she said to it,
"When thou goest to the Cat, open thy ears and hear well what she says,
and come and tell me."
The child went to the Cat, and saluted her, and when the Cat arose and
came out to it, the Hen's child was standing there. The Cat asked the
Hen's child, "Why did thy mother send thee to me?"
The Hen's child said, "My mother said I must come and ask thee how
early shall we go to the neighbouring town?"
The Cat said to the Hen's child, "Go and tell thy mother to arise and
come at the cockcrowing; for what should eat her?"
The Hen's child returned to its mother, and said to her, "Behold I went
to the Cat's place where thou sentest me, and am come back."
The Hen said to her child, "What did the Cat say? Let me hear what
word she spoke?"
Her child answered and said to her, "My mother, the word which the Cat
spoke is this: 'Go and tell thy mother to come to me when the cock
crows, that we may go; for what should eat her?'"
Its mother, the Hen, said to her child, "My child, lie down in your
house, for I have heard what the Cat said."
The child of the Hen obeyed her mother, went and lay down, and also her
mother lay down. They slept their sleep until the cock crew, which
when the Cat heard, she arose, got ready and waited for the Hen,
thinking, "May she come that we may go!" The cock crew the second
time, and the Cat looked out on the way whence the Hen was to come,
thinking, "May she come that we may go!"
The Hen did not get up at home and day came on. When it became day,
the Cat arose in her house, went to the Hen's home, and said to her,
"Hen, thou sentest thy child to me, and asked at what time thou
shouldst rise up, and I said to thy child, 'Go and tell thy mother to
come when the cock crows, that we may go.' Did it not tell thee what
it was told by me, that thou art still sitting at home although it has
The Hen said to the Cat, "Sister Cat, if thou wishest to have me for a
friend, I must never get up in my house and come out at night."
The Cat said to the Hen, "What art thou afraid of that thou sayest, 'I
will never come out at night'? What is there in the way?"
The Hen listened to what the Cat said, got herself ready and called her
children, saying, "Come and let us accompany the Cat to a neighbouring
town!" All the children arose and when they had set out on their way,
the Cat went before, and having gone on a little, she seized two of the
children of the Hen; and the Hen saw that the cat was seizing two of
her children; so she said to the Cat, "Sister Cat, we have scarcely set
out on our way and dost thou seize two of my children?"
The Cat replied, "Thy two children which I took have not strength
enough to walk; therefore did I take them to my bosom that we may go
The Hen said to the Cat, "If thou actest thus, I and thou must dissolve
The Cat replied, "If thou wilt not have a friend, I shall let thee go
home." So, as the Hen began to go home, the Cat made a bound, and
seized the Hen's head, whereupon the Hen cried for help. All the
people of the town heard her, arose, ran, and when they were come, the
Cat was holding the Hen's head tight. When the Cat saw the people of
the town, she left the Hen, ran away, and entered the forest.
There the Hen was standing and the people of the town said to her:
"Foolish one, didst thou, a Hen, arise and go to befriend a Cat? If we
had not heard thy screams, and come to thee, she would have killed thee
and carried away all thy children into her forest."
The Hen said to the people of the town: "God bless you: you have taken
me out of the Cat's mouth."
The people of the town said to her: "To-day our Lord has delivered
thee, but for the future do thou no more make friendship with the Cat.
The Cat is too cunning for thee: beware of the Cat in future!"
I have heard old people say, that on that day the cats and the fowls
dissolved their friendship. This is finished.
The Stork and the Toad
A Stork went and laid eggs in a tree, brooded and hatched young ones.
Then she left and went to seek food for her little ones; but she did
not get any food, and all her little ones were crying for hunger. The
Stork did not know what to do. So she arose one day, went to her
friend, and said, "My friend, I am come to thee."
Her friend said: "What dost thou want that thou art come to me?"
She replied to her friend: "My children are hungry, and I have no food;
therefore, am I come to thee; teach me a device!"
Her friend said to her: "Arise in the morning, go to the brook, and see
whether there are Toads in it; then come back, and on the following
morning go again, and lie down by the side of the brook; stretch out
thy legs and thy wings, shut thine eyes, keep quite silent, and lie in
one place until the Toads come out in the morning, and, after seeing
thee, go home and call all their people to come, to take thee by the
wing and to drag thee away. But do not thou speak to them—be
She listened to what her friend said, and at night-quiet she arose, and
went to the brook, when all the Toads were singing; but as soon as they
saw her, they went and hid themselves at the bottom of the water. So
the Stork went home and slept, and having slept she arose up early and
went back again to the brook, without being observed by the Toads; she
went softly, and lay down by the side of the water, pretending to be
dead, stretched out her legs, her wings, and her mouth, and shut her
eyes. Thus she lay, until at break of day when one Toad arose, and,
finding that it was day, came forth and saw the Stork lying. He went
back, and called all the Toads:
"Come, behold, I have seen something dead, lying at the door of our
house, and when I had seen it I came back to call you."
So all the Toads arose and followed him, and having come out, they all
saw a Stork lying at the door of their house; but they did not know
that the Stork was more cunning than themselves. They returned home,
called a council together and said: "What shall we do? Some one who
came, we do not know whence, has died before the gate of our town."
All their great men answered, and said, "Arise all of you, go out, drag
this dead body far away, and leave it there."
So they all arose, went, and, taking the Stork by its wings and legs,
dragged it away.
The Stork was cunning; she saw them without their knowing it. They
sang, as they dragged her away:
"Drag her and leave her! Drag her and leave her!"
The Stork did not speak to them, as they all dragged her away, although
she saw them. Now when they had carried her far away, the Stork opened
her eyes, which when they saw they all began to run away. As soon as
the Stork saw that the Toads had begun to run away, she arose, and
pursued them; having overtaken one, she took and swallowed it, and went
on taking and swallowing them. The Toads kept running, but by the time
they would have got home the Stork had swallowed them all, one by one.
She had filled her bag, and then started on her way home. As soon as
her children saw her, they all ran to their mother, saying, "Our mother
has brought us food." When they came their mother threw all the Toads
in her bag down to her children, and her children ate them, so that
their hunger was appeased.
The Stork arose, went to her friend, and said:
"My friend, what thou toldest me yesterday is excellent: I went and lay
down by the side of the brook, and when the Toads saw me in the
morning, they thought I was dead; they came, dragged me along, and when
they had carried me far away, not knowing that I was wiser than they
and thinking that I was dead, I opened mine eyes to look at them; but
on seeing me open mine eyes, they all began to run away. Then I arose,
pursued them, and when I had overtaken one, I took and swallowed it;
and when I had overtaken a second I took and swallowed it; so by the
time they would have reached home I had swallowed them all, and filled
my bag with them. I brought them to my children, and when my children
were around me, I threw the Toads before them out of the bag and they
ate them, that their hunger was appeased."
She also thanked her friend, saying: "God bless thee; thou hast taught
me an excellent device."
Thus the Stork and her friend devised a plan, and thus they were able
to maintain their children while the Toads were sitting in their house.
So now, when the Toads are croaking in a brook, and they see any one
come, they are all quite silent, supposing that a Stork is coming.
This fable of the Stork and Toads, which I heard, is now finished.
The Rat and the Toad
The Toad said to the Rat, "I can do more than thou."
The Rat replied to the Toad: "Thou dost not know how to run; having
flung thyself anywhere thou stoppest there. This is all thy run; and
wilt thou say that thou canst do more than I?"
When the Toad had heard the words of the Rat he said to him: "If,
according to thy opinion, I cannot do more than thou, thou shalt see
what I will begin to do to-morrow; and if thou beginnest and doest the
same, without anything happening to thee, thou canst do more than I."
The Rat agreed to the Toad's proposal, and went to see the Toad.
The Toad prepared himself, and when the sun reached about the middle,
between the horizon and the zenith, the great men felt its heat, and
went to sit down in the shade of a tree. The Toad on seeing this,
arose, went to where the men were sitting, and passed through the midst
of them. When the men observed him they said: "If you touch him, your
hand will become bitter." So no one touched him, and the Toad passed
through and went home.
Then the Toad said to the Rat, "Didst thou see me? Now if thou canst
do what I do, arise, and begin to do it. I will see!"
The Rat, attending to what the toad said, got ready and the following
morning, when the sun had gained strength and the great men had stood
up and got under the shade of a tree, the Rat saw them sitting there,
and went to do what the Toad had done; but when he came to where the
men were sitting, and just went to pass through the midst of them, they
saw him, and they all took sticks, and sought to kill him: one man
attempting to kill him with a stick, struck at him, but did not hit him
well, the stick touching him only a little on the back; so he ran away
to the Toad.
On his arrival the Rat said to the Toad:
"Brother Toad, as thou wentest to where the people were sitting no one
said a word to thee, and thou camest home again with a sound skin; but
when I went, and they saw me, just as I went to pass through them they
all took sticks, and sought to kill me; and one man taking a stick and
striking at me to kill me, our Lord helped me, that the stick hit me
only a little on the back; so I ran away, and came to thee. I disputed
with thee, thinking that I could do what thou doest: now to-day I have
experienced something; to-morrow let us begin again and when I have the
experience of to-morrow, I shall be able to give thee an answer."
The Toad said to the Rat: "The things of today are passed; to-morrow,
when the great men have gone and sat down under the tree, I will get
ready and when thou hast seen that, on observing me come to them and
pass through the midst of them, they will not say a word to me, thou
also shalt do what I did." So the Rat then went to see the Toad.
As soon as the Toad saw the great men sitting under the tree, he again
began, saying to the Rat, "Look at me, as I go to the place where the
great men are sitting, with a sound skin: but if, on my return from
them, if thou seest the wale of a stick on any part of my body, thou
hast spoken the truth, and canst do more than I."
The Toad got ready, and on coming to where the men were sitting no one
said anything to him; so he passed through the midst of them, and went
again to the Rat, saying: "Look at me! Look at my whole body! Canst
thou see the wale of a stick? If thou seest one, then tell me of it!"
When the Rat had looked at the Toad's whole body and not seen any wale
of a stick he said to the Toad:
"Brother Toad, I have looked at thy whole body, and not seen any wale
of a stick: thou art right."
The Toad said to the Rat. "As thou disputest with me, and maintainest
that thou canst do what I do, get up again, and go to where the great
men are sitting; and if on seeing thee, these men do not say anything
to thee, so that I see thee come back to me again with a sound skin,
then I know that thou canst do more than I."
The Rat, attending to what the Toad said, arose, got himself ready, and
when he saw the great men sitting under the tree, he went toward them;
but on observing him, they said: "Here comes a Rat," and they every one
took a stick, and pursued him in order to kill him; so he ran away, and
as he ran, a man with a stick pursued him; saying, "I will not let this
The Rat ran until his strength failed him. The man pursued him with
his stick, to kill him; and having come near to him, he took his stick,
and struck at him, with the purpose of killing him; but the stick did
not hit him, and God saved him, his time being not yet arrived, by
showing him a hole into which he crept. When the man saw that he had
gotten into the hole, he went back and returned home. The Rat, on
seeing that the man had gone home, came again out of the hole, and went
to the Toad, saying to him:
"Brother Toad, I indeed at first disputed with thee, saying that I
could do more than thou; but, as for my disputing with thee, thou in
truth canst do more than I: when the people saw thee, they did not say
a word to thee, but when they saw me, they wished to kill me; if our
Lord had not helped me and showed me a hole, they, on seeing me, would
not have left, but killed me; thou surpassest me in greatness."
At that time the Rat entreated our Lord and he placed it in a hole, but
the Toad he placed in the open air. The Rat does not come out by day,
before any one; as to the time when it comes out at night, it stretches
its head out of the hole, and when it does not see anybody it comes out
to seek its food.
As for the Toad, it comes out by day and by night, at any time,
whenever it likes; it comes out and goes about, not anything likes to
molest it; it is bitter, no one eats it on account of its bitterness;
the Toad is left alone; therefore it goes about wherever it likes.
The Rat does not come out of its hole and walk about except at night.
What the Toad and the Rat did, this I heard, and have told to thee.
This fable of the Toad and the Rat is now finished.
The Lion and the Wild Dog
The Lion said to the Wild Dog that he did not fear any one in the
forest except these four, viz., tree-leaves, grass, flies, and earth,
and when the Wild Dog said, "There is certainly one stronger than
thou," the Lion replied to the Wild Dog, "I kill the young ones of the
elephant, the wild cow, and the leopard, and bring them to my children
to be eaten. If I give one roar, all the beasts of the forest tremble,
every one of them, on hearing me roar; none is greater than I within
The Wild Dog said to the Lion, "As thou sayest that thou fearest not
any one in this forest, so let us go and show me thy house; and I will
come and call thee, in order to show thee a place where a black bird
comes to eat, as soon as I shall see him again."
The Lion took the Wild Dog with him and showed him his house; and then
the Wild Dog went home.
The next day, when a hunter was come to the forest the Wild Dog, on
seeing him, went to the Lion's house, and said to the Lion:
"Brother Lion, come, and follow me, and I will show thee something
which I have seen."
The Lion arose and followed the Wild Dog, and when they were come to
where the hunter was, the hunter prepared himself: he had put on his
forest garment, had sewn the bill of a long bird to his cap, and put it
on his head, and he walked as a bird. The Wild Dog, seeing him, said
to the Lion:
"Brother Lion, yonder is that black bird. Go and catch him, and when
thou hast caught him, please give me one of his legs, for I want it for
The Lion attended to what the Wild Dog said, and went softly to where
the bird was; but the Wild Dog ran back.
The Lion went, thinking, "I will kill the bird," but he did not know
that on seeing him the hunter had prepared himself, and taken out his
arrow; so, as he thought, "I will go and seize the bird," and was come
close to the hunter, the hunter shot an arrow at the Lion and hit him.
Then the Lion fell back, and having got up and fallen down three times,
the arrow took effect and he felt giddy. In the same moment the hunter
had disappeared so that he saw him no more. Then the Lion recovered
his courage and went very gently home.
On his arrival at home the Wild Dog said to him:
"Brother Lion, as thou saidst to me that thou art not afraid of any one
in the world except our Lord, tree-leaves, grass, flies, and dirt, why
didst thou not catch that black bird which I showed thee, and bring it
to thy children?"
The Lion replied, "This man's strength is greater than mine."
Then the Wild Dog said again, "Thou saidst that thou fearest no one,
except grass, flies, earth and tree-leaves; thou fearest, lest when
thou enterest the forest, the leaves of trees should touch thee, or
lest grass should touch thy body, or lest flies should sit on thy skin;
thou also fearest to lie upon the bare earth, and thou fearest our
Lord, who created thee: all these thou fearest, 'but not any other I
fear within this forest,' thou saidst; and yet I showed thee a bird,
the which thou couldst not kill, but thou leftest it, and rannest home;
now tell me how this bird looks?"
The Lion answered and said to the Wild Dog: "Wild Dog, what thou saidst
is true, and I believe it; a black man is something to be feared; if we
do not fear a black man neither shall we fear our Lord who created us."
Now all the wild beasts which God has created hunt for their food in
the forest, and eat it; but as soon as they see one black man standing,
they do not stop and wait, but run away. Now the following beasts are
dangerous in the forest: viz., the leopard, the lion, the wild cow, the
wild dog and the hyena; but when they see a black man, they do not stop
and wait. As for the dispute which the Lion and the Wild Dog had, the
Wild Dog was right, and the Lion gave him his right; then they shook
hands again, and each went and ran to his own home. This fable, which
I heard, respecting the Wild Dog and the Lion, is now finished.
This refers to the universal belief that hunters are able to render
themselves invisible, in moments of danger, by the operation of charms
How Sense Was Distributed
In the beginning not one of all the beasts of the forest was endowed
with sense: when they saw a hunter come to them intending to kill them,
they stood and looked at the hunter, and so the hunter killed them; day
after day he killed them. Then our Lord sent one who put all the sense
into a bag, tied it, carried it, and put it down under a large tree.
The Weasel saw the man put the bag down, and afterward went, called the
Hare, and said to him:
"Brother Hare, I saw a man put something down under a tree, but as I
went to take it, I could not; so let us go and if thou wilt take it I
will show it to thee that thou mayest do so."
When the Weasel and the Hare had gone together to where the bag was,
the Weasel said to the Hare, "Behold, here is the thing which I could
not take and for which I called thee here."
But as the Hare went and attempted to take it, he could not, so he left
it and went away.
When he was gone the Weasel went again to take hold of the bag, but as
he attempted to take it, it was too heavy; so the Weasel did not know
what to do. Then came a Pigeon, who sat upon a tree, and said
something to the Weasel. The Weasel heard it say: "Lean it over and
take it." And again, "Bend it and take it."
As soon as he had heard this, he dragged the bag along and thus brought
it and leaned it against a tree, and caused it to stand in an inclined
position; then having gone to the bottom of it, he bowed down, put his
head to the bag, and as he drew the bag toward him it went upon his
head; this being done, he pressed himself upon the ground, rose up and
stood there. After this he went his way home, and on putting the bag
down upon the ground and untying it, the Weasel saw that there was no
other thing in the bag, but pure sense.
So he went and called the Hare again, and when the Hare was come, he
said to him:
"Brother Hare, there was not a single other thing in that bag but pure
sense: God has loved us so that to-day we have obtained sense; but do
not tell it to anybody, then I will give thee a little, and what
remains I will hide in my hole until some one comes and begs of me, and
then I will give him also a little."
So he took one sense and gave to the Hare, saying, "If thou takest home
this one sense, which I give thee, it will preserve thee. When thou
sleepest by day open thy eyes; then if one comes to thee, thinking, 'I
have got meat, I will take it,' and sees that thine eyes are open, he
will think that thou art not asleep, will leave thee alone and go; but
when thou goest and liest down without sleeping, then shut thine eyes,
and if one sees thee, and sees that thine eyes are shut, when he comes
close to thee, saying, 'I have got meat, I will take it,' then thou
wilt see him, rise up and run away into thy forest. This one sense
will be enough for thee; but what remains I will keep in mine own
house." The Hare took his one sense and went home.
Now if one sees a Hare lying with his eyes open, it sleeps, but if its
eyes are closed it is awake, and does not sleep. By this one sense
which it has got the Hare is preserved.
The Weasel took all the sense that was left and hid it in his house.
The Weasel surpasses all the beasts of the field in sense. When you
see the Weasel, and say, "There the King of Sense has come out," and
drive it before you, saying, "I will catch it," it runs into its hole;
and if you begin to dig up the hole, it comes out behind you, and runs
until you see it no more. This is why now if one sees a Weasel, one
calls it "The King of Sense."
Amongst all the beasts of the field he distributed sense only little by
little, and this is what they now have.
This word, showing how sense came abroad in the world, and the meaning
of which I have heard, is now finished.
What Employment Our Lord Gave to Insects
All the Insects assembled and went to our Lord to seek employment. On
their arrival they said to our Lord, "Thou hast given every one his
work; now give us also a work to do, that we may have something to eat."
Our Lord attended to the request of the Insects, and said to them, "Who
will give notice that to-morrow all the Insects are to come?"
The Merchant-insect arose and said to our Lord, "The Cricket can give
So our Lord called the Cricket and said to him when he was come, "Go
and give notice this evening, when the sun has set, that to-morrow
morning all the Insects are to come to me, for I wish to see them."
The Cricket, obeying our Lord's command, went back to his house, waited
until evening, until the sun set, and as soon as he had seen the
setting of the sun, he prepared and arose to give notice. So when the
Cricket had given notice until midnight, our Lord sent a man to him
saying: "Go and tell the Cricket, that there has been much notice, and
that it is now enough; else he will have the headache." But the
Cricket would not hear, he said: "If I am out they will see me." So he
went into his hole, stretched only his head out, and began to give
notice. The Cricket went on giving notice until the day dawned; but
when it was day he became silent and stopped giving notice. Then all
the Insects arose and went to the prayer-place of our Lord, the
Merchant alone being left behind. To all the Insects who came first,
our Lord gave their employment, which they all took and went home.
Afterward also the Merchant-insect went to our Lord, and our Lord said
to him: "To all thy people who came before, I have given their work,
and they are gone; now what kept thee back that thou camest to me last?"
The Merchant-insect replied to our Lord, "My bags are many and on the
day when I took my bags and bound them up in my large travelling sacks
to load them upon my asses, then my people left me behind and came to
Our Lord said to him: "All other employments are assigned; the people
who came first took them and went away; but stop, I will also give one
to thee. Go, and having arrived at the entrance of the black ants,
where are a great many ant-heads, when thou seest these many heads of
the black ants, take them, and fill thy bags with them; then load thy
bags upon thy ass, carry them to market, spread mats there, and sell
So the Merchant-insect obtained his employment, drove his ass, and went
from our Lord, picked up ant-heads at the entrance of the black ants,
loaded his ass, and went his way to the market. As he went the ass
threw off the large bag. Then, he alone not being able to lift the
bag, he called people, saying: "Come, be so good as to help me; let us
take the sacks and load mine ass;" but not any of the people would do
so. Then the little red ants came after him, and when they were come
to where he was, he said to them, "Please come and help me to load mine
ass". The little red Ants said to the Merchant-insect, "We will not
help thee for nothing."
The Merchant-insect said to the little red Ants, "If you will not help
me for nothing, then come and help me, and when I have come back from
the market, I will pay you."
The little red Ants helped him to load his ass, and the Merchant-insect
drove his ass to the market, put down his sacks in the midst of the
market-place, prepared the ground, spread his mat there, and having
sold his ant-heads, he bought his things, and the market people began
Then the Merchant-insect started on his way home, and as he went the
little red Ants saw him, and said to him, "Father-merchant, give us
what thou owest us."
The Merchant, however, refused them their due, and went on his way.
Now as he went he got fever so that he sat down under a tree, tied his
ass fast, and took off the sacks from his ass's back. As he sat there
the fever overpowered him, and he lay down. On seeing him lying the
little red Ants assembled and came to him. Now the fever was consuming
the Merchant-insect's strength, and when the little red Ants saw this
they assembled together and killed him.
There was one Insect who saw them kill him, and he ran to our Lord, and
said to him, "All the little red Ants assembled together and killed a
man in the midst of the town—that I saw it."
When our Lord heard what the Insect said he called a man and sent him,
saying: "Go and call the little red Ants which kill people and bring
them to me."
The messenger arose, went, called all the little red Ants and brought
them before our Lord. On seeing the little red Ants, our Lord asked
them, "Why did you kill the man?" The little red Ants answered, and
said to our Lord, "The reason why we killed this man is this: When he
went to market and his ass had thrown off the sacks, those sacks were
too heavy for him to take alone, so he called us, and when we came to
him, he said to us, 'Please help me to take my large bag and load it
upon mine ass, that I may go to market. When I have sold my things and
come back, I will pay you.' Accordingly we helped him to load his ass;
but when he had gone to market and sold all his things there, we saw
him on his return home, and went to him, to ask him for what he owed
us; but he refused it, drove his ass, and went homeward. However, he
was only gone a little while, when he got fever, sat down under a tree,
tied his ass fast, took off his sacks and laid them down; and on the
same spot where he sat down, the fever overpowered him that he lay
down. Then on seeing him lying we went, assembled ourselves and killed
him, because he had refused what he owed us."
Our Lord gave them right.
Our Lord said to the Merchant, "Thou goest to market until thy life
stands still." Our Lord said to the Cricket, "Do thou give notice
whenever it is time! This is thy work."
Our Lord said to the little red Ants, "Whenever ye see any Insect
unwell and lying down in a place, then go, assemble yourselves and
Now the Cricket begins to give notice as soon as it is evening and does
not keep silence in his hole until the morning comes; this is its
employment. The Merchant has no farm and does not do any work, but
constantly goes to market; this is its employment, given to it by the
Lord. Now the little red Ants, whenever they see an Insect unwell and
lying down they go and assemble themselves against that Insect, and,
even if that Insect has not yet expired they finish it. This our Lord
gave to the little red Ants for their employment.
I have now told thee the fable of the Insects, which I have heard of
Omar Pesami. This is finished.
Man and Turtle
Let me tell of Turtle of Koka.
Man of Lubi la Suku caught a Turtle in the bush; he came with it to the
village. They said: "Let us kill it!"
Some people said: "How shall we kill it?" They said: "We shall cut it
with hatchets." Turtle replied, saying:
"Turtle of Koka,
And hatchet of Koka;
Hatchet not kill me a bit."
The people said: "What shall we kill him with?" Some said: "We shall
kill him with stones." Turtle, fear grasped him, he said: "I am going
to die." He says by mouth:
"Turtle of Koka,
And stone of Koka;
Stone will not kill me a bit."
The people said: "Let us cast him into the fire!" Turtle said:
"Turtle of Koka,
And fire of Koka;
Fire will not kill me a bit.
On my back,
It is like stone;
Not there can
Catch on fire."
The people said: "We will kill him with knives." Turtle said:
"Turtle of Koka,
And knife of Koka;
Knife will not kill me a bit."
The people said: "This fellow, how shall we do? How shall we kill
him?" These said: "Let us cast him into the depth of water." Turtle
said: "Woe! I shall die there! How shall I do?" The people said: "We
have it! We have found the way we can kill him!"
They carry him; they arrive with him at the river. They cast him into
the depth. Turtle dives; after a while he emerges. There he is
swimming and singing:
"In water, in my home!
In water, in my home!"
The people said: "Oh! Turtle has fooled us. We were going to kill him
with hatchets; he says, 'Hatchet will not kill me a bit.' We spoke of
casting him into the water; he says, 'I am going to die.' We came; we
cast him into the water; but we saved him."
This is what caused the Turtle to live in the water: the people were
going to kill him; but he was shrewd.
Nianga Dia Ngenga and Leopard
Nianga Dia Ngenga takes up his gun, saying: "I will go a-hunting." He
has reached the bush; he has hunted; he saw not game; he says: "I will
When he returns home, he finds Mr. Leopard, whom they have stuck up in
the fork of a tree. When he sees Nianga, he says: "Father Nianga, help
me out!" Nianga says: "What has done this to thee?" He says: "Unfork
me first; I shall tell thee."
Nianga took him out; he set him on the ground. He says: "Elephant has
stuck me up in the fork of the tree. Sir, to whom one has given life,
one gives more. I have been two days on the tree; give me a little
food." Nianga says: "Where shall I find food?" He says: "Anywhere."
Nianga takes up his dog; he gives it to Mr. Leopard. Mr. Leopard ate
it and said, "I am not satisfied." Nianga takes up also the other dog;
he gives it to Mr. Leopard. He has eaten, says, "Still I have not
enough." Nianga dia Ngenga took up his cartridge-box; he gives him it.
Mr. Leopard, when he had eaten it, said, "Still I have not enough."
Hare comes; he finds them talking; says: "Why are you quarrelling?"
Nianga says: "Mr. Leopard, I found him in the fork of a tree. Says
he, 'Take me out!' I took him out. Says he, 'Give me to eat!' I gave
him both my dogs and my cartridge-box. He says, 'Give me more to eat.'
That is what we are quarrelling about."
Hare says: "Mr. Leopard, let him be again on the tree, where he was;
that I may see." Mr. Leopard returns to the tree, where he was. Hare
moves off to a distance; he calls Nianga. He says: "Thou, Nianga, art
unwise. Mr. Leopard is a wild beast, he is wont to catch people.
Thou, who didst get him out of there, he wanted to devour thee. Shoot
Nianga then shoots Mr. Leopard.
The end . . . "is with God."
Leopard and the Other Animals
Mr. Leopard lived. One day hunger grasps him. He says: "How shall I
do? I will call all the animals in the world, saying, 'Come ye, let us
have a medical consultation.' When the animals come then I may catch
He sends at once to call Deer, Antelope, Soko, Hare, and Philantomba.
They gather, saying: "Why didst thou send for us?" He says: "Let us
consult medicine, that we get health."
The sun is broken down. They begin the drums outside with the songs.
Mr. Leopard himself is beating the drum; he is saying, saying:
"O Antelope! O Deer!
Your friend is sick;
Do not shun him!
O Antelope! O Deer!
Your friend is sick;
Do not shun him!
O Antelope! O Deer!
Your friend is sick;
Do not shun him'"
Deer says: "Chief, the drum, how art thou playing it? Bring it here;
that I play it." Mr. Leopard gives him it. Deer takes the drum, says:
Wiliness holds thee
Wiliness holds thee!
Wiliness holds thee!"
Mr. Leopard stood up from ground, said: "Thou, Deer, knowest not how to
play the drum."
The animals all then ran away, saying, "Mr. Leopard has a scheme to
Elephant and Frog
I often tell of Mr. Elephant and Mr. Frog, who were courting at one
One day Mr. Frog spake to the sweetheart of Mr. Elephant, saying: "Mr.
Elephant is my horse." Mr. Elephant, when he came at night, then the
girls tell him, saying: "Thou art the horse of Mr. Frog!"
Mr. Elephant then goes to Mr. Frog's, saying: "Didst thou tell my
sweetheart that I am thy horse?" Mr. Frog says, saying: "No; I did not
say so." They go together to find the sweetheart of Mr. Elephant.
On the way, Mr. Frog told Mr. Elephant, saying: "Grandfather, I have
not strength to walk. Let me get up on thy back!" Mr. Elephant said:
"Get up, my grandson." Mr. Frog then goes up.
When a while passed, he told Mr. Elephant: "Grandfather, I am going to
fall. Let me seek small cords to bind thee in mouth." Mr. Elephant
consents. Mr. Frog then does what he has asked.
When passed a little while, he told again Mr. Elephant, saying: "Let me
seek a green twig to fan the mosquitoes off thee." Mr. Elephant says:
"Go." He then fetches the twig.
Then, when they were about to arrive, the girls saw them, and they went
to meet them with shouting, saying: "Thou, Mr. Elephant, art the horse
indeed of Mr. Frog!"
Dog and the Kingship
Mr. Dog, they wanted to invest him with the kingship. They sought all
the things of royalty: the cap, the sceptre, the rings, the skin of
mulkaka. The things are complete; they say: "The day has come to
The headmen all came in full; they sent for the players of drum and
marimba; they have come. They spread coarse mats and fine mats. Where
the lord is going to sit, they laid a coarse mat; they spread on it a
fine mat; they set a chair on. They say: "Let the lord sit down." He
sat down. The people begin to divide the victuals.
He, Mr. Dog, on seeing the breast of a fowl, greed grasped him. He
stood up in haste; took the breast of the fowl; ran into the bush. The
people said: "The lord, whom we are installing, has run away with the
breast of the fowl into the bush!" The people separated.
Mr. Dog, who was going to be invested with the kingship, because of his
thievery, the kingship he lost it.
I have told my little tale. Finished.
The Builder of Ability and the Builder of Haste
Two men called themselves one name. This one said: "I am Ndala, the
builder of ability." The other one said: "I am Ndala, the builder of
They say: "We will go to trade." They start; they arrive in middle of
road. A storm comes. They stop, saying: "Let us build grass-huts!"
Ndala, the builder of haste, built in haste; he entered into his hut.
Ndala, the builder of ability is building carefully. The storm comes;
it kills him outside. Ndala, the builder of haste escaped, because his
hut was finished; it sheltered him when the storm came on.
FABLES FROM KRILOF
"Shall not my fable censure vice,
Because a Knave is over-nice?
And, lest the guilty hear and dread,
Shall not the decalogue be read?"
FABLES FROM KRILOF
The Education of the Lion
To the Lion, king of the forests, was given a son.
Among us, a child a year old, even if it belong to a royal family, is
small and weak. But, by the time it has lived a twelve-month, a
lion-cub has long ago left off its baby-clothes.
So, at the end of a year, the Lion began to consider that he must not
allow his royal son to remain ignorant, that the dignity of the kingdom
be not degraded, and that when the son's turn should come to govern the
kingdom the nation should have no cause to reproach the father on his
But whom should he entreat, or compel, or induce by rewards, to
instruct the czarevitch to become a czar?
The Fox is clever, but it is terribly addicted to lying, and a liar is
perpetually getting into trouble. "No," thought the Lion, "the science
of falsehood is not one which princes ought to study."
Should he trust him to the Mole? All who speak of that animal say that
it is an extreme admirer of order and regularity; that it never takes a
step till it has examined the ground before it, and that it cleans and
shells with its own paws every grain of corn that comes to its table.
In fact, the Mole has the reputation of being very great in small
affairs; but, unfortunately, it cannot see anything at a distance. The
Mole's love of order is an excellent thing for animals of its own kind,
but the Lion's kingdom is considerably more extensive than a mole-run.
Should he choose the Panther? The Panther is brave and strong, and is,
besides, a great master of military tactics; but the Panther knows
nothing of politics, is ignorant of everything that belongs to civil
affairs. A king must be a judge and a minister as well as a warrior.
The Panther is good for nothing but fighting; so it, too, is unfit to
educate royal children.
To be brief, not a single beast, not even the Elephant himself, who was
as much esteemed in the forest as Plato used to be in Greece, seemed
wise enough to satisfy the Lion.
By good fortune, or the opposite—we shall find out which—another
king, the king of birds, the Eagle, an old acquaintance and friend of
the Lion, heard of that monarch's difficulty, and, wishing to do his
friend a great kindness, offered to educate the young Lion himself.
The Lion felt a great weight removed from his shoulders. What could be
better than a king as the tutor for a prince? So the Lion-cub was got
ready, and sent off to the Eagle's court, there to learn how to govern.
And now two or three years go by. Ask whom you will, meanwhile, you
hear nothing but praise of the young Lion; and all the birds scatter
throughout the forests the wonderful stories of his merits.
At last the appointed time comes, and the Lion sends for his son. The
prince arrives, and all the people are gathered together, great and
The king embraces his son before them all, and thus addresses him: "My
beloved son, you are my only heir. I am looking forward to the grave,
but you are just entering upon life. Before I make over my sceptre to
you, tell me, in the presence of this assembly, what you have been
taught, and in what manner you propose to make your people happy."
"Papa," exclaimed the prince, "I know what no one here knows. I can
tell where each bird, from the Eagle to the Quail, can most readily
find water, on what each of them lives, and how many eggs it lays; and
I can count up the wants of every bird, without missing one. Here is
the certificate my tutor gave me. It was not for nothing that the
birds used to say that I could pick the stars out of the sky. When you
have made up your mind to transfer the kingdom to me, I will
immediately begin to teach the beasts how to make nests."
On this the king and all his beasts howled aloud; the members of the
council hung their heads; and, too late, the Lion perceived that the
young Lion had learned nothing of what was wanted, that he was
acquainted with birds only, not knowing anything of the nature of
beasts, although he was destined to rule over them, and that he was
destitute of that which is most requisite in kings—the knowledge of
the wants of their own people and the interests of their own country.
The Pebble and the Diamond
A Diamond, which some one had lost, lay for some time on the high road.
At last it happened that a merchant picked it up. By him it was
offered to the king, who bought it, had it set in gold, and made it one
of the ornaments of the royal crown. Having heard of this, a Pebble
began to make a fuss. The brilliant fate of the Diamond fascinated it;
and, one day, seeing a Moujik passing, it besought him thus:
"Do me a kindness, fellow-countryman, and take me with you to the
capital. Why should I go on suffering here in rain and mud, while our
Diamond is, men say, in honour there? I don't understand why it has
been treated with such respect. Side by side with me here it lay so
many years; it is just such a stone as I am—my close companion. Do
take me! How can one tell? If I am seen there, I too, perhaps, may be
found worthy of being turned to account."
The Moujik took the stone into his lumbering cart, and conveyed it to
the city. Our stone tumbled into the cart, thinking that it would soon
be sitting by the side of the Diamond. But a quite different fate
befell it. It really was turned to account, but only to mend a hole in
The Pike and the Cat
A conceited Pike took it into its head to exercise the functions of a
cat. I do not know whether the Evil One had plagued it with envy, or
whether, perhaps, it had grown tired of fishy fare; but, at all events,
it thought fit to ask the Cat to take it out to the chase, with the
intention of catching a few mice in the warehouse. "But, my dear
friend," Vaska says to the Pike, "do you understand that kind of work?
Take care, gossip, that you don't incur disgrace. It isn't without
reason that they say: 'The work ought to be in the master's power.'"
"Why really, gossip, what a tremendous affair it is! Mice, indeed!
Why, I have been in the habit of catching perches!"
"Oh, very well. Come along!"
They went; they lay each in ambush. The Cat thoroughly enjoyed itself;
made a hearty meal; then went to look after its comrade. Alas! the
Pike, almost destitute of life, lay there gasping, its tail nibbled
away by the mice. So the Cat, seeing that its comrade had undertaken a
task quite beyond its strength, dragged it back, half dead, to its pond.
Trishka's caftan was out at the elbows. But why should he ponder long
over it? He took to his needle, cut a quarter off each sleeve: so
mended the elbows.
The caftan was all right again, only his arms were bare for a quarter
of their length. That is no great matter, but every one is always
laughing at Trishka. So Trishka says:
"I'm not a fool. I'll set this affair straight also. I'll make the
sleeves longer than they were before. They shall see Trishka is no
mere commonplace fellow."
So he cut off the skirts of his caftan, and used them to lengthen his
Then Trishka was happy, though he had a caftan which was as short as a
In a similar way I have sometimes seen other embarrassed people set
straight their affairs. Take a look at them as they dash away. They
have all got on Trishka's caftan.
The Elephant as Governor
An Elephant was once appointed ruler of a forest. Now it is well known
that the race of elephants is endowed with great intelligence; but
every family has its unworthy scion. Our Governor was as stout as the
rest of his race are, but as foolish as the rest of his race are not.
As to his character, he would not intentionally hurt a fly. Well, the
worthy Governor becomes aware of a petition laid before him by the
Sheep, stating that their skins are entirely torn off their backs by
"Oh, rogues!" cries the Elephant, "what a crime! Who gave you leave to
But the Wolves say:
"Allow us to explain, O father. Did not you give us leave to take from
the Sheep a trifling contribution for our pelisses in winter? It is
only because they are stupid sheep that they cry out. They have only a
single fleece taken from each of them, but they grumble about giving
"Well, well," says the Elephant, "take care what you do. I will not
permit any one to commit injustice. As it must be so, take a fleece
from each of them. But do not take from them a single hair besides."
The tricksy Monkey, the Goat, the Ass, and bandy-legged Mishka the
Bear, determine to play a quartette. They provide themselves with the
necessary pieces of music—with two fiddles, and with an alto and a
counter-bass. Then they sit down on a meadow under a lime-tree,
prepared to enchant the world by their skill. They work away at their
fiddlesticks with a will; and they make a noise, but there is no music
"Stop, brothers, stop!" cries the Monkey, "wait a little! How can we
get our music right? It's plain, you mustn't sit as you are. You,
Mishka, with your counter-bass, face the alto. I will sit opposite the
second fiddle. Then a different sort of music will begin: we shall set
the very hills and forests dancing."
So they change places, and recommence; but the music is just as
discordant as before.
"Stop a little," exclaims the Ass; "I have found out the secret. We
shall be sure to play in tune if we sit in a row."
They follow its advice, and form in an orderly line. But the quartette
is as unmusical as ever. Louder than before there arose among them
squabbling and wrangling as to how they ought to be seated. It
happened that a Nightingale came flying that way, attracted by their
noise. At once they all entreated it to solve their difficulty.
"Be so kind," they say, "as to bear with us a little, in order that our
quartette may come off properly. Music we have; instruments we have:
tell us only how we ought to place ourselves."
But the Nightingale replies,
"To be a musician, one must have a quicker intelligence and a finer ear
than you possess. You, my friends, may place yourselves just as you
like, but you will never become musicians."
Demian's Fish Soup
"Neighbour, light of mine eyes! do eat a little more!"
"Dear neighbour, I am full to the throat."
"No matter; just a little plateful. Believe me, the soup is cooked
"But I've had three platefuls already."
"Well, what does that matter? If you like it, and it does you good,
why not eat it all up? What a soup it is! How rich! It looks as if
it had been sprinkled with amber. Here is a bream; there a lump of
sterlet. Take a little more, dear, kind friend. Just another
spoonful. Wife, come and entreat him!"
Thus does Demian feast his neighbour Phocas, not giving him a moment's
Phocas feels the moisture trickling down his forehead. Still he takes
the soup, attacks it with all the strength he has left, and somehow
manages to swallow the whole of it.
"That's the sort of friend I like!" cries Demian. "I can't bear people
who require pressing. But now, dear friend, take just this one little
But, on hearing this, our poor Phocas, much as he liked fish soup,
catching hold of his cap and sash, runs away home, not once looking
Nor from that day to this has he crossed Demian's threshold.
The Wolf and Its Cub
A Wolf, which had begun to accustom its Cub to support itself by its
father's profession, sent it one day to prowl about the skirts of the
wood. At the same time it ordered it to give all its attention to
seeing whether it would not be possible, even at the cost of sinning a
little, for them both to make their breakfast or dinner at the expense
of some shepherd or other. The pupil returns home, and says:
"Come along, quick! Our dinner awaits us: nothing could possibly be
safer. There are sheep feeding at the foot of yon hill, each one
fatter than the other. We have only to choose which to carry off and
eat; and the flock is so large that it would be difficult to count it
"Wait a minute," says the Wolf. "First of all I must know what sort of
a man the shepherd of this flock is.
"It is said that he is a good one—painstaking and intelligent. But I
went round the flock on all sides, and examined the dogs: they are not
at all fat, and seem to be spiritless and indolent."
"This description," says the old Wolf, "does not greatly attract me to
the flock. For, decidedly, if the shepherd is good, he will not keep
bad dogs about him. One might very soon get into trouble there. But
come with me: I will take you to a flock where we shall be in less
danger of losing our skins. Over that flock it is true that a great
many dogs watch; but the shepherd is himself a fool. And where the
shepherd is a fool there the dogs too are of little worth."
An appeal to justice was made against the Pike, on the ground that it
had rendered the pond uninhabitable. A whole cart-load of proofs was
tendered as evidence; and the culprit, as was beseeming, was brought
into court in a large tub. The judges were assembled not far off,
having been set to graze in a neighbouring field. Their names are
still preserved in the archives. There were two Donkeys, a couple of
old Horses, and two or three Goats. The Fox also was added to their
number, as assessor, in order that the business might be carried on
under competent supervision.
Now, popular report said that the Pike used to supply the table of the
Fox with fish. However this might be, there was no partiality among
the judges; and it must also be stated that it was impossible to
conceal the Pike's roguery in the affair in question. So there was no
help for it. Sentence was passed, condemning the Pike to an
ignominious punishment. In order to frighten others, it was to be hung
from a tree.
"Respected judges," thus did the Fox begin to speak, "hanging is a
trifle. I should have liked to have sentenced the culprit to such a
punishment as has never been seen here among us. In order that rogues
may in future live in fear, and run a terrible risk, I would drown it
in the river."
"Excellent!" cry the judges, and unanimously accept the proposition.
So the Pike was flung—into the river.
The Cuckoo and the Eagle
The Eagle promoted a Cuckoo to the rank of a Nightingale. The Cuckoo,
proud of its new position, seated itself proudly on an aspen, and began
to exhibit its musical talents. After a time, it looks round. All the
birds are flying away, some laughing at it, others abusing it. Our
Cuckoo grows angry, and hastens to the Eagle with a complaint against
"Have pity on me!" it says. "According to your command, I have been
appointed Nightingale to these woods, and yet the birds dare to laugh
at my singing."
"My friend," answers the Eagle, "I am a king, but I am not God. It is
impossible for me to remedy the cause of your complaint. I can order a
Cuckoo to be styled a Nightingale; but to make a Nightingale out of a
Cuckoo—that I cannot do."
The Peasant and the Sheep
A Peasant summoned a Sheep into courts charging the poor thing with a
criminal offence. The judge was—the Fox.
The case was immediately in full swing. Plaintiff and defendant were
equally adjured to state, point by point, and without both speaking at
once, how the affair took place, and in what their proof consisted.
Says the Peasant: "On such and such a day, I missed two of my fowls
early in the morning. Nothing was left of them but bones and leathers;
and no one had been in the yard but the Sheep."
Then the Sheep depones that it was fast asleep all the night in
question, and it calls all its neighbours to testify that they had
never known it guilty either of theft or any roguery; and besides this,
it states that it never touches flesh-meat.
Here is the Fox's decision, word for word:
"The explanation of the Sheep cannot, under any circumstances, be
accepted, for all rogues are notoriously clever at concealing their
real designs; and it appears manifest, on due inquiry, that, on the
aforesaid night, the Sheep was not separated from the fowls. Fowls are
exceedingly savoury, and opportunity favoured. Therefore I decide,
according to my conscience, that it is impossible that the Sheep should
have forborne to eat the fowls. The Sheep shall accordingly be put to
death. Its carcass shall be given to the court, and its fleece be
taken by the Plaintiff."
The Elephant in Favour
Once upon a time the Elephant stood high in the good graces of the
Lion. The forest immediately began to talk of the matter, and, as
usual, many guesses were made as to the means by which the Elephant had
gained such favour.
"It is no beauty," say the beasts to each other, "and it is not
amusing; and what habits it has! what manners!"
Says the Fox, whisking about his brush, "If it had possessed such a
bushy tail as mine, I should not have wondered."
"Or, sister," says the Bear, "if it had gotten into favour on account
of its claws, no one would have found the matter at all extraordinary;
but it has no claws at all, as we all know well."
"Isn't it its tusks that have gotten it into favour?" thus the Ox broke
in upon their conversation. "Haven't they, perhaps, been mistaken for
"Is it possible," said the Ass, shaking its ears, "that you don't know
how it has succeeded in making itself liked, and in becoming
distinguished? Why, I have guessed the reason! If it hadn't been
remarkable for its long ears, it would never in the world have gotten
The keen blade of a Sword, made of Damascus steel, which had been
thrown aside on a heap of old iron, was sent to market with the other
pieces of metal, and sold for a trifle to a Moujik. Now, a Moujik's
ideas move in a narrow circle. He immediately set to work to turn the
blade to account. Our Moujik fitted a handle to the blade, and began
to strip lime-trees in the forest with it, of the bark he wanted for
shoes, while at home he unceremoniously splintered fir chips with it.
Sometimes, also, he would lop off twigs with it, or small branches for
mending his wattled fences, or would shape stakes with it for his
garden paling. And the result was that, before the year was out, our
blade was notched and rusted from one end to the other, and the
children used to ride astride of it. So one day a Hedgehog, which was
lying under a bench in the cottage, close by the spot where the blade
had been flung, said to it:
"Tell me, what do you think of this life of yours? If there is any
truth in all the fine things that are said about Damascus steel, you
surely must be ashamed of having to splinter fir chips, and square
stakes, and of being turned, at last, into a plaything for children."
But the Sword-blade replied:
"In the hands of a warrior, I should have been a terror to the foe; but
here my special faculties are of no avail. So in this house I am
turned to base uses only. But am I free to choose my employment? No,
not I, but he, ought to be ashamed who could not see for what I was fit
to be employed."
The Cuckoo and the Turtle-dove
A Cuckoo sat on a bough, bitterly complaining.
"Why art thou so sad, dear friend?" sympathizingly cooed the
Turtle-dove to her, from a neighbouring twig. "Is it because spring
has passed away from us, and love with it; that the sun has sunk lower,
and that we are nearer to the winter?"
"How can I help grieving, unhappy one that I am?" replied the Cuckoo:
"thou shalt thyself be the judge. This spring my love was a happy one,
and, after a while, I became a mother. But my offspring utterly
refused even to recognize me. Was it such a return that I expected
from them? And how can I help being envious when I see how ducklings
crowd around their mother—how chickens hasten to the hen when she
calls to them. Just like an orphan I sit here, utterly alone, and know
not what filial affection means."
"Poor thing!" says the Dove, "I pity you from my heart. As for me,
though I know such things often occur, I should die outright it my
dovelets did not love me. But tell me, have you already brought up
your little ones? When did you find time to build a nest? I never saw
you doing anything of the kind: you were always flying and fluttering
"No, indeed!" says the Cuckoo. "Pretty nonsense it would have been if
I had spent such fine days in sitting on a nest! That would, indeed,
have been the highest pitch of stupidity! I always laid my eggs in the
nests of other birds."
"Then how can you expect your little ones to care for you?" says the
The Peasant and the Horse
A Peasant was sowing oats one day. Seeing the work go on, a young
Horse began to reason about it, grumbling to himself:
"A pretty piece of work, this, for which he brings such a quantity of
oats here! And yet they are all the time saying that men are wiser
than we are. Can anything possibly be more foolish or ridiculous than
to plough up a whole field like this in order to scatter one's oats
over it afterward to no purpose. Had he given them to me, or to the
bay there, or had he even thought fit to fling them to the fowls, it
would have been more like business. Or even if he had hoarded them up,
I should have recognized avarice in that. But to fling them uselessly
away—why, that is sheer stupidity!"
Meanwhile time passed; and in the autumn the oats were garnered, and
the Peasant fed this very Horse upon them all the winter.
There can be no doubt, Reader, that you do not approve of the opinions
of the Horse. But from the oldest times to our own days has not man
been equally audacious in criticising the designs of a Providence of
whose means or ends he sees and knows nothing?
The Wolf and the Cat
A Wolf ran out of the forest into a village—not to pay a visit, but to
save its life; for it trembled for its skin.
The huntsmen and a pack of hounds were after it. It would fain have
rushed in through the first gateway; but there was this unfortunate
circumstance against the scheme that all the gateways were closed.
The Wolf sees a Cat on a partition fence, and says pleadingly, "Vaska,
my friend, tell me quickly, which of the moujiks here is the kindest,
so that I may hide myself from my evil foes? Listen to the cry of the
dogs and the terrible sound of the horns? All that noise is actually
made in chase of me!"
"Go quickly, and ask Stefan," says Vaska, the Cat; "he is a very kind
"Quite true; only I have torn the skin off one of his sheep."
"Well, then, you can try Demian."
"I'm afraid he's angry with me, too; I carried off one of his kids."
"Run over there, then; Trofim lives there."
"Trofim! I should be afraid of even meeting him. Ever since the
spring he has been threatening me about a lamb."
"Dear me, that's bad! But perhaps Klim will protect you."
"Oh, Vaska, I have killed one of his calves."
"What do I hear, friend? You've quarrelled with all the village,"
cried Vaska to the Wolf. "What sort of protection can you hope for
here? No, no; our moujiks are not so destitute of sense as to be
willing to save you to their own hurt. And, really, you have only
yourself to blame. What you have sown, that you must now reap."
The Eagle and the Mole
An Eagle and his mate flew into a deep forest and determined to make it
their permanent abode. So they chose an oak, lofty and wide-spreading,
and began to build themselves a nest on the top of it, hoping there to
rear their young in the summer.
A Mole, who heard about all this, plucked up courage enough to inform
the Eagles that the oak was not a proper dwelling-place for them; that
it was almost entirely rotten at the root, and was likely soon to fall,
and that therefore the Eagles ought not to make their nest upon it.
But is it becoming that an Eagle should accept advice coming from a
Mole in a hole? Where then would be the glory of an Eagle having such
keen eyes? And how comes it that Moles dare to meddle in the affairs
of the king of Birds?
So, saying very little to the Mole, whose counsel he despised, the
Eagle set to work quickly—and the King soon got ready the new dwelling
for the Queen.
All goes well, and now the Eagles have little ones. But what happens?
One day, when at early dawn the Eagle is hastening back from the chase,
bringing a rich breakfast to his family, as he drops down from the sky
he sees—his oak has fallen, and has crushed beneath it his mate and
his little ones!
"Wretched creature that I am!" he cries, anguish blotting out from him
the light; "for my pride has fate so terribly punished me, and because
I gave no heed to wise counsel. But could one expect that wise counsel
could possibly come from a miserable Mole?"
Then from its hole the Mole replies: "Had not you despised me, you
would have remembered that I burrow within the earth, and that, as I
live among the roots, I can tell with certainty whether a tree be sound
The Spider and the Bee
A Merchant brought some linen to a fair. That's a thing everybody
wants to buy, so it would have been a sin in the Merchant if he had
complained of his sale. There was no keeping the buyers back: the shop
was at times crammed full.
Seeing how rapidly the goods went off, an envious Spider was tempted by
the Merchant's gains. She took it into her head to weave goods for
sale herself, and determined to open a little shop for them in a window
corner, seeking thereby to undermine the Merchant's success.
She commenced her web, spun the whole night long, and then set out her
wares on view. From her shop she did not stir, but remained sitting
there, puffed up with pride, and thinking, "So soon as the day shall
dawn will all buyers be enticed to me."
Well, the day did dawn. But what then? There came a broom, and the
ingenious creatures and her little shop were swept clean away.
Our Spider went wild with vexation.
"There!" she cried, "what's the good of expecting a just reward? And
yet I ask the whole world—Whose work is the finer, mine or that
"Yours, to be sure," answered the Bee. "Who would venture to deny the
fact? Every one knew that long ago. But what is the good of it if
there's neither warmth nor wear in it?"
The Cuckoo and the Cock
"How proudly and sonorously you sing, my dear Cock!"
"But you, dear Cuckoo, my light, how smoothly flows your long drawn-out
note! There is no such singer in all the rest of our forest."
"To you, dear friend, I could listen forever."
"And as for you, my beauty, I protest that when you are silent I
scarcely know how to wait till you begin again. Where do you get such
a voice?—so clear, so soft, so high! But no doubt you were always
like that: not very large in stature, but in song—a nightingale."
"Thanks, friend. As for you, I declare on my conscience you sing
better than the birds in the Garden of Eden. I appeal to public
opinion for a proof of this."
At this moment a Sparrow, who had overheard their conversation, said to
"You may go on praising each other till you are hoarse, my friends; but
your music is utterly worthless."
Why was it, that, not fearing to sin, the Cuckoo praised the Cock?
Simply because the Cock praised the Cuckoo.
The Peasant and the Robber
A Peasant who was beginning to stock his little farm had bought a cow
and a milk-pail at the fair, and was going quietly home by a lonely
path through the forest, when he suddenly fell into the hands of a
Robber. The Robber stripped him as bare as a lime-tree.
"Have mercy!" cried the Peasant. "I am utterly ruined. You have
reduced me to beggary. For a whole year I have worked to buy this dear
little cow. I could hardly bear to wait for this day to arrive."
"Very good," replied the Robber, touched with compassion; "Don't cry
out so against me. After all, I shall not want to milk your cow; so
I'll give you back your milk-pail."
FABLES FROM THE CHINESE
"Why have some more power than others? Only one knows. Why have some
longer life than others? Only one knows. Why do some try and not
succeed; while others do not try and yet they do succeed? Only one
FABLES PROM THE CHINESE
The Animals' Peace Party
The ancient books say that the pig is a very unclean animal and of no
great use to the world or man, and one of them contains this story:
Once upon a time the Horses and Cattle gave a party. Although the Pigs
were very greedy, the Horses said: "Let us invite them, and it may be
we can settle our quarrels in this way and become better friends. We
will call this a Peace Party.
"Generations and generations of pigs have broken through our fences,
taken our food, drunk our water, and rooted up our clean green grass;
but it is also true that the cattle children have hurt many young pigs.
"All this trouble and fighting is not right, and we know the Master
wishes we should live at peace with one another. Do you not think it a
good plan to give a Peace Party and settle this trouble?"
The Cattle said: "Who will be the leader of our party and do the
inviting? We should have a leader, both gentle and kind, to go to the
Pig's home and invite them."
The next day a small and very gentle Cow was sent to invite the Pigs.
As she went across to the pigs' yard, all the young ones jumped up and
grunted, "What are you coming here for? Do you want to fight?"
"No, I do not want to fight," said the Cow. "I was sent here to invite
you to our party. I should like to know if you will come, so that I
may tell our leader."
The young Pigs and the old ones talked together and the old ones said:
"The New Year feast will soon be here. Maybe they will have some good
things for us to eat at the party. I think we should go."
Then the old Pigs found the best talker in all the family, and sent
word by him that they would attend the party.
The day came, and the Pigs all went to the party. There were about
three hundred all together.
When they arrived they saw that the leader of the cows was the most
beautiful of all the herd and very kind and gentle to her guests.
After a while the leader spoke to them in a gentle voice and said to
the oldest Pigs: "We think it would be a good and pleasant thing if
there were no more quarrels in this pasture.
"Will you tell your people not to break down the fences and spoil the
place and eat our food? We will then agree that the oxen and horses
shall not hurt your children and all the old troubles shall be
forgotten from this day."
Then one young Pig stood up to talk. "All this big pasture belongs to
the Master, and not to you," he said. "We cannot go to other places
"The Master sends a servant to feed us, and sometimes he sends us to
your yard to eat the corn and potatoes.
"The servants clean our pen every day. When summer comes, they fill
the ponds with fresh water for us to bathe in.
"Now, friends, can you not see that this place and this food all belong
to the Master? We eat the food and go wherever we like. We take your
food only after you have finished. It would spoil on the ground if we
did not do this.
"Answer this question—Do our people ever hurt your people? No; even
though every year some of our children are killed by bad oxen and cows.
"What is our food? It is nothing; but our lives are worth much to us.
"Our Master never sends our people to work as he does the horses and
oxen. He sends us food and allows us to play a year and a year the
same, because he likes us best.
"You see the Horses and Oxen are always at work. Some pull wagons,
others plough land for rice; and they must work—sick or well.
"Our people never work. Every day at happy time we play; and do you
see how fat we are?
"You never see our bones. Look at the old Horses and the old Oxen.
Twenty years' work and no rest!
"I tell you the Master does not honour the Horses and Oxen as he does
"Friends, that is all I have to say. Have you any questions to ask?
Is what I have said not the truth?"
The old Cow said, "Moo, Moo," and shook her head sadly. The tired old
Horses groaned, "Huh, Huh," and never spoke a word.
The leader said, "My friends, it is best not to worry about things we
cannot know. We do not seem to understand our Master.
"It will soon be time for the New Year feast day; so, good night. And
may the Pig people live in the world as long and happily as the Horses
and the Oxen, although our Peace Party did not succeed."
On their way home the little Pigs made a big noise, and every one said,
"We, we! We win, we win!"
Then the old Horses and Oxen talked among themselves. "We are
stronger, wiser, and more useful than the Pigs," they said. "Why does
the Master treat us so?"
EE-SZE (Meaning): Why have some more power than others? Only one
knows. Why have some longer life than others? Only one knows. Why do
some try and not succeed; while others do not try and yet they do
succeed? Only one knows.
The Proud Chicken
A Widow named Hong-Mo lived in a little house near the market place.
Every year she raised many hundreds of chickens, which she sold to
support herself and her two children.
Each day the Chickens went to the fields near by and hunted bugs, rice,
and green things to eat.
The largest one was called the King of the Chickens, because of all the
hundreds in the flock he was the strongest. And for this reason he was
the leader of them all.
He led the flock to new places for food. He could crow the loudest,
and as he was the strongest, none dared oppose him in any way.
One day he said to the flock, "Let us go to the other side of the
mountain near the wilderness to-day, and hunt rice, wheat, corn, and
wild silkworms. There is not enough food here."
But the other Chickens said, "We are afraid to go so far. There are
foxes and eagles in the wilderness, and they will catch us."
The King of the Chickens said, "It is better that all the old hens and
cowards stay at home."
The King's secretary said, "I do not know fear. I will go with you."
Then they started away together.
When they had gone a little distance, the Secretary found a beetle, and
just as he was going to swallow it, the King flew at him in great
anger, saying, "Beetles are for kings, not for common chickens. Why
did you not give it to me?" So they fought together, and while they
were fighting, the beetle ran away and hid under the grass where he
could not be found.
And the Secretary said, "I will not fight for you, neither will I go to
the wilderness with you." And he went home again.
At sunset the King came home. The other Chickens had saved the best
roosting place for him; but he was angry because none of them had been
willing to go to the wilderness with him, and he fought first with one
and then with another.
He was a mighty warrior, and therefore none of them could stand up
against him. And he pulled the feathers out of many of the flock.
At last the Chickens said, "We will not serve this king any longer. We
will leave this place. If Hong-Mo will not give us another home, we
will stay in the vegetable garden. We will do that two or three
nights, and see if she will give us another place to live."
So the next day, when Hong-Mo waited at sunset for the Chickens to come
home, the King was the only one who came.
And she asked the King, "Where are all my Chickens?"
But he was proud and angry, and said, "They are of no use in the world.
I would not care if they always stayed away."
Hong-Mo answered, "You are not the only Chicken in the world. I want
the others to come back. If you drive them all away, you will surely
But the King laughed and jumped up on the fence and crowed.
"Nga-Un-Gan-Yu-Na" (cock-a-doodle-doo-oo) in a loud voice. "I don't
care for you! I don't care for you!"
Hong-Mo went out and called the Chickens, and she hunted long through
the twilight until the dark night came, but she could not find them.
The next morning early she went to the vegetable garden, and there she
found her Chickens. They were glad to see her, and bowed their heads
and flew to her.
Hong-Mo said, "What are you doing? Why do you children stay out here,
when I have given you a good house to live in?"
The Secretary told her all about the trouble with the King.
Hong-Mo said, "Now you must be friendly to each other. Come with me,
and I will bring you and your King together. We must have peace here."
When the Chickens came to where the King was he walked about, and
scraped his wings on the ground, and sharpened his spurs. His people
had come to make peace, and they bowed their heads and looked happy
when they saw their King. But he still walked about alone and would
He said, "I am a King—always a King. Do you know that? You bow your
heads and think that pleases me. But what do I care? I should not
care if there was never another Chicken in the world but myself. I am
And he hopped up on a tree and sang some war songs. But suddenly an
eagle who heard him, flew down and caught him in his talons and carried
him away. And the Chickens never saw their proud, quarrelsome King
EE-SZE (Meaning): No position in life is so high that it gives the
right to be proud and quarrelsome.
The Hen and the Chinese Mountain Turtle
Four hundred and fifty years ago in Lze-Cheung Province, Western China,
there lived an old farmer named Ah-Po.
The young farmers all said Ah-Po knew everything. If they wanted to
know when it would rain, they asked Ah-Po, and when he said: "It will
not rain to-morrow," or, "You will need your bamboo-hat this time
to-morrow," it was as he said. He knew all about the things of nature
and how to make the earth yield best her fruits and seeds, and some
said he was a prophet.
One day Ah-Po caught a fine Mountain Turtle. It was so large that it
took both of Ah-Po's sons to carry it home. They tied its legs
together and hung it on a strong stick, and each son put an end of the
stick on his shoulder.
Ah-Po said, "We will not kill the Turtle. He is too old to eat, and I
think we will keep him and watch the rings grow around his legs each
year." So they gave him a corner in the barnyard and fed him rice and
Ah-Po had many Chickens, and for three months the Turtle and Chickens
lived in peace with each other. But one day all the young Chickens
came together and laughed at the Turtle. Then they said to him, "Why
do you live here so long? Why do you not go back to your own place?
This small barnyard corner is not so good as your cave in the
wilderness. You have only a little sand and grass to live on here.
The servant feeds you, but she never gives you any wilderness fruits.
You are very large, and you take up too much room. We need all the
room there is here. You foolish old thing, do you think our fathers
and mothers want you? No. There is not one of our people who likes
you. Besides, you are not clean. You make too much dirt. The servant
girl gave you this water to drink, and your water bowl is even now
upside down. You scatter rice on our floor. Too many flies come here
to see you, and we do not like flies."
The Turtle waited until they had all finished scolding. Then he said,
"Do you think I came here myself? Who put me here, do you know? Do
you suppose I like to be in jail? You need not be jealous. I never
ate any rice that belonged to you or your family. I am not living in
your house. What are you complaining about? If our master should take
your whole family and sell it, he would only get one piece of silver.
Who and what are you to talk so much? Wait and see; some day I may
have the honoured place."
Some of the Chickens went home and told their mother, "We had an
argument with the Turtle to-day and he had the last word. To-morrow we
want you to go with us and show him that a Chicken can argue as well as
The next day all the Chickens of the barnyard went to see the Turtle.
And the old Hen said, "My children came here to play yesterday, and you
scolded them and drove them away. You said all my family was not worth
one piece of silver. You think you are worth many pieces of gold, I
suppose. No one likes you. Your own master would not eat you. And
the market people would never buy a thing so old and tough as you are.
But I suppose you will have to stay here in our yard a thousand years
or so, until you die. Then they will carry you to the wilderness and
throw you into the Nobody-Knows Lake."
Then the Turtle answered and said, "I am a Mountain Turtle. I come
from a wise family, and it is not easy for even man to catch me.
Educated men, doctors, know that I am useful for sickness, but if all
the people knew the many ways they could use me, I think there would
soon be no more turtles in the world. Many Chinese know that my skin
is good for skin disease, and my forefeet are good for the
devil-sickness in children, as they drive the devil away; and then my
shells are good for sore throat, and my stomach is good for
stomach-ache, and my bones are good for tooth-ache. Do you remember
that not long ago our master brought three turtle eggs to feed your
children? I heard him say: 'Those little Chickens caught cold in that
damp place, and so I must give them some turtle eggs.' I saw your
children eat those three eggs, and in two or three days they were well.
"So you see the Turtle is a useful creature in the world, even to
Chickens. Why do you not leave me in peace? As I must stay here
against my will, it is not right that your children should trouble me.
Sometimes they take all my rice and I go hungry, for our master will
not allow me to go outside of this fence to hunt food for myself. I
never come to your house and bother you, but your children will not
even let me live in peace in the little corner our master gave me. If
I had a few of my own people here with me, as you have, I think you
would not trouble me. But I have only myself, while you are many.
"Yesterday your children scolded me and disturbed my peace. To-day you
come again; and to-morrow and many to-morrows will see generations and
still more unhatched generations of Chickens coming here to scold me, I
fear; for the length of life of a cackling hen is as a day to me—a
Mountain Turtle. I know the heaven is large, I know the earth is large
and made for all creatures alike. But you think the heavens and the
earth were both made for you and your Chickens only. If you could
drive me away to-day you would try to-morrow to drive the dog away, and
in time you would think the master himself ought not to have enough of
your earth and air to live in. This barnyard is large enough for
birds, chickens, ducks, geese, and pigs. It makes our master happy to
have us all here."
The Chickens went away ashamed. Talking to each other about it, they
said: "The Turtle is right. It is foolish to want everything. We
barnyard creatures must live at peace with each other until we die.
The barnyard is not ours; we use it only a little while."
EE-SZE (Meaning): The Creator made the world for all to use, and, while
using it, the strong should not try to drive out the weak.
The Proud Fox and the Crab
One day a Fox said to a Crab: "Crawling thing, did you ever run in all
"Yes," said the Crab, "I run very often from the mud to the grass and
back to the river."
"Oh, shame!" said the Fox, "that is no distance to run. How many feet
and legs have you? I have only four. Why, if I had as many feet as
you have, I would run at least six times as fast as you do. Did you
know that you are really a very slow, stupid creature? Though I have
only four feet I run ten times as far as you do. I never heard of any
one with so many feet as you have, running so slowly."
The Crab said: "Would you like to run a race with a stupid creature
like me? I will try to run as fast as you. I know I am small, so
suppose we go to the scales and see how much heavier you are. As you
are ten times larger than I, of course you will have to run ten times
"Another reason why you can run so fast is because you have such a fine
tail and hold it so high. If you would allow me to put it down, I do
not think you would run any faster than I."
"Oh, very well," said the Fox, contemptuously, "do as you like, and
still the race will be so easy for me that I will not even need to try.
Your many legs and your stupid head do not go very well together. Now,
if I had my sense and all of your legs, no creature in the forest could
outrun me. As it is, there are none that can outwit me. I am known as
the sharp-witted. Even man says, 'Qui-kwat-wui-lai' (sly as a fox).
So do what you will, stupid one."
"If you will let me tie your beautiful tail down so it will stay," said
the Crab, "I am sure I can win the race."
"Oh, no, you cannot," said the Fox. "But I will prove to even your
stupid, slow brain that it will make no difference. Now, how do you
wish that I should hold my tail?"
Said the Crab: "If you will allow me to hang something on your tail to
hold it down, I am sure you cannot run faster than I."
"Do as you like," said the Fox.
"Allow me to come nearer," said the Crab, "and when I have it fastened
to your tail, I will say 'Ready!' Then you are to start."
So the Crab crawled behind and caught the Fox's tail with his pincers
and said, "Ready!" The Fox ran and ran until he was tired. And when he
stopped, there was the Crab beside him.
"Where are you now?" said the Crab. "I thought you were to run ten
times faster than I. You are not even ahead of me with all your
The Fox, panting for breath, hung his head in shame and went away where
he might never see the crab again.
EE-SZE (Meaning): A big, proud, boastful mouth, is a worse thing for a
man than it is for a fox.
The Mule and the Lion
One night the Lion was very hungry, but as the creatures of the
wilderness knew and feared him even from afar, he could not find food.
So he went to visit the young Mule that lived near the farmer's house,
and when he saw him he smiled blandly and asked, "What do you eat, fair
Lii, to make you so sleek and fat? What makes your hair so smooth and
beautiful? I think your master gives you tender fresh grass and fat
young pig to eat."
The Mule answered, "No, I am fat because I am gentle. My hair is
beautiful because I do not fight with other creatures. But why do you
come here, Sii? Are you hungry? I believe you are seeking for food."
The Lion said, "Oh, no, I am not hungry. I only walk around to get the
cool, fresh air. And then the night is very beautiful. The moon hangs
up in the clear sky with the stars and makes a soft light, and so I
came to visit you. Would you not like to take a walk with me? I will
take you to visit my friend, the Pig. I never go to his house alone; I
always take a friend with me."
The Mule asked, "Shall we go to any other place?"
"Yes," answered the Lion, "I think we will go to visit another friend
of mine who lives not far away."
Then the Mule asked his mother, "Will you allow me to go with Sii to
see his friend?"
"Who is his friend?" asked the mother.
"The farmer's Pig." said the Mule.
"I think it is no harm if you go only there," said the mother Mule.
"But you must not go anywhere else with Sii. The hunter is looking for
him, I hear, and you must be careful. Do not trust him fully, for I
fear he will tempt you to go to some other place or into some wrong
thing. If I allow you to go, you must come home before midnight. The
moon will not be gone then and you can see to find your way."
So the Lion and the Mule went to visit the Pig, who lived in a house in
the farmer's yard. But as soon as the Pig saw the Lion, he called out
in a loud voice to his mother.
The Lion said, "He is afraid of me. I will hide and you may go in
When the Pig saw that the Mule was alone, he thought the Lion had gone.
He opened his door wide and was very friendly to the Mule, saying,
But the Lion jumped from his hiding place and caught the Pig as he came
to the door. The Pig called to his mother in great fear, and the Mule
begged the Lion, saying, "Let the poor little creature go free."
But the Lion said, "No, indeed; I have many Pigs at my house. It is
better for him to go with me."
Then the Lion carried the Pig, while the Mule followed. Soon they came
to where a fine looking dog lay on some hay behind a net. The Lion did
not seem to see the net, for he dropped the Pig and tried to catch the
Dog, who cried loudly for mercy.
But the Lion said to the foolish Mule, "See how rude the Dog is to us.
We came to visit him and he makes a loud noise and tries to call the
hunter so that he will drive us away. I have never been so insulted.
Come here, Lii-Tsze, at once and help me!"
The Mule went to the Lion and the net fell and caught them both. At
sunrise the Hunter came and found the Mule and the Lion in his net.
The Mule begged earnestly and said, "Hunter, you know me and you know
my mother. We are your friends and we do no wrong. Set me free, oh,
hunter, set me free!"
The Hunter said, "No, I will not set you free. You may be good, but
you are in bad company and must take what it brings. I will take you
and the Lion both to the market place and sell you for silver. That is
my right. I am a hunter. If you get in my net, that is your business.
If I catch you, that is my business."
EE-SZE (Meaning): Bad company is a dangerous thing for man or beast.
The Lion and the Mosquitoes
One day Ah-Fou's father said to him, "Come here, my boy, and I will
tell you a story. Do you remember the great lion we saw one day, which
Ah-Kay caught? You know a strong rope held him, and he roared and
tried to free himself until he died. Then when Ah-Kay took him from
the net, he looked at the rope and the bamboo carefully, and found five
of the great ropes broken.
"How strong is the lion? Twenty children like you could not break one
strand of that great rope. But the lion broke five complete ropes. He
is the strongest of all animals. He catches many creatures for his
food, but once he lost a battle with one of the least of the wilderness
creatures. Do you know what it was?"
"A bird could fight and then fly away. Was it a bird?"
"No, my son."
"A man is stronger than a lion."
"No; do you not remember the woodcutter who could put down five strong
men? One night a wilderness lion caught and killed him."
"Then what was the smallest of all creatures of the wilderness that
battled with a lion?"
The father said, "I will tell you the story: Once in the summer time
the Lion was very thirsty. But the sun had taken all the water near
the Lion's home and he went to many places seeking for it. In time he
found an old well, but the water was not fresh. As the Lion was very
thirsty, he said, 'I must drink, even though the water is stale.'
"But when he reached down into the old well, he found that it was the
home of all the Mosquitoes of the wilderness.
"The Mosquitoes said to the Lion, 'Go away, we do not want you. This
is our home and we are happy. We do not wish the lion, the fox, or the
bear to come here. You are not our friend. Why do you come?"
"The Lion roared and said, 'Weak and foolish things! I am the Lion.
It is you that should go away, for I have come to drink. This is my
wilderness, and I am king. Do you know, weak things, that when I come
out from my place and send forth my voice, all the creatures of the
wilderness shake like leaves and bow their heads to me? What are you
that you should have a place you call your home and tell me that I may
or I may not?'
"Then the Mosquitoes answered, 'You are only one. You speak as if you
were many. Our people had this old well for a home before your roar
was heard in the wilderness. And many generations of us have been born
here. This home is ours, and we are they that say who shall come or
go. And yet you come and tell us to go out of our own door. If you do
not leave us, we will call our people, and you shall know trouble.'
"But the Lion held his head high with pride and anger and said, 'What
are you, oh, small of the small? I will kill every one of your useless
people. When I drink, I will open my mouth only a little wider, and
you shall be swallowed like the water. And to-morrow I shall forget
that I drank to-day.'
"'Boastful one,' said the Mosquitoes, 'we do not believe that you have
the power to destroy all our people. If you wish battle, we shall see.
We know your name is great and that all animals bow their heads before
you; but our people can kill you.'
"The Lion jumped high in his rage and said, 'No other creature in the
wilderness has dared to say these things to me—the king. Have I come
to the vile well of the silly Mosquitoes for wisdom?' And he held his
head high, and gave the mighty roar of battle, and made ready to kill
all the Mosquitoes.
"Then the Mosquitoes, big and little, flew around him. Many went into
his ears, and the smallest ones went into his nose, and the big old
ones went into his mouth to sting. A thousand and a thousand hung in
the air just over his head and made a great noise, and the Lion soon
knew that he could not conquer.
"He roared and jumped, and two of his front feet went down into the
well. The well was narrow and deep and he could not get out, for his
two hind feet were in the air and his head hung downward. And as he
died, he said to himself:
"'My pride and anger have brought me this fate. Had I used gentle
words, the Mosquitoes might have given me water for my thirst. I was
wise and strong in the wilderness, and even the greatest of the animals
feared my power. But I fought with the Mosquitoes and I die—not
because I have not strength to overcome, but because of the foolishness
EE-SZE (Meaning): The wise can conquer the foolish. Power is nothing,
strength is nothing. The wise, gentle and careful can always win.
FABLES OF LA FONTAINE*
"Of Fables judge not by their face;
They give the simplest brute a teacher's place.
Bare precepts were inert and tedious things;
The story gives them life and wings."
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
*Translated by Elizur Wright, Jr.
FABLES OF LA FONTAINE
The Grasshopper and the Ant
A Grasshopper gay
Sang the summer away,
And found herself poor
By the winter's first roar.
Of meat or of bread,
Not a morsel she had!
So a-begging she went,
To her neighbour the Ant,
For the loan of some wheat,
Which would serve her to eat,
Till the season came round.
"I will pay you," she saith,
"On an animal's faith,
Double weight in the pound
Ere the harvest be bound."
The Ant is a friend—
(And here she might mend)
Little given to lend.
"How spent you the summer?"
Quoth she, looking shame
At the borrowing dame.
"Night and day to each comer
I sang, if you please."
"You sang! I'm at ease,
For 'tis plain at a glance,
Now, ma'am, you must dance."
The Swan and the Cook
The pleasures of a poultry yard
Were by a Swan and Gosling shared.
The Swan was kept there for his looks,
The thrifty Gosling for the Cooks;
The first the garden's pride, the latter
A greater favourite on the platter.
They swam the ditches, side by side,
And oft in sports aquatic vied,
Plunging, splashing far and wide,
With rivalry ne'er satisfied.
One day the Cook, named Thirsty John,
Sent for the Gosling, took the Swan,
In haste his throat to cut,
And put him in the pot.
The bird's complaint resounded
In glorious melody;
Whereat the Cook, astounded
His sad mistake to see,
Cried, "What! make soup of a musician!
Please God, I'll never set such dish on.
No, no; I'll never cut a throat
That sings so passing sweet a note."
'Tis thus, whatever peril may alarm us,
Sweet words will surely never harm us.
The Hornets and the Bees
"The artist by his work is known."
A piece of honey-comb, one day,
Discovered as a waif and stray,
The Hornets treated as their own.
Their title did the Bees dispute,
And brought before a Wasp the suit.
The judge was puzzled to decide,
For nothing could be testified
Save that around this honey-comb
There had been seen, as if at home,
Some longish, brownish, buzzing creatures,
Much like the Bees in wings and features.
But what of that? for marks the same,
The Hornets, too, could truly claim.
Between assertion and denial,
The Wasp, in doubt, proclaimed new trial;
And, hearing what an ant-hill swore,
Could see no clearer than before.
"What use, I pray, of this expense?"
At last exclaim'd a Bee of sense.
"We've laboured months in this affair,
And now are only where we were.
Meanwhile the honey runs to waste:
'Tis time the judge should show some haste.
Both sides have had sufficient bleeding,
Without more fuss of scrawls and pleading.
Let's set to work, these drones and we,
And then all eyes the truth may see,
Whose art it is that can produce
The magic cells, the nectar juice."
The Hornets, flinching on their part,
Show that the work transcends their art.
The Wasp at length their title sees,
And gives the honey to the Bees.
Oh, would that suits at law with us
Might every one be managed thus!
The Two Rats, the Fox, and the Egg
Two Rats in foraging fell on an Egg—
For gentry such as they
A genteel dinner every way;
They needed not to find an ox's leg.
Brimful of joy and appetite,
They were about to sack the box,
So tight without the aid of locks,
When suddenly there came in sight
A personage—Sir Slyboots Fox.
Sure, luck was never more untoward
Since Fortune was a vixen froward!
How should they save their Egg—and bacon?
Their plunder couldn't then be bagg'd.
Should it in forward paws be taken,
Or roll'd along, or dragg'd?
Each method seem'd impossible,
And each was then of danger full.
Necessity, ingenious mother,
Brought forth what help'd them from their pother.
As still there was a chance to save their prey,
The sponger yet some hundred yards away—
One seized the Egg, and turned upon his back,
And then, in spite of many a thump and thwack,
That would have torn, perhaps, a coat of mail,
The other dragg'd him by the tail.
Who dares the inference to blink,
That beasts possess wherewith to think?
Were I commission'd to bestow
This power on creatures here below,
The beasts should have as much of mind
As infants of the human kind.
The Lion's Share
The Heifer, the Goat, and their sister the Sheep,
Compacted their earnings in common to keep,
'Tis said, in time past, with a Lion, who swayed
Full lordship o'er neighbours, of whatever grade.
The Goat, as it happened, a Stag having snared,
Sent off to the rest, that the beast might be shared.
All gathered; the Lion first counts on his claws,
And says, "We'll proceed to divide with our paws
The stag into pieces, as fix'd by our laws."
This done, he announces part first as his own;
"'Tis mine," he says, "truly, as Lion alone."
To such a decision there's nought to be said,
As he who has made it is doubtless the head.
"Well, also, the second to me should belong;
'Tis mine, be it known, by the right of the strong.
Again, as the bravest, the third must be mine.
To touch but the fourth whoso maketh a sign,
I'll choke him to death
In the space of a breath!"
The Shepherd and His Dog
A Shepherd, with a single Dog,
Was ask'd the reason why
He kept a Dog, whose least supply
Amounted to a loaf of bread
For every day. The people said
He'd better give the animal
To guard the village seignior's hall;
For him, a Shepherd, it would be
A thriftier economy
To keep small curs, say two or three,
That would not cost him half the food,
And yet for watching be as good.
The fools, perhaps, forgot to tell
If they would fight the wolf as well.
The silly Shepherd, giving heed,
Cast off his Dog of mastiff breed,
And took three dogs to watch his cattle,
Which ate far less, but fled in battle.
Not vain our tale, if it convinces
Small states that 'tis a wiser thing
To trust a single powerful king,
Than half a dozen petty princes.
The Old Man and the Ass
An Old Man, riding on his Ass,
Had found a spot of thrifty grass,
And there turn'd loose his weary beast.
Old Grizzle, pleased with such a feast,
Flung up his heels, and caper'd round,
Then roll'd and rubb'd upon the ground,
And frisk'd and browsed and bray'd,
And many a clean spot made.
Arm'd men came on them as he fed:
"Let's fly!" in haste the Old Man said.
"And wherefore so?" the Ass replied;
"With heavier burdens will they ride?"
"No," said the man, already started,
"Then," cried the Ass, as he departed.
"I'll stay, and be—no matter whose;
Save you yourself, and leave me loose,
But let me tell you, ere you go
(I speak plain English, as you know),
My master is my only foe."
The Lion Going to War
The Lion had an enterprise in hand;
Held a war-council, sent his provost-marshal,
And gave the animals a call impartial—
Each, in his way, to serve his high command.
The Elephant should carry on his back
The tools of war, the mighty public pack,
And fight in elephantine way and form;
The Bear should hold himself prepared to storm;
The Fox all secret stratagems should fix;
The Monkey should amuse the foe by tricks.
"Dismiss," said one, "the blockhead Asses,
And Hares, too cowardly and fleet."
"No," said the King; "I use all classes;
Without their aid my force were incomplete.
The Ass shall be our trumpeter, to scare
Our enemy. And then the nimble Hare
Our royal bulletins shall homeward bear."
A monarch provident and wise
Will hold his subjects all of consequence,
And know in each what talent lies.
There's nothing useless to a man of sense.
The Ass and the Lap-dog
One's native talent from its course
Cannot be turned aside by force;
But poorly apes the country clown
The polish'd manners of the town.
Their Maker chooses but a few
With power of pleasing to imbue;
Where wisely leave it we, the mass,
Unlike a certain fabled Ass,
That thought to gain his master's blessing
By jumping on him and caressing.
"What!" said the Donkey in his heart;
"Ought it to be that Puppy's part
To lead his useless life
In full companionship
With master and his wife,
While I must bear the whip?
What doth the Cur a kiss to draw
Forsooth, he only gives his paw!
If that is all there needs to please,
I'll do the thing myself, with ease."
Possess'd with this bright notion—
His master sitting on his chair,
At leisure in the open air—
He ambled up, with awkward motion,
And put his talents to the proof;
Upraised his bruised and batter'd hoof,
And, with an amiable mien,
His master patted on the chin,
The action gracing with a word—
The fondest bray that e'er was heard!
Oh, such caressing was there ever?
Or melody with such a quaver?
"Ho! Martin! here! a club, a club bring!"
Out cried the master, sore offended.
So Martin gave the Ass a drubbing—
And so the comedy was ended.
The Hare and the Partridge
A field in common share
A Partridge and a Hare,
And live in peaceful state,
Till, woeful to relate!
The hunters mingled cry
Compels the Hare to fly.
He hurries to his fort,
And spoils almost the sport
By faulting every hound
That yelps upon the ground.
At last his reeking heat
Betrays his snug retreat.
Old Tray, with philosophic nose,
Snuffs carefully, and grows
So certain, that he cries,
"The Hare is here; bow wow!"
And veteran Ranger now—
The dog that never lies—
"The Hare is gone," replies.
Alas! poor, wretched Hare,
Back comes he to his lair,
To meet destruction there!
The Partridge, void of fear,
Begins her friend to jeer:—
"You bragg'd of being fleet;
How serve you, now, your feet?"
Scarce has she ceased to speak—
The laugh yet in her beak—
When comes her turn to die,
From which she could not fly.
She thought her wings, indeed,
Enough for every need;
But in her laugh and talk,
Forgot the cruel hawk!
The Weasel in the Granary
A Weasel through a hole contrived to squeeze,
(She was recovering from disease),
Which led her to a farmer's hoard.
There lodged, her wasted form she cherish'd;
Heaven knows the lard and victuals stored
That by her gnawing perish'd!
Of which the consequence
Was sudden corpulence.
A week or so was past,
When having fully broken fast,
A noise she heard, and hurried
To find the hole by which she came,
And seem'd to find it not the same;
So round she ran, most sadly flurried;
And, coming back, thrust out her head,
Which, sticking there, she said,
"This is the hole, there can't be blunder:
What makes it now so small, I wonder,
Where, but the other day, I pass'd with ease?"
A Rat her trouble sees,
And cries, "But with an emptier belly;
You entered lean, and lean must sally."
The Wolf Turned Shepherd
A Wolf, whose gettings from the flocks
Began to be but few,
Bethought himself to play the fox
In character quite new.
A Shepherd's hat and coat he took,
A cudgel for a crook,
Nor e'en the pipe forgot:
And more to seem what he was not,
Himself upon his hat he wrote,
"I'm Willie, shepherd of these sheep."
His person thus complete,
His crook in upraised feet,
The impostor Willie stole upon the keep.
The proper Willie, on the grass asleep,
Slept there, indeed, profoundly,
His dog and pipe slept, also soundly;
His drowsy sheep around lay.
As for the greatest number,
Much bless'd the hypocrite their slumber
And hoped to drive away the flock,
Could he the Shepherd's voice but mock.
He thought undoubtedly he could.
He tried: the tone in which he spoke,
Loud echoing from the wood,
The plot and slumber broke;
Sheep, dog, and man awoke.
The Wolf, in sorry plight,
In hampering coat bedight,
Could neither run nor fight.
There's always leakage of deceit
Which makes it never safe to cheat,
Whoever is a Wolf had better
Keep clear of hypocritic fetter.
The Lion and the Ass Hunting
The King of animals, with royal grace,
Would celebrate his birthday in the chase.
Twas not with bow and arrows,
To slay some wretched sparrows;
The Lion hunts the wild boar of the wood,
The antlered deer and stags, the fat and good.
This time, the King, t' insure success,
Took for his aide-de-camp an Ass,
A creature of stentorian voice,
That felt much honoured by the choice.
The Lion hid him in a proper station,
And ordered him to bray, for his vocation,
Assured that his tempestuous cry
The boldest beasts would terrify,
And cause them from their lairs to fly.
And, sooth, the horrid noise the creature made
Did strike the tenants of the wood with dread;
And, as they headlong fled,
All fell within the Lion's ambuscade.
"Has not my service glorious
Made both of us victorious?"
Cried out the much-elated Ass.
"Yes," said the Lion; "bravely bray'd!
Had I not known yourself and race,
I should have been myself afraid!"
The Donkey, had he dared,
With anger would have flared
At this retort, though justly made;
For who could suffer boasts to pass
So ill-befitting to an Ass?
The Oak and the Reed
The Oak one day address'd the Reed:
"To you ungenerous indeed
Has nature been, my humble friend,
With weakness aye obliged to bend.
The smallest bird that flits in air
Is quite too much for you to bear;
The slightest wind that wreathes the lake
Your ever-trembling head doth shake.
The while, my towering form
Dares with the mountain top
The solar blaze to stop,
And wrestle with the storm.
What seems to you the blast of death,
To me is but a zephyr's breath.
Beneath my branches had you grown,
Less suffering would your life have known,
Unhappily you oftenest show
In open air your slender form,
Along the marshes wet and low,
That fringe the kingdom of the storm.
To you, declare I must,
Dame Nature seems unjust."
Then modestly replied the Reed:
"Your pity, sir, is kind indeed,
But wholly needless for my sake.
The wildest wind that ever blew
Is safe to me compared with you.
I bend, indeed, but never break.
Thus far, I own, the hurricane
Has beat your sturdy back in vain;
But wait the end." Just at the word,
The tempest's hollow voice was heard.
The North sent forth her fiercest child,
Dark, jagged, pitiless, and wild.
The Oak, erect, endured the blow;
The Reed bow'd gracefully and low.
But, gathering up its strength once more,
In greater fury than before,
The savage blast o'erthrew, at last,
That proud, old, sky-encircled head,
Whose feet entwined the empire of the dead!
The Bat and the Two Weasels
A blundering Bat once stuck her head
Into a wakeful Weasel's bed;
Whereat the mistress of the house,
A deadly foe of rats and mice,
Was making ready in a trice
To eat the stranger as a mouse.
"What! do you dare," she said, "to creep in
The very bed I sometimes sleep in,
Now, after all the provocation
I've suffered from your thievish nation?
It's plain to see you are a mouse,
That gnawing pest of every house,
Your special aim to do the cheese ill.
Ay, that you are, or I'm no Weasel."
"I beg your pardon," said the Bat;
"My kind is very far from that.
What! I a mouse! Who told you such a lie?
Why, ma'am, I am a bird;
And, if you doubt my word,
Just see the wings with which I fly.
Long live the mice that cleave the sky!"
These reasons had so fair a show,
The Weasel let the creature go.
By some strange fancy led,
The same wise blunderhead,
But two or three days later,
Had chosen for her rest
Another Weasel's nest,
This last, of birds a special hater.
New peril brought this step absurd:
Without a moment's thought or puzzle,
Dame Weasel, oped her peaked muzzle
To eat th' intruder as a bird.
"Hold! do not wrong me," cried the Bat;
"I'm truly no such thing as that.
Your eyesight strange conclusions gathers.
What makes a bird, I pray? Its feathers.
I'm cousin of the mice and rats.
Great Jupiter confound the cats!"
The Bat, by such adroit replying,
Twice saved herself from dying.
And many a human stranger
Thus turns his coat in danger;
And sings, as suits, where'er he goes,
"God save the king!"—or "save his foes!"
The Dove and the Ant
A Dove came to a brook to drink,
When, leaning o'er its crumbling brink,
An Ant fell in, and vainly tried,
In this, to her, an ocean tide,
To reach the land; whereat the Dove,
With every living thing in love,
Was prompt a spire of grass to throw her,
By which the Ant regained the shore.
A barefoot scamp, both mean and sly,
Soon after chanced this Dove to spy;
And, being arm'd with bow and arrow,
The hungry codger doubted not
The bird of Venus, in his pot,
Would make a soup before the morrow.
Just as his deadly bow he drew,
Our Ant just bit his heel.
Roused by the villain's squeal,
The Dove took timely hint, and flew
Far from the rascal's coop—
And with her flew his soup.
The Cock and the Fox
Upon a tree there mounted guard
A veteran Cock, adroit and cunning;
When to the roots a Fox up running,
Spoke thus, in tones of kind regard:
"Our quarrel, brother, 's at an end;
Henceforth I hope to live your friend;
For peace now reigns
Throughout the animal domains.
I bear the news—come down, I pray,
And give me the embrace fraternal;
And please, my brother, don't delay.
So much the tidings do concern all,
That I must spread them far to-day.
Now you and yours can take your walks
Without a fear or thought of hawks.
And should you clash with them or others,
In us you'll find the best of brothers;
For which you may, this joyful night,
Your merry bonfires light.
But, first, let's seal the bliss
With one fraternal kiss."
The Cock replied, "Upon my word,
A better thing I never heard;
And doubly I rejoice
To hear it from your voice;
There really must be something in it,
For yonder come two greyhounds, which I flatter
Myself are couriers on this very matter.
They come so fast, they'll be here in a minute.
I'll down, and all of us will seal the blessing
With general kissing and caressing."
"Adieu," said Fox; "my errand's pressing;
I'll hurry on my way,
And we'll rejoice some other day."
So off the fellow scampered, quick and light,
To gain the fox-holes of a neighbouring height,
Less happy in his stratagem than flight.
The Cock laugh'd sweetly in his sleeve—
'Tis doubly sweet deceiver to deceive.
The Wolf, the Goat, and the Kid
As went a Goat of grass to take her fill,
And browse the herbage of a distant hill,
She latch'd her door, and bid,
With matron care, her Kid;
"My daughter, as you live,
This portal don't undo
To any creature who
This watchword does not give:
'Deuce take the Wolf and all his race'!"
The Wolf was passing near the place
By chance, and heard the words with pleasure,
And laid them up as useful treasure;
And hardly need we mention,
Escaped the Goat's attention.
No sooner did he see
The matron off, than he,
With hypocritic tone and face,
Cried out before the place,
"Deuce take the Wolf and all his race!"
Not doubting thus to gain admission.
The Kid, not void of all suspicion,
Peer'd through a crack, and cried,
"Show me white paw before
You ask me to undo the door."
The Wolf could not, if he had died,
For wolves have no connection
With paws of that complexion.
So, much surprised, our gourmandiser
Retired to fast till he was wiser.
How would the Kid have been undone
Had she but trusted to the word
The Wolf by chance had overheard!
Two sureties better are than one;
And cautions worth its cost,
Though sometimes seeming lost.
The Fox, the Monkey, and the Animals
Left kingless by the lion's death,
The beasts once met, our story saith,
Some fit successor to install.
Forth from a dragon-guarded, moated place,
The crown was brought and, taken from its case,
And being tried by turns on all,
The heads of most were found too small;
Some horned were, and some too big;
Not one would fit the regal gear.
Forever ripe for such a rig,
The Monkey, looking very queer,
Approached with antics and grimaces,
And, after scores of monkey faces,
With what would seem a gracious stoop,
Pass'd through the crown as through a hoop.
The beasts, diverted with the thing,
Did homage to him as their king.
The Fox alone the vote regretted,
But yet in public never fretted.
When he his compliments had paid
To royalty, thus newly made,
"Great sire, I know a place," said he,
"Where lies conceal'd a treasure,
Which, by the right of royalty,
Should bide your royal pleasure."
The King lack'd not an appetite
For such financial pelf,
And, not to lose his royal right,
Ran straight to see it for himself.
It was a trap, and he was caught.
Said Reynard, "Would you have it thought,
You Ape, that you can fill a throne,
And guard the rights of all, alone.
Not knowing how to guard your own?"
The beasts all gathered from the farce,
That stuff for kings is very scarce.
The Rat and the Oyster
A country Rat of little brains,
Grown weary of inglorious rest,
Left home with all its straws and grains,
Resolved to know beyond his nest.
When peeping through the nearest fence,
"How big the world is, how immense!"
He cried; "there rise the Alps, and that
Is doubtless famous Ararat."
His mountains were the works of moles,
Or dirt thrown up in digging holes!
Some days of travel brought him where
The tide had left the Oysters bare.
Since here our traveller saw the sea,
He thought these shells the ships must be.
"My father was, in truth," said he,
"A coward, and an ignoramus;
He dared not travel: as for me,
I've seen the ships and ocean famous;
Have cross'd the deserts without drinking,
And many dangerous streams, unshrinking."
Among the shut-up shell-fish, one
Was gaping widely at the sun;
It breathed, and drank the air's perfume,
Expanding, like a flower in bloom.
Both white and fat, its meat
Appear'd a dainty treat.
Our Rat, when he this shell espied,
Thought for his stomach to provide.
"If not mistaken in the matter,"
Said he, "no meat was ever fatter,
Or in its flavour half so fine,
As that on which to-day I dine."
Thus full of hope, the foolish chap
Thrust in his head to taste,
And felt the pinching of a trap—
The Oyster closed in haste.
Now those to whom the world is new
Are wonder-struck at every view;
And the marauder finds his match
When he is caught who thinks to catch.
The Ass and the Dog
Along the road an Ass and Dog
One master following, did jog.
Their master slept: meanwhile, the Ass
Applied his nippers to the grass,
Much pleased in such a place to stop,
Though there no thistle he could crop.
He would not be too delicate,
Nor spoil a dinner for a plate,
Which, but for that, his favourite dish,
Were all that any Ass could wish.
"My dear companion," Towser said—
"'Tis as a starving Dog I ask it—
Pray lower down your loaded basket,
And let me get a piece of bread."
No answer—not a word!—indeed,
The truth was, our Arcadian steed
Fear'd lest, for every moment's flight,
His nimble teeth should lose a bite.
At last, "I counsel you," said he, "to wait
Till master is himself awake,
Who then, unless I much mistake,
Will give his Dog the usual bait."
Meanwhile, there issued from the wood
A creature of the wolfish brood,
Himself by famine sorely pinch'd.
At sight of him the Donkey flinch'd,
And begg'd the Dog to give him aid.
The Dog budged not, but answer made,
"I counsel thee, my friend, to run,
Till master's nap is fairly done;
There can, indeed, be no mistake
That he will very soon awake;
Till then, scud off with all your might;
And should he snap you in your flight,
This ugly Wolf—why, let him feel
The greeting of your well-shod heel.
I do not doubt, at all, but that
Will be enough to lay him flat."
But ere he ceased it was too late;
The Ass had met his cruel fate.
The Monkey and the Leopard
A Monkey and a Leopard were
The rivals at a country fair.
Each advertised his own attractions.
Said one, "Good sirs, the highest place
My merit knows; for, of his grace,
The King hath seen me face to face;
And, judging by his looks and actions,
I gave the best of satisfactions.
When I am dead, 'tis plain enough,
My skin will make his royal muff.
So richly is it streak'd and spotted,
So delicately waved and dotted,
Its various beauty cannot fail to please."
And, thus invited, everybody sees;
But soon they see, and soon depart.
The Monkey's show-bill to the mart
His merits thus sets forth the while,
All in his own peculiar style:
"Come, gentlemen, I pray you, come;
In magic arts I am at home.
The whole variety in which
My neighbour boasts himself so rich
Is to his simple skin confined,
While mine is living in the mind.
For I can speak, you understand;
Can dance, and practise sleight-of-hand;
Can jump through hoops, and balance sticks;
In short, can do a thousand tricks;
One penny is my charge to you,
And, if you think the price won't do,
When you have seen, then I'll restore,
Each man his money at the door."
The Ape was not to reason blind;
For who in wealth of dress can find
Such charms as dwell in wealth of mind?
One meets our ever-new desires,
The other in a moment tires.
Alas! how many lords there are,
Of mighty sway and lofty mien,
Who, like this Leopard at the fair,
Show all their talents on the skin!
The Rat and the Elephant
A Rat, of quite the smallest size,
Fix'd on an Elephant his eyes,
And jeer'd the beast of high descent
Because his feet so slowly went.
Upon his back, three stories high,
There sat, beneath a canopy,
A certain sultan of renown,
His Dog, and Cat, and wife sublime,
His parrot, servant, and his wine,
All pilgrims to a distant town.
The Rat profess'd to be amazed
That all the people stood and gazed
With wonder, as he pass'd the road,
Both at the creature and his load.
"As if," said he, "to occupy
A little more of land or sky
Made one, in view of common sense,
Of greater worth and consequence!
What see ye, men, in this parade,
That food for wonder need be made?
The bulk which makes a child afraid?
In truth, I take myself to be,
In all aspects, as good as he."
And further might have gone his vaunt;
But, darting down, the Cat
Convinced him that a Rat
Is smaller than an elephant.
The Acorn and the Pumpkin
God's works are good. This truth to prove
Around the world I need not move;
I do it by the nearest Pumpkin.
"This fruit so large, on vine so small,"
Surveying once, exclaim'd a bumpkin—
"What could He mean who made us all?
He's left this Pumpkin out of place.
If I had order'd in the case,
Upon that oak it should have hung——
A noble fruit as ever swung
To grace a tree so firm and strong.
Indeed, it was a great mistake,
As this discovery teaches,
That I myself did not partake
His counsels whom my curate preaches.
All things had then in order come;
This Acorn, for example,
Not bigger than my thumb,
Had not disgraced a tree so ample.
The more I think, the more I wonder
To see outraged proportion's laws,
And that without the slightest cause;
God surely made an awkward blunder."
With such reflections proudly fraught,
Our sage grew tired of mighty thought,
And threw himself on Nature's lap,
Beneath an oak, to take his nap.
Plump on his nose, by lucky hap,
An Acorn fell: he waked, and in
The scarf he wore beneath his chin,
He found the cause of such a bruise
As made him different language use.
"Oh! Oh!" he cried; "I bleed! I bleed!
And this is what has done the deed!
But, truly, what had been my fate,
Had this had half a Pumpkin's weight!
I see that God had reasons good,
And all His works were understood."
Thus home he went in humbler mood.
The Cat and the Fox
The Cat and Fox, when saints were all the rage
Together went upon pilgrimage.
Our Pilgrims, as a thing of course,
Disputed till their throats were hoarse.
Then, dropping to a lower tone,
They talk'd of this, and talk'd of that,
Till Reynard whisper'd to the Cat,
"You think yourself a knowing one:
How many cunning tricks have you?
For I've a hundred, old and new,
All ready in my haversack."
The Cat replied, "I do not lack,
Though with but one provided;
And, truth to honour, for that matter,
I hold it than a thousand better."
In fresh dispute they sided;
And loudly were they at it, when
Approach'd a mob of dogs and men.
"Now," said the Cat, "your tricks ransack,
And put your cunning brains to rack,
One life to save; I'll show you mine—
A trick, you see, for saving nine."
With that, she climb'd a lofty pine.
The Fox his hundred ruses tried,
And yet no safety found.
A hundred times he falsified.
The nose of every hound
Was here, and there, and everywhere,
Above, and under ground;
But yet to stop he did not dare,
Pent in a hole, it was no joke,
To meet the terriers or the smoke.
So, leaping into upper air,
He met two dogs, that choked him there.
Expedients may be too many,
Consuming time to choose and try.
On one, but that as good as any,
'Tis best in danger to rely.
The City Rat and the Country Rat
A city Rat, one night
Did with a civil stoop
A Country Rat invite
To end a turtle soup.
Upon a Turkey carpet
They found the table spread,
And sure I need not harp it
How well the fellows fed.
The entertainment was
A truly noble one;
But some unlucky cause
Disturbed it when begun
It was a slight rat-tat,
That put their Joys to rout;
Out ran the City Rat;
His guest, too, scampered out.
Our rats but fairly quit,
The fearful knocking ceased,
"Return we," said the cit,
"To finish there our feast."
"No," said the Rustic Rat;
"To-morrow dine with me.
I'm not offended at
Your feast so grand and free,
"For I've no fare resembling;
But then I eat at leisure,
And would not swap for pleasure
So mixed with fear and trembling."
The Ploughman and His Sons
A wealthy Ploughman drawing near his end
Call'd in his Sons apart from every friend,
And said, "When of your sire bereft,
The heritage our fathers left
Guard well, nor sell a single field.
A treasure in it is conceal'd:
The place, precisely, I don't know,
But industry will serve to show.
The harvest past. Time's forelock take,
And search with plough, and spade, and rake;
Turn over every inch of sod,
Nor leave unsearch'd a single clod."
The father died. The Sons in vain—
Turn'd o'er the soil, and o'er again;
That year their acres bore
More grain than e'er before.
Though hidden money found they none,
Yet had their Father wisely done,
To show by such a measure
That toil itself is treasure.
The farmer's patient care and toil
Are oftener wanting than the soil.
The Fox, the Wolf, and the Horse
A Fox, though young, by no means raw,
Had seen a Horse, the first he ever saw:
"Ho! neighbour Wolf," said he to one quite green,
"A creature in our meadow I have seen—
Sleek, grand! I seem to see him yet—
The finest beast I ever met."
"Is he a stouter one than we?"
The Wolf demanded, eagerly;
"Some picture of him let me see."
"If I could paint," said Fox, "I should delight
T' anticipate your pleasure at the sight;
But come; who knows? perhaps it is a prey
By fortune offer'd in our way."
They went. The Horse, turn'd loose to graze,
Not liking much their looks and ways,
Was just about to gallop off.
"Sir," said the Fox, "your humble servants, we
Make bold to ask you what your name may be."
The Horse, an animal with brains enough,
Replied, "Sirs, you yourselves may read my name;
My shoer round my heel hath writ the same."
The Fox excus'd himself for want of knowledge:
"Me, sir, my parents did not educate,
So poor, a hole was their entire estate.
My friend, the Wolf, however, taught at college,
Could read it, were it even Greek."
The Wolf, to flattery weak,
Approached to verify the boast;
For which four teeth he lost.
The high raised hoof came down with such a blow
As laid him bleeding on the ground full low.
"My brother," said the Fox, "this shows how just
What once was taught me by a fox of wit—
Which on thy jaws this animal hath writ—
'All unknown things the wise mistrust.'"
The Woodman and Mercury
A Man that laboured in the wood
Had lost his honest livelihood;
That is to say,
His axe was gone astray.
He had no tools to spare;
This wholly earn'd his fare.
Without a hope beside,
He sat him down and cried,
"Alas, my axe! where can it be?
O Jove! but send it back to me,
And it shall strike good blows for thee."
His prayer in high Olympus heard,
Swift Mercury started at the word.
"Your axe must not be lost," said he:
"Now, will you know it when you see?
An axe I found upon the road."
With that an axe of gold he show'd.
"Is't this?" The Woodman answer'd, "Nay."
An axe of silver, bright and gay,
Refused the honest Woodman too.
At last the finder brought to view
An axe of iron, steel, and wood.
"That's mine," he said, in joyful mood;
"With that I'll quite contented be."
The god replied, "I give the three,
As due reward of honesty."
This luck when neighbouring choppers knew,
They lost their axes, not a few,
And sent their prayers to Jupiter
So fast, he knew not which to hear.
His winged son, however, sent
With gold and silver axes, went.
Each would have thought himself a fool
Not to have own'd the richest tool.
But Mercury promptly gave, instead
Of it, a blow upon the head.
With simple truth to be contented,
Is surest not to be repented:
But still there are who would
With evil trap the good,
Whose cunning is but stupid,
For Jove is never duped.
The Eagle and the Owl
The Eagle and the Owl, resolved to cease
Their war, embraced in pledge of peace.
On faith of King, on faith of Owl, they swore
That they would eat each other's chicks no more.
"But know you mine?" said Wisdom's bird.
"Not I, indeed," the Eagle cried.
"The worse for that," the Owl replied:
"I fear your oath's a useless word;
I fear that you, as king, will not
Consider duly who or what:
Adieu, my young, if you should meet them!"
"Describe them, then, and I'll not eat them,"
The Eagle said. The Owl replied:
"My little ones, I say with pride,
For grace of form cannot be match'd—
The prettiest birds that e'er were hatch'd;
By this you cannot fail to know them;
'Tis needless, therefore, that I show them."
At length God gives the Owl some heirs,
And while at early eve abroad he fares,
In quest of birds and mice for food,
Our Eagle haply spies the brood,
As on some craggy rock they sprawl,
Or nestle in some ruined wall,
(But which it matters not at all,)
And thinks them ugly little frights,
Grim, sad, with voice like shrieking sprites.
"These chicks," says he, "with looks almost infernal,
Can't be the darlings of our friend nocturnal.
I'll sup of them." And so he did, not slightly:
He never sups, if he can help it, lightly.
The Owl return'd; and, sad, he found
Nought left but claws upon the ground.
He pray'd the gods above and gods below
To smite the brigand who had caused his woe.
Quoth one, "On you alone the blame must fall;
Thinking your like the loveliest of all,
You told the Eagle of your young ones' graces;
You gave the picture of their faces:
Had it of likeness any traces?"
The Earthen Pot and the Iron Pot
An Iron Pot proposed
To an Earthen Pot a journey.
The latter was opposed,
Expressing the concern he
Had felt about the danger
Of going out a ranger.
He thought the kitchen hearth
The safest place on earth
For one so very brittle.
"For thee, who art a kettle,
And hast a tougher skin,
There's nought to keep thee in."
"I'll be thy bodyguard,"
Replied the Iron Pot;
"If anything that's hard
Should threaten thee a jot,
Between you I will go,
And save thee from the blow."
This offer him persuaded.
The Iron Pot paraded
Himself as guard and guide
Close at his cousin's side.
Now, in their tripod way,
They hobble as they may;
And eke together bolt
At every little jolt—
Which gives the crockery pain;
But presently his comrade hits
So hard, he dashes him to bits,
Before he can complain.
Take care that you associate
With equals only, lest your fate
Between these pots should find its mate.
The Wolf and the Lean Dog
A Troutling, some time since,
Endeavoured vainly to convince
A hungry fisherman
Of his unfitness for the frying-pan.
The fisherman had reason good—
The troutling did the best he could—
Both argued for their lives.
Now, if my present purpose thrives,
I'll prop my former proposition
By building on a small addition.
A certain Wolf, in point of wit
The prudent fisher's opposite,
A Dog once finding far astray,
Prepared to take him as his prey.
The Dog his leanness plead;
"Your lordship, sure," he said,
"Cannot be very eager
To eat a dog so meagre.
To wait a little do not grudge:
The wedding of my master's only daughter
Will cause of fatted calves and fowls a slaughter;
And then, as you yourself can judge,
I cannot help becoming fatter."
The Wolf, believing, waived the matter,
And so, some days therefrom,
Return'd with sole design to see
If fat enough his Dog might be.
The rogue was now at home:
He saw the hunter through the fence.
"My friend," said he, "please wait;
I'll be with you a moment hence,
And fetch our porter of the gate."
This porter was a dog immense,
That left to wolves no future tense.
Suspicion gave our Wolf a jog—
It might not be so safely tamper'd.
"My service to your porter dog,"
Was his reply, as off he scampered.
His legs proved better than his head,
And saved him life to learn his trade.
The Ears of the Hare
Some beast with horns did gore
The Lion; and that sovereign dread,
Resolved to suffer so no more,
Straight banish'd from his realm, 'tis said,
All sorts of beasts with horns—
Rams, bulls, goats, stags, and unicorns.
Such brutes all promptly fled.
A Hare, the shadow of his ears perceiving,
Could hardly help believing
That some vile spy for horns would take them,
And food for accusation make them.
"Adieu," said he, "my neighbour cricket;
I take my foreign ticket.
My ears, should I stay here,
Will turn to horns, I fear;
And were they shorter than a bird's,
I fear the effect of words."
"These horns!" the cricket answered; "why,
God made them ears who can deny?"
"Yes," said the coward, "still they'll make them horns,
And horns, perhaps, of unicorns!
In vain shall I protest,
With all the learning of the schools:
My reasons they will send to rest
In th' Hospital of Fools."
The Ass Carrying Relics
An Ass, with relics for his load,
Supposed the worship on the road
Meant for himself alone,
And took on lofty airs,
Receiving as his own
The incense and the prayers.
Some one, who saw his great mistake,
Cried, "Master Donkey, do not make
Yourself so big a fool.
Not you they worship, but your pack;
They praise the idols on your back,
And count yourself a paltry tool."
'Tis thus a brainless magistrate
Is honoured for his robe of state.
The Two Mules
Two Mules were bearing on their backs,
One, oats; the other, silver of the tax.
The latter glorying in his load,
March'd proudly forward on the road;
And, from the jingle of his bell,
'Twas plain he liked his burden well.
But in a wild-wood glen
A band of robber men
Rush'd forth upon the twain.
Well with the silver pleased,
They by the bridle seized
The treasure Mule so vain.
Poor Mule! in struggling to repel
His ruthless foes, he fell
Stabb'd through; and with a bitter sighing,
He cried: "Is this the lot they promised me?
My humble friend from danger free,
While, weltering in my gore, I'm dying?"
"My friend," his fellow-mule replied,
"It is not well to have one's work too high.
If thou hadst been a miller's drudge, as I,
Thou wouldst not thus have died."
The Lion and the Gnat
"Go, paltry insect, nature's meanest brat!"
Thus said the royal Lion to the Gnat.
The Gnat declared immediate war.
"Think you," said he, "your royal name
To me worth caring for?
Think you I tremble at your power or fame?
The ox is bigger far than you;
Yet him I drive, and all his crew."
This said, as one that did no fear owe,
Himself he blew the battle charge,
Himself both trumpeter and hero.
At first he play'd about at large,
Then on the Lion's neck, at leisure, settled,
And there the royal beast full sorely nettled.
With foaming mouth, and flashing eye,
He roars. All creatures hide or fly—
Such mortal terror at
The work of one poor Gnat!
With constant change of his attack,
The snout now stinging, now the back,
And now the chambers of the nose;
The pigmy fly no mercy shows.
The Lion's rage was at its height;
His viewless foe now laugh'd outright,
When on his battle-ground he saw,
That every savage tooth and claw
Had got its proper beauty
By doing bloody duty;
Himself, the hapless Lion tore his hide,
And lash'd with sounding tail from side to side.
Ah! bootless blow, and bite, and curse!
He beat the harmless air, and worse;
For, though so fierce and stout,
By effort wearied out,
He fainted, fell, gave up the quarrel;
The Gnat retires with verdant laurel.
We often have the most to fear
From those we most despise;
Again, great risks a man may clear
Who by the smallest dies.
The Countryman and the Serpent
A Countryman, as Aesop certifies,
A charitable man, but not so wise,
One day in winter found,
Stretched on the snowy ground,
A chill'd or frozen Snake,
As torpid as a stake,
And, if alive, devoid of sense.
He took him up, and bore him home,
And, thinking not what recompense
For such a charity would come,
Before the fire stretch'd him,
And back to being fetch'd him.
The Snake scarce felt the genial heat
Before his heart with native malice beat.
He raised his head, thrust out his forked tongue,
Coil'd up, and at his benefactor sprung.
"Ungrateful wretch!" said he, "is this the way
My care and kindness you repay?
Now you shall die." With that his axe he takes,
And with two blows three serpents makes.
Trunk, head, and tail were separate snakes;
And, leaping up with all their might,
They vainly sought to reunite.
'Tis good and lovely to be kind;
But charity should not be blind;
For as to wretchedness ingrate,
You cannot raise it from its wretched state.
The Dairywoman and the Pot of Milk
A Pot of Milk upon her cushioned crown,
Good Peggy hastened to the market town;
Short-clad and light, with step she went,
Not fearing any accident;
Indeed to be the nimbler tripper,
Her dress that day,
The truth to say,
Was simply petticoat and slipper.
And, thus bedight,
Good Peggy, light,
Her gains already counted,
Laid out the cash
At single dash,
Which to a hundred eggs amounted.
Three nests she made,
Which, by the aid
Of diligence and care, were hatched.
"To raise the chicks,
We'll easily fix,"
Said she, "beside our cottage thatched.
The fox must get
More cunning yet,
Or leave enough to buy a pig.
With little care,
And any fare,
He'll grow quite fat and big;
And then the price
Will be so nice
For which the pork will sell!
'Twill go quite hard
But in our yard
I'll bring a cow and calf to dwell—
A calf to frisk among the flock!"
The thought made Peggy do the same;
And down at once the milk pot came,
And perished with the shock.
Calf, cow, and pig, and chicks, adieu!
Your mistress' face is sad to view—
She gives a tear to fortune spilt;
Then, with the down-cast look of guilt,
Home to her husband empty goes,
Somewhat in danger of his blows.
Who buildeth not, sometimes, in air,
His cots, or seats, or castles fair?
From kings to dairywomen—all—
The wise, the foolish, great and small—
Each thinks his waking dream the best.
Some flattering error fills the breast:
The world, with all its wealth, is ours,
Its honours, dames, and loveliest bowers.
Instinct with valour, where alone,
I hurl the monarch from his throne;
The people glad to see him dead,
Elect me monarch in his stead,
And diadems rain on my head.
Some accident then calls me back,
And I'm no more than simple Jack!
The Monkey and the Cat
Sly Bertrand and Ratto in company sat,
(The one was a Monkey, the other a Cat,)
Co-servants and lodgers:
More mischievous codgers
Ne'er mess'd from a platter, since platters were flat.
Was anything wrong in the house or about it,
The neighbours were blameless—no mortal could doubt it;
For Bertrand was thievish, and Ratto so nice,
More attentive to cheese than he was to the mice.
One day the two plunderers sat by the fire,
Where chestnuts were roasting, with looks of desire.
To steal them would be a right noble affair.
A double inducement our heroes drew there—
'Twould benefit them, could they swallow their fill,
And then 'twould occasion to somebody ill.
Said Bertrand to Ratto, "My brother, to-day
Exhibit your powers in a masterly way,
And take me these chestnuts, I pray.
Which were I but otherwise fitted
(As I am ingeniously wilted)
For pulling things out of the flame,
Would stand but a pitiful game."
"'Tis done," replied Ratto, all prompt to obey;
And thrust out his paw in a delicate way.
First giving the ashes a scratch,
He open'd the coveted batch;
Then lightly and quickly impinging,
He drew out, in spite of the singeing,
One after another, the chestnuts at last—
While Bertrand contrived to devour them as fast.
A servant girl enters. Adieu to the fun.
Our Ratto was hardly contented, says one.
No more are the princes, by flattery paid
For furnishing help in a different trade,
And burning their fingers to bring
More power to some mightier king.
The Lioness and the Bear
The Lioness had lost her young;
A hunter stole it from the vale;
The forests and the mountains rung
Responsive to her hideous wail.
Nor night, nor charms of sweet repose,
Could still the loud lament that rose
From that grim forest queen.
No animal, as you might think,
With such a noise could sleep a wink.
A Bear presumed to intervene.
"One word, sweet friend," quoth she,
"And that is all, from me.
The young that through your teeth have passed,
In file unbroken by a fast,
Had they nor dam nor sire?"
"They had them both." "Then I desire,
Since all their deaths caused no such grievous riot,
While mothers died of grief beneath your fiat,
To know why you yourself cannot be quiet?"
"I quiet!—I!—a wretch bereaved!
My only son!—such anguish be relieved!
No, never! All for me below
Is but a life of tears and woe!"—
"But say, why doom yourself to sorrow so?"
"Alas! 'tis Destiny that is my foe."
Such language, since the mortal fall,
Has fallen from the lips of all.
Ye human wretches, give your heed;
For your complaints there's little need.
Let him who thinks his own the hardest case,
Some widowed, childless Hecuba behold,
Herself to toil and shame of slavery sold,
And he will own the wealth of heavenly grace.
The Cat and the Two Sparrows
Contemporary with a Sparrow tame
There lived a Cat; from tenderest age,
Of both, the basket and the cage
Had household gods the same.
The Bird's sharp beak full oft provoked the Cat,
Who play'd in turn, but with a gentle pat,
His wee friend sparing with a merry laugh,
Not punishing his faults by half.
In short, he scrupled much the harm,
Should he with points his ferule arm.
The Sparrow, less discreet than he,
With dagger beak made very free.
Sir Cat, a person wise and staid,
Excused the warmth with which he play'd:
For 'tis full half of friendship's art
To take no joke in serious part.
Familiar since they saw the light,
Mere habit kept their friendship good;
Fair play had never turn'd to fight,
Till, of their neighbourhood,
Another sparrow came to greet
Old Ratto grave and Saucy Pete.
Between the birds a quarrel rose,
And Ratto took his side.
"A pretty stranger, with such blows
To beat our friend!" he cried.
"A neighbour's sparrow eating ours!
Not so, by all the feline powers."
And quick the stranger he devours.
"Now, truly," saith Sir Cat,
"I know how sparrows taste by that.
Exquisite, tender, delicate!"
This thought soon seal'd the other's fate.
But hence what moral can I bring?
For, lacking that important thing,
A fable lacks its finishing:
I seem to see of one some trace,
But still its shadow mocks my chase.
The Sick Stag
A Stag, where stags abounded,
Fell sick and was surrounded
Forthwith by comrades kind,
All—pressing to assist,
Or see, their friend, at least,
And ease his anxious mind—
An irksome multitude.
"Ah, sirs!" the sick was fain to cry,
"Pray leave me here to die,
As others do, in solitude.
Pray, let your kind attentions cease,
Till death my spirit shall release."
But comforters are not so sent:
On duty sad full long intent,
When Heaven pleased, they went:
But not without a friendly glass;
That is to say, they cropp'd the grass
And leaves which in that quarter grew,
From which the sick his pittance drew.
By kindness thus compell'd to fast,
He died for want of food at last.
The men take off no trifling dole
Who heal the body, or the soul.
Alas the times! do what we will,
They have their payment, cure or kill.
The Wolf and the Fox
"Dear Wolf," complain'd a hungry Fox,
"A lean chick's meat, or veteran cock's,
Is all I get by toil or trick:
Of such a living I am sick.
With far less risk, you've better cheer;
A house you need not venture near,
But I must do it, spite of fear.
Pray, make me master of your trade.
And let me by that means be made
The first of all my race that took
Fat mutton to his larder's hook:
Your kindness shall not be repented."
The Wolf quite readily consented.
"I have a brother, lately dead:
Go fit his skin to yours," he said.
'Twas done; and then the wolf proceeded:
"Now mark you well what must be done
The dogs that guard the flock to shun."
The Fox the lessons strictly heeded.
At first he boggled in his dress;
But awkwardness grew less and less,
Till perseverance gave success.
His education scarce complete,
A flock, his scholarship to greet,
Came rambling out that way.
The new-made Wolf his work began,
Amidst the heedless nibblers ran,
And spread a sore dismay.
The bleating host now surely thought
That fifty wolves were on the spot:
Dog, shepherd, sheep, all homeward fled,
And left a single sheep in pawn,
Which Reynard seized when they were gone.
But, ere upon his prize he fed,
There crow'd a cock near by, and down
The scholar threw his prey and gown,
That he might run that way the faster—
Forgetting lessons, prize and master.
Reality, in every station,
Will burst out on the first occasion.
The Woods and the Woodman
A certain Wood-chopper lost or broke
From his axe's eye a bit of oak.
The forest must needs be somewhat spared
While such a loss was being repair'd.
Came the man at last, and humbly pray'd
That the Woods would kindly lend to him—
A moderate loan—a single limb,
Whereof might another helve be made,
And his axe should elsewhere drive its trade.
Oh, the oaks and firs that then might stand,
A pride and a joy throughout the land,
For their ancientness and glorious charms!
The innocent Forest lent him arms;
But bitter indeed was her regret;
For the wretch, his axe new-helved and whet,
Did nought but his benefactress spoil
Of the finest trees that graced her soil;
And ceaselessly was she made to groan,
Doing penance for that fatal loan.
Behold the world-stage and its actors,
Where benefits hurt benefactors!
A weary theme, and full of pain;
For where's the shade so cool and sweet,
Protecting strangers from the heat,
But might of such a wrong complain?
Alas! I vex myself in vain;
Ingratitude, do what I will,
Is sure to be the fashion still.
The Shepherd and the Lion
The Fable Aesop tells is nearly this:
A Shepherd from his flock began to miss,
And long'd to catch the stealer of his sheep.
Before a cavern, dark and deep,
Where wolves retired by day to sleep,
Which he suspected as the thieves,
He set his trap among the leaves;
And, ere he left the place,
He thus invoked celestial grace:
"O king of all the powers divine,
Against the rogue but grant me this delight,
That this my trap may catch him in my sight,
And I, from twenty calves of mine,
Will make the fattest thine."
But while the words were on his tongue,
Forth came a Lion great and strong.
Down crouch'd the man of sheep, and said.
With shivering fright half dead,
"Alas! that man should never be aware
Of what may be the meaning of his prayer!
To catch the robber of my flocks,
O king of gods, I pledged a calf to thee:
If from his clutches thou wilt rescue me,
I'll raise my offering to an ox."
The Animals Sick of the Plague
The sorest ill that Heaven hath
Sent on this lower world in wrath—
The Plague (to call it by its name)
One single day of which
Would Pluto's ferryman enrich—
Waged war on beasts, both wild and tame.
They died not all, but all were sick:
No hunting now, by force or trick,
To save what might so soon expire,
No food excited their desire;
Nor wolf nor fox now watch'd to slay
The innocent and tender prey.
The turtles fled;
So love and therefore joy were dead.
The Lion council held, and said:
"My friends, I do believe
This awful scourge, for which we grieve,
Is for our sins a punishment
Most righteously by Heaven sent.
Let us our guiltiest beast resign,
A sacrifice to wrath divine.
Perhaps this offering, truly small,
May gain me life and health of all.
By history we find it noted
That lives have been just so devoted.
Then let us all turn eyes within,
And ferret out the hidden sin.
Himself let no one spare nor flatter,
But make clean conscience in the matter.
For me, my appetite has play'd the glutton
Too much and often upon mutton.
What harm had e'er my victims done?
I answer, truly, None.
Perhaps, sometimes, by hunger pressed,
I've eat the shepherd with the rest.
I yield myself, if need there be;
And yet I think, in equity,
Each should confess his sins with me;
For laws of right and justice cry,
The guiltiest alone should die."
"Sire," said the Fox, "your majesty
Is humbler than a king should be,
And over-squeamish in the case.
What! eating stupid sheep a crime?
No, never, sire, at any time.
It rather was an act of grace,
A mark of honour to their race.
And as to shepherds, one may swear,
The fate your majesty describes
Is recompense less full than fair
For such usurpers o'er our tribes."
Thus Reynard glibly spoke,
And loud applause from flatterers broke,
Of neither tiger, boar, nor bear,
Did any keen inquirer dare
To ask for crimes of high degree;
The fighters, biters, scratchers, all
From every mortal sin were free;
The very dogs, both great and small,
Were saints, as far as dogs could be.
The Ass, confessing in his turn,
Thus spoke in tones of deep concern:
"I happen'd through a mead to pass;
The monks, its owners, were at mass;
Keen hunger, leisure, tender grass,
And add to these the devil too,
All tempted me the deed to do.
I browsed the bigness of my tongue;
Since truth must out, I own it wrong."
On this, a hue and cry arose,
As if the beasts were all his foes:
A Wolf, haranguing lawyer-wise,
Denounced the Ass for sacrifice—
The bald-pate, scabby, ragged lout,
By whom the plague had come, no doubt.
His fault was judged a hanging crime.
"What? eat another's grass? O shame!
The noose of rope and death sublime,
For that offence, were all too tame!"
And soon poor Grizzle felt the same.
Thus human courts acquit the strong,
And doom the weak, as therefore wrong.
The Fowler, the Hawk, and the Lark
From wrongs of wicked men we draw
Excuses for our own;
Such is the universal law.
Would you have mercy shown,
Let yours be clearly known.
A Fowler's mirror served to snare
The little tenants of the air.
A Lark there saw her pretty face,
And was approaching to the place.
A Hawk, that sailed on high,
Like vapour in the sky,
Came down, as still as infant's breath,
On her who sang so near her death.
She thus escaped the Fowler's steel,
The Hawk's malignant claws to feel.
While in his cruel way,
The pirate plucked his prey,
Upon himself the net was sprung.
"O Fowler," prayed he in the hawkish tongue,
"Release me in thy clemency!
I never did a wrong to thee."
The man replied, "'Tis true;
And did the Lark to you?"
Phoebus and Boreas
Old Boreas and the Sun, one day,
Espied a traveller on his way,
Whose dress did happily provide
Against whatever might betide.
The time was autumn, when, indeed,
All prudent travellers take heed.
The rains that then the sunshine dash,
And Iris with her splendid sash,
Warn one who does not like to soak
To wear abroad a good thick coat.
Our man was therefore well bedight
With double mantle, strong and tight.
"This fellow," said the Wind, "has meant
To guard from every ill event;
But little does he wot that I
Can blow him such a blast
That, not a button fast,
His cloak shall cleave the sky.
Come, here's a pleasant game. Sir Sun!
Wilt play?" Said Phoebus, "Done!
We'll bet between us here
Which first will take the gear
From off this cavalier.
Begin, and shut away
The brightness of my ray."
"Enough." Our blower, on the bet,
Swelled out his pursy form
With all the stuff for storm—
The thunder, hail, and drenching wet,
And all the fury he could muster;
Then, with a very demon's bluster,
He whistled, whirled, and splashed,
And down the torrents dashed,
Full many a roof uptearing
He never did before,
Full many a vessel bearing
To wreck upon the shore—
And all to doff a single cloak.
But vain the furious stroke;
The traveller was stout,
And kept the tempest out,
Defied the hurricane,
Defied the pelting rain;
And as the fiercer roared the blast,
His cloak the tighter held he fast.
The Sun broke out, to win the bet;
He caused the clouds to disappear,
Refreshed and warmed the cavalier,
And through his mantle made him sweat,
Till off it came, of course,
In less than half an hour;
And yet the Sun saved half his power—
So much does mildness more than force.
The Stag and the Vine
A Stag, by favour of a Vine,
Which grew where suns most genial shine,
And formed a thick and matted bower
Which might have turned a summer shower,
Was saved by ruinous assault.
The hunters thought their dogs at fault,
And called them off. In danger now no more
The Stag, a thankless wretch and vile,
Began to browse his benefactress o'er.
The hunters listening the while,
The rustling heard, came back,
With all their yelping pack,
And seized him in that very place.
"This is," said he, "but justice, in my case.
Let every black ingrate
Henceforward profit by my fate."
The dogs fell to—'twere wasting breath
To pray those hunters at the death.
They left, and we will not revile 'em,
A warning for profaners of asylum.
The Peacock Complaining to Juno
The Peacock to the Queen of heaven
Complained in some such words:
"Great goddess, you have given
To me, the laughing stock of birds,
A voice which fills, by taste quite just,
All nature with disgust;
Whereas that little paltry thing,
The nightingale, pours from her throat
So sweet and ravishing a note;
She bears alone the honours of the spring."
In anger Juno heard,
And cried, "Shame on you, jealous bird!
Grudge you the nightingale her voice,
Who in the rainbow neck rejoice,
Than costliest silks more richly tinted,
In charms of grace and form unstinted—
Who strut in kingly pride,
Your glorious tail spread wide
With brilliants which in sheen do
Outshine the jeweller's bow window?
Is there a bird beneath the blue
That has more charms than you?
No animal in everything can shine.
By just partition of our gifts divine,
Each has its full and proper share.
Among the birds that cleave the air
The hawk's a swift, the eagle is a brave one,
For omens serves the hoarse old raven,
The rook's of coming ills the prophet;
And if there's any discontent,
I've heard not of it.
Cease, then, your envious complaint;
Or I, instead of making up your lack,
Will take your boasted plumage from your back."
The Eagle and the Beetle
John Rabbit, by Dame Eagle chased,
Was making for his hole in haste,
When, on his way, he met a Beetle's burrow.
I leave you all to think
If such a little chink
Could to a rabbit give protection thorough;
But, since no better could be got,
John Rabbit, there was fain to squat.
Of course, in an asylum so absurd,
John felt ere long the talons of the bird.
But first the Beetle, interceding, cried,
"Great queen of birds, it cannot be denied
That, maugre my protection, you can bear
My trembling guest, John Rabbit, through the air,
But do not give me such affront, I pray;
And since he craves your grace,
In pity of his case,
Grant him his life, or take us both away;
For he's my gossip, friend and neighbour."
In vain the Beetle's friendly labour;
The Eagle clutched her prey without reply,
And as she flapped her vasty wings to fly,
Struck down our orator and stilled him—
The wonder is she hadn't killed him.
The Beetle soon, of sweet revenge in quest
Flew to the old, gnarled mountain oak,
Which proudly bore that haughty Eagle's nest.
And while the bird was gone,
Her eggs, her cherished eggs, he broke,
Not sparing one.
Returning from her flight, the Eagle's cry
Of rage and bitter anguish filled the sky,
But, by excess of passion blind,
Her enemy she failed to find.
Her wrath in vain, that year it was her fate
To live a mourning mother, desolate.
The next, she built a loftier nest; 'twas vain;
The Beetle found and dashed her eggs again.
John Rabbit's death was thus avenged anew.
The second mourning for her murdered brood
Was such that through the giant mountain wood,
For six long months, the sleepless echo flew.
The bird, once Ganymede, now made
Her prayer to Jupiter for aid;
And, laying them within his godship's lap,
She thought her eggs now safe from all mishap;
The god his own could not but make them—
No wretch would venture there to break them.
And no one did. Their enemy, this time,
Upsoaring to a place sublime,
Let fall upon his royal robes some dirt,
Which Jove just shaking, with a sudden flirt,
Threw out the eggs, no one knows whither.
When Jupiter informed her how th' event
Occurred by purest accident,
The Eagle raved; there was no reasoning with her;
She gave out threats of leaving court,
To make the desert her resort,
And other brav'ries of this sort.
Poor Jupiter in silence heard
The uproar of his favourite bird.
Before his throne the Beetle now appeared,
And by a clear complaint the mystery cleared.
The god pronounced the Eagle in the wrong.
But still, their hatred was so old and strong,
These enemies could not be reconciled;
And, that the general peace might not be spoiled—
The best that he could do—the god arranged
That thence the Eagle's pairing should be changed,
To come when Beetle folks are only found
Concealed and dormant under ground.
FABLES FROM THE SPANISH
"As the impressions made upon a new vessel are not easily to be
effaced, so here youth are taught prudence through the allurement of
*Translated by Richard Andrew
FABLES FROM THE SPANISH
The Bee and the Cuckoo
A Cuckoo, near a hive, one day,
Was chaunting in his usual way,
When to the door the Queen-bee ran,
And, humming angrily, began:
"Do cease that tuneless song I hear—
How can we work while thou art near?
There is no other bird, I vow,
Half so fantastical as thou,
Since all that ugly voice can do,
Is to sing on—'Cuckoo! cuckoo'!"
"If my monotony of song
Displeases you, shall I be wrong,"
The Cuckoo answered, "if I find
Your comb has little to my mind?
Look at the cells—through every one
Does not unvaried sameness run?
Then if in me there's nothing new,
Dear knows, all's old enough in you."
The Bee replied: "Hear me, my friend.
In works that have a useful end
It is not always worth the while
To seek variety in style,
But if those works whose only views
Are to give pleasure and amuse,
Want either fancy or invention,
They fail of gaining their intention."
The Rope Dancer and His Pupil
A Tight-rope Dancer who, they say,
Was a great master in his way,
Was tutoring a Youth to spring
Upon the slight and yielding string,
Who, though a novice in the science,
Had in his talents great reliance,
And, as on high his steps he tried,
Thus to his sage instructor cried:
"This pole you call the counterpoise
My every attitude annoys;
I really cannot think it good
To use this cumbrous piece of wood
In such a business as ours,
An art requiring all our powers.
Why should I with this burden couple?
Am I not active, strong and supple?
So—see me try this step without it,
I'll manage better, do not doubt it—
See, 'tis not difficult at all,"
He said, and let the balance fall,
And, taking fearlessly a bound,
He tumbled headlong on the ground,
With compound fracture of the shin,
And six or seven ribs crushed in.
"Unhappy youth!" the Master said,
"What was your truest help and aid
Impediment you thought to be—
For art and method if you flee,
Believe me, ere your life is past,
This tumble will not be your last."
The Squirrel and the Horse
A Squirrel, on his hind legs raised,
Upon a noble Charger gazed,
Who docile to the spur and rein,
Went through his menage on the plain;
Now seeming like the wind to fly,
Now gracefully curvetting by.
"Good Sir," the little Tumbler said,
And with much coolness, scratched his head,
"In all your swiftness, skill and spirit,
I do not see there's much of merit,
For, all you seem so proud to do,
I can perform, and better too;
I'm light and nimble, brisk and sprightly,
I trot, and skip, and canter lightly,
Backward and forward—here and there,
Now on the earth—now in the air—
From bough to bough—from hill to hill,
And never for a moment still."
The Courser tossed his head on high;
And made the Squirrel this reply:
"My little nimble jealous friend,
Those turns and tumbles without end—
That hither, thither, restless springing—
Those ups and downs and leaps and swinging—
And other feats more wondrous far,
Pray tell me, of what use they are?
But what I do, this praise may claim—
My master's service is my aim,
And laudably I use for him
My warmth of blood and strength of limb."
The Bear, the Monkey, and the Pig
A Bear with whom a Piedmontese
Had voyaged from the Polar seas,
And by whose strange unwieldy gambols
He earned a living in his rambles,
One day, upon his hind legs set,
Began to dance a minuet.
At length, being tired, as well he might,
Of standing such a time upright,
He to a Monkey near advancing,
Exclaimed: "What think you of my dancing?"
"Really," he said, "ahem!" (I'm sure
This Monkey was a connoisseur)
"To praise it, I'd indeed be glad,
Only it is so very bad!"
"How!" said the Bear, not over pleased,
"Surely, your judgment is diseased,
Or else you cannot well have seen
My elegance of step and mien;
Just look again, and say what graces
You think are wanting in my paces."
"Indeed, his taste is quite amazing,"
Replied a Pig with rapture gazing;
"Bravo! encore! well done! Sir Bear,
By heaven, you trip as light as air;
I vow that Paris never knew
A dancer half so fine as you."
With some confusion, Bruin heard
Such praises by a Pig conferred;
He communed with himself a while,
And muttered thus, in altered style:
"I must confess the Monkey's blame
Made me feel doubtful of my fame;
But since the Pigs their praise concede,
My dancing must be bad, indeed!"
The Muff, the Fan, and the Parasol
"It sounds presumptuous and ill
To boast of universal skill,
But 'tis a scarce less fault, I own,
To serve one sort of use alone."
An idle Parasol, one day,
Within a lady's chamber lay,
And having nothing else to do,
Addressing his companions two,
Reclining near, a Muff and Fan,
He thus insultingly began,
Using a form of dialect,
In which, if Aesop is correct,
The Brass and Earthern Jars, of old,
Conversed as down the stream they rolled.
"Oh! sirs, ye merit mighty praise!
Yon Muff may do for wintry days,
A corner is your lot in spring;
While you, Fan, are a useless thing
When cold succeeds to heat; for neither
Can change yourself to suit the weather
Learn, if you're able to possess,
Like me a double usefulness,
From winter's rain I help to shun
And guard in summer from the sun."
The Duck and the Serpent
A self-conceited Duck, one day,
Was waddling from her pond away:
"What other race can boast," she cried,
"The many gifts to ours allied?
Earth—water—air—are all for us.
When I am tired of walking thus,
I fly, if so I take the whim,
Or if it pleases me I swim."
A cunning Serpent overheard
The boasting of the clumsy bird,
And, with contempt and scorn inflamed,
Came hissing up, and thus exclaimed:
"It strikes me, ma'am, there's small occasion
For your just uttered proclamation;
These gifts of yours shine rather dim,
Since neither like the trout you swim,
Nor like the deer, step swift and light,
Nor match the eagle in your flight."
They err who think that merit clings
To knowledge slight of many things;
He who his fellows would excel,
Whate'er he does should do it well.
The Tea and the Sage
The Tea from China on her way,
Met in some sea, or gulf, or bay—
(Would to her log I might refer!)
The Sage, who thus accosted her:
"Sister—ahoy! ho—whither bound?"
"I leave," she said, "my native ground
For Europe's markets, where, I'm told,
They purchase me by weight of gold."
"And I," the Sage replied, "am seeking
The route to Canton or to Peking;
Your Chinese use me largely in
Their cookery and medicine;
They know my virtues, nor deny
The praise I ask, however high,
While Europe scorns me, just indeed,
As if I was the vilest weed.
Go; and good luck t'ye; know full well
That you are sure enough to sell,
For nations all, (fools that they are!)
Value whatever comes from afar,
And give their money nothing loth,
For anything of foreign growth."
The Swan and the Linnet
Piqued at the Linnet's song one day,
The Swan exclaimed: "Leave off! I say—
Be still, you little noisy thing!
What!—dare you challenge me to sing,
When there's no voice, however fine,
Can match the melody of mine?"
(The Linnet warbled on)—"D'ye hear?
This impudence may cost you dear;
I could with one harmonious note
Forever stop your squeaking throat,
And, if I do not choose to try,
Respect my magnanimity."
"I wish," at length the Linnet said,
"I wish, to heaven, the proof were made;
You cannot imagine how I long
To hear that rich and flowing song
Which though so sweet, by fame averred,
I know not who has ever heard."
The Swan essayed to sing, but—whew!
She screeched and squalled a note or two,
Until the Linnet, it appears,
Took to her wings to save her ears.
'Tis strange when some of learned fame
Will prove their title to the name,
How often ill-placed praise they mar,
And show how ignorant they are.
The Flint and the Steel
The Flint, with language harsh and high,
Accused the Steel of cruelty
In striking her with all his might,
Whene'er he wanted fire and light.
The Steel the imputation spurned,
And with such warmth the contest burned
That both, at last, agreed to slip
Their contract of companionship.
"Good-by then, madame," said the one;
"And since my company you shun,
And to continue with me, doubt,
We'll see what use you are without."
"About as much as you will be,
Good sir," she answered, "without me."
FABLES OF GAY, COWPER, AND OTHERS
"Brutes are my theme. Am I to blame
If men in morals are the same?
I no man call or ape or ass;
'Tis his own conscience holds the glass.
Thus void of all offence I write;
Who claims the fable, knows his right."
FABLES OF GAY AND COWPER
The Monkey Who Had Seen the World
A Monkey, to reform the times,
Resolved to visit foreign climes;
For men in distant regions roam,
To bring politer manners home.
So forth he fares, all toil defies;
Misfortune serves to make us wise.
At length the treacherous snare was laid;
Poor Pug was caught, to town conveyed;
There sold. How envied was his doom,
Made captive in a lady's room!
Proud as a lover of his chains,
He day by day her favour gains.
Whene'er the duty of the day
The toilette calls, with mimic play
He twirls her knot, he cracks her fan,
Like any other gentleman.
In visits, too, his parts and wit,
When jests grew dull, were sure to hit.
Proud with applause, he thought his mind
In every courtly art refined;
Like Orpheus, burned with public zeal
To civilize the monkey weal:
So watched occasion, broke his chain,
And sought his native woods again.
The hairy sylvans round him press
Astonished at his strut and dress.
Some praise his sleeve, and others gloat
Upon his rich embroidered coat;
His dapper periwig commending,
With the black tail behind depending;
His powdered back above, below,
Like hoary frost or fleecy snow:
But all, with envy and desire,
His fluttering shoulder-knot admire.
"Hear and improve," he pertly cries,
"I come to make a nation wise.
Weigh your own worth, support your place,
The next in rank to human race.
In cities long I passed my days,
Conversed with men, and learned their ways,
Their dress, their courtly manners see;
Reform your state, and copy me.
Seek ye to thrive? in flatt'ry deal;
Your scorn, your hate, with that conceal.
Seem only to regard your friends,
But use them for your private ends.
Stint not to truth the flow of wit;
Be prompt to lie whene'er 'tis fit.
Bend all your force to spatter merit;
Scandal is conversation's spirit.
Boldly to everything pretend,
And men your talents shall commend.
I know the Great. Observe me right,
So shall you grow like man polite."
He spoke and bowed. With mutt'ring jaws
The wond'ring circle grinned applause.
Now, warmed with malice, envy, spite,
Their most obliging friends they bite;
And, fond to copy human ways,
Practise new mischiefs all their days.
Thus the dull lad, too tall for school.
With travel finishes the fool:
Studious of every coxcomb's airs,
He gambles, dresses, drinks, and swears;
O'er looks with scorn all virtuous arts,
For vice is fitted to his parts.
The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf
A Wolf, with hunger fierce and bold,
Ravag'd the plains, and thinn'd the fold:
Deep in the wood secure he lay,
The thefts of night regal'd the day.
In vain the shepherd's wakeful care
Had spread the toils, and watch'd the snare;
In vain the Dog pursued his pace,
The fleeter robber mock'd the chase.
As Lightfoot rang'd the forest round,
By chance his foe's retreat he found.
"Let us a while the war suspend,
And reason as from friend to friend."
"A truce?" replies the Wolf. "'Tis done."
The Dog the parley thus begun.
"How can that strong intrepid mind
Attack a weak defenceless kind?
Those jaws should prey on nobler food,
And drink the boar's and lion's blood,
Great souls with generous pity melt,
Which coward tyrants never felt.
How harmless is our fleecy care!
Be brave, and let thy mercy spare."
"Friend," says the Wolf, "the matter weigh;
Nature designed us beasts of prey;
As such, when hunger finds a treat,
'Tis necessary Wolves should eat.
If mindful of the bleating weal,
Thy bosom burn with real zeal,
Hence, and thy tyrant lord beseech;
To him repeat the moving speech:
A Wolf eats sheep but now and then;
Ten thousands are devoured by men.
An open foe may prove a curse,
But a pretended friend is worse."
The Rat-catcher and Cats
The rats by night such mischief did,
Betty was ev'ry morning chid.
They undermin'd whole sides of bacon,
Her cheese was sapp'd, her tarts were taken.
Her pasties, fenc'd with thickest paste,
Were all demolish'd, and laid waste.
She curs'd the cat for want of duty,
Who left her foes a constant booty.
An Engineer, of noted skill,
Engag'd to stop the growing ill.
From room to room he now surveys
Their haunts, their works, their secret ways;
Finds where they 'scape an ambuscade.
And whence the nightly sally's made.
An envious Cat from place to place,
Unseen, attends his silent pace.
She saw, that if his trade went on,
The purring race must be undone;
So, secretly removes his baits,
And ev'ry stratagem defeats.
Again he sets the poisoned toils,
And Puss again the labour foils.
"What foe, to frustrate my designs,
My schemes thus nightly countermines?"
Incens'd, he cries: "This very hour
This wretch shall bleed beneath my power."
So said, a ponderous trap he brought,
And in the fact poor Puss was caught.
"Smuggler," says he, "thou shalt be made
A victim to our loss of trade."
The captive Cat, with piteous mews,
For pardon, life, and freedom sues.
"A sister of the science spare;
One int'rest is our common care."
"What insolence!" the man replies;
"Shall Cats with us the game divide?
Were all your interloping band
Extinguished, or expell'd the land,
We Rat-catchers might raise our fees.
Sole guardians of a nation's cheese!"
A Cat, who saw the lifted knife,
Thus spoke and sav'd her sister's life.
"In ev'ry age and clime we see
Two of a trade can ne'er agree.
Each hates his neighbour for encroaching;
'Squire stigmatizes 'squire for poaching;
Beauties with beauties are in arms.
And scandal pelts each other's charms;
Kings too their neighbour kings dethrone,
In hope to make the world their own.
But let us limit our desires;
Not war like beauties, kings, and 'squires!
For though we both one prey pursue,
There's game enough for us and you."
The Farmer's Wife and the Raven
Between her swaggering pannier's load
A Farmer's Wife to market rode,
And jogging on, with thoughtful care,
Summed up the profits of her ware;
When, starting from her silver dream,
Thus far and wide was heard her scream:
"That Raven on yon left-hand oak
(Curse on his ill-betiding croak)
Bodes me no good." No more she said,
When poor blind Ball, with stumbling head,
Fell prone; o'erturned the panniers lay,
And her mashed eggs bestrewed the way.
She, sprawling on the yellow road,
Railed, cursed, and swore: "Thou croaking toad,
A murrain take thy noisy throat!
I knew misfortune in the note."
"Dame," quoth the Raven, "spare your oaths,
Unclench your fist and wipe your clothes.
But why on me those curses thrown?
Goody, the fault was all your own;
For had you laid this brittle ware
On Dun, the old sure-footed mare,
Though all the Ravens of the hundred
With croaking had your tongue out-thundered,
Sure-footed Dun had kept her legs,
And you, good woman, saved your eggs."
The Council of Horses
Upon a time, a neighing steed,
Who grazed among a numerous breed,
With mutiny had fired the train,
And spread dissension through the plain.
On matters that concerned the state
The Council met in grand debate.
A Colt, whose eyeballs flamed with ire,
Elate with strength and youthful fire,
In haste stepped forth before the rest,
And thus the listening throng addressed:
"Good gods! how abject is our race,
Condemned to slavery and disgrace!
Shall we our servitude retain
Because our sires have borne the chain?
Consider, friends, your strength and might;
'Tis conquest to assert your right.
How cumb'rous is the gilded coach!
The pride of man is our reproach.
Were we designed for daily toil;
To drag the ploughshare through the soil;
To sweat in harness through the road;
To groan beneath the carrier's load?
How feeble are the two-legged kind!
What force is in our nerves combined!
Shall, then, our nobler jaws submit
To foam, and champ the galling bit?
Shall haughty man my back bestride?
Shall the sharp spur provoke my side?
Forbid it, heavens! Reject the rein;
Your shame, your infamy, disdain.
Let him the lion first control,
And still the tiger's famished growl;
Let us, like them, our freedom claim,
And make him tremble at our name."
A general nod approved the cause,
And all the circle neighed applause,
When, lo! with grave and solemn face,
A Steed advanced before the race,
With age and long experience wise;
Around he cast his thoughtful eyes,
And to the murmurs of the train
Thus spoke the Nestor of the plain:
"When I had health and strength like you,
The toils of servitude I knew;
Now grateful man rewards my pains,
And gives me all these wide domains.
At will I crop the year's increase;
My latter life is rest and peace.
I grant, to man we lend our pains,
And aid him to correct the plains;
But doth he not divide the care
Through all the labours of the year?
How many thousand structures rise
To fence us from inclement skies!
For us he bears the sultry day,
And stores up all our winter's hay:
He sows, he reaps the harvest's gain,
We share the toil and share the grain.
Since every creature was decreed
To aid each other's mutual need,
Appease your discontented mind,
And act the part by Heaven assigned."
The tumult ceased. The colt submitted,
And, like his ancestors, was bitted.
The Hare and Many Friends
Friendship, like love, is but a name,
Unless to one you stint the flame;
The child whom many fathers share
Hath seldom known a father's care.
'Tis thus in friendships; who depend
On many, rarely find a friend.
A Hare, who in a civil way
Complied with everything, like Gay,
Was known by all the bestial train
Who haunt the wood or graze the plain;
Her care was never to offend,
And every creature was her friend.
As forth she went at early dawn,
To taste the dew-besprinkled lawn,
Behind she hears the hunter's cries,
And from the deep-mouthed thunder flies.
She starts, she stops, she pants for breath;
She hears the near advance of death;
She doubles to mislead the Hound,
And measures back her mazy round,
Till, fainting in the public way,
Half dead with fear she gasping lay.
What transport in her bosom grew
When first the Horse appeared in view!
"Let me," says she, "your back ascend.
And owe my safety to a friend.
You know my feet betray my flight;
To friendship every burden's light,"
The Horse replied, "Poor honest Puss,
It grieves my heart to see you thus:
Be comforted, relief is near,
For all your friends are in the rear."
She next the stately Bull implored;
And thus replied the mighty lord:
"Since every beast alive can tell
That I sincerely wish you well,
I may without offence pretend
To take the freedom of a friend.
Love calls me hence; a fav'rite Cow
Expects me near the barley-mow,
And when a lady's in the case
You know all other things give place.
To leave you thus might seem unkind;
But see, the Goat is just behind."
The Goat remarked her pulse was high,
Her languid head, her heavy eye.
"My back," says she, "may do you harm.
The Sheep's at hand, and wool is warm."
The Sheep was feeble, and complained
His sides a load of wool sustained:
Said he was slow, confessed his fears;
For Hounds eat Sheep as well as Hares.
She now the trotting Calf addressed
To save from death a friend distressed.
"Shall I," says he, "of tender age,
In this important care engage?
Older and abler passed you by—
How strong are those; how weak am I!
Should I presume to bear you hence,
Those friends of mine may take offence;
Excuse me, then; you know my heart,
But dearest friends, alas! must part.
How shall we all lament! Adieu!
For see, the Hounds are just in view."
The Nightingale and the Glowworm
A Nightingale, that all day long
Had cheered the village with his song,
Nor had at eve his note suspended,
Nor yet when eventide was ended
Began to feel, as well he might,
The keen demands of appetite;
When, looking eagerly around,
He spied far off, upon the ground,
A something shining in the dark,
And knew the Glowworm by his spark;
So stepping down from hawthorn top,
He thought to put him in his crop.
The Worm, aware of his intent,
Harangued him thus, right eloquent:
"Did you admire my lamp," quoth he,
"As much as I your minstrelsy,
You would abhor to do me wrong,
As much as I to spoil your song;
For, 'twas the self-same Power Divine
Taught you to sing and me to shine;
That you with music, I with light,
Might beautify and cheer the night."
The Songster heard his short oration,
And warbling out his approbation.
Released him, as my story tells,
And found a supper somewhere else.
Hence, jarring sectaries may learn
Their real interest to discern,
That brother should not war with brother,
And worry and devour each other;
But sing and shine by sweet consent,
Until life's poor transient night is spent.
Respecting in each other's case.
The gifts of Nature and of Grace.
Those Christians best deserve the name
Who studiously make peace their aim;
Peace both the duty and the prize
Of him that creeps and him that flies.
A Raven, while with glossy breast
Her new-laid eggs she fondly pressed,
And on her wickerwork high mounted,
Her chickens prematurely counted,
(A fault philosophers might blame
If quite exempted from the same).
Enjoyed at ease the genial day;
'Twas April, as the bumpkins say;
The legislature called it May.
But suddenly a wind, as high
As ever swept a winter sky,
Shook the young leaves about her ears
And filled her with a thousand fears,
Lest the rude blast should snap the bough,
And spread her golden hopes below.
But just at eve the blowing weather
Changed, and her fears were hushed together:
"And now," quoth poor unthinking Ralph,
"'Tis over, and the brood is safe."
(For Ravens, though, as birds of omen,
They teach both conjurers and old women
To tell us what is to befall,
Can't prophesy themselves at all.)
The morning came, when Neighbour Hodge,
Who long had marked her airy lodge,
And destined all the treasure there
A gift to his expecting fair,
Climbed, like a squirrel to his dray,
And bore the worthless prize away.
'Tis Providence alone secures,
In every change, both mine and yours:
Safety consists not in escape
From dangers of a frightful shape;
An earthquake may be bid to spare
The man that's strangled by a hair.
Fate steals along with silent tread
Found oftenest in what least we dread,
Frowns in the storm with angry brow,
But in the sunshine strikes the blow.
Pairing Time Anticipated
I shall not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau
If birds confabulate or no;
'Tis clear that they were always able
To hold discourse, at least in fable;
And e'en the child who knows no better
Than to interpret by the letter
A story of a cock and bull
Must have a most uncommon skull.
It chanced then on a winter day,
But warm and bright and calm as May,
The Birds conceiving a design
To forestall sweet Saint Valentine,
In many an orchard, copse and grove,
Assembled on affairs of love,
And with much twitter, and much chatter,
Began to agitate the matter.
At length a Bullfinch, who could boast
More years and wisdom than the most,
Entreated, opening wide his beak,
A moment's liberty to speak;
And silence publicly enjoined,
Delivered, briefly, thus his mind—
"My friends! Be cautious how ye treat
The subject upon which we meet;
I fear we shall have winter yet."
A Finch, whose tongue knew no control,
With golden wing and satin poll,
A last year's bird who ne'er had tried
What marriage means, thus pert replied:
"Methinks the gentleman," quoth she,
"Opposite in the appletree,
By his good will would keep us single,
Until yonder heavens and earth shall mingle,
Or (which is likelier to befall)
Until death exterminate us all.
I marry without more ado,
My dear Dick Redcap; what say you?"
Dick heard, and tweedling, ogling, bridling;
With many a strut and many a sidling,
Attested, glad, his approbation
Of an immediate conjugation.
Their sentiments so well expressed
Influenced mightily the rest;
All paired, and each pair built a nest.
But though the birds were thus in haste,
The leaves came on not quite so fast,
And Destiny, that sometimes bears
An aspect stern on man's affairs,
Not altogether smiled on theirs.
The wind, of late breathed gently forth,
Now shifted east and east by north;
Bare trees and shrubs but ill, you know,
Could shelter them from rain or snow;
Stepping into their nests, they paddled,
Themselves were chilled, their eggs were addled,
Soon every father-bird and mother
Grew quarrelsome and pecked each other,
Parted without the least regret,
Except that they had ever met,
And learned in future to be wiser
Than to neglect a good adviser.
The Poet, the Oyster, and Sensitive Plant
An Oyster cast upon the shore
Was heard, though never heard before,
Complaining in a speech well worded,
And worthy thus to be recorded:
"Ah, hapless wretch comdemn'd to dwell
Forever in my native shell,
Ordain'd to move when others please,
Not for my own content or ease,
But toss'd and buffeted about,
Now in the water, and now out.
'Twere better to be born a stone
Of ruder shape and feeling none,
Than with a tenderness like mine,
And sensibilities so fine!
I envy that unfeeling shrub,
Fast rooted against every rub."
The plant he meant grew not far off,
And felt the sneer with scorn enough;
Was hurt, disgusted, mortified,
And with asperity replied.
("When," cry the botanists, and stare,
"Did plants call'd Sensitive grow there?"
No matter when—a poet's muse is
To make them grow just where she chooses):
"You shapeless nothing in a dish,
You that are but almost a fish,
I scorn your coarse insinuation,
And have most plentiful occasion
To wish myself the rock I view,
Or such another dolt as you.
For many a grave and learned clerk,
And many a gay unlettered spark,
With curious touch examines me
If I can feel as well as he;
And when I bend, retire, and shrink,
Says, 'Well—'tis more than one would think.'
Thus life is spent! oh fie upon't,
In being touched, and crying—'Don't'!"
A poet, in his evening walk,
Overheard and checked this idle talk.
"And your fine sense," he said, "and yours,
Whatever evil it endures,
Deserves not, if so soon offended,
Much to be pitied or commended.
Disputes, though short, are far too long,
Where both alike are in the wrong;
Your feelings in their full amount
Are all upon your own account."
"You, in your grotto-work enclosed,
Complain of being thus exposed,
Yet nothing feel in that rough coat,
Save when the knife is at your throat.
Wherever driven by wind or tide,
Exempt from every ill beside."
"And as for you, my Lady Squeamish,
Who reckon every touch a blemish,
If all the plants that can be found
Embellishing the scene around,
Should droop and wither where they grow,
You would not feel at all, not you.
The noblest minds their virtue prove
By pity, sympathy, and love:
These, these are feelings truly fine,
And prove their owner half divine."
His censure reached them as he dealt it.
And each by shrinking show'd he felt it.
The Pineapple and the Bee
The Pineapples, in triple row,
Were basking hot, and all in blow.
A Bee of most deserving taste
Perceived the fragrance as he pass'd.
On eager wing the spoiler came,
And searched for crannies in the frame,
Urged his attempt on every side,
To every pane his trunk applied;
But still in vain, the frame was tight,
And only pervious to the light:
Thus having wasted half the day,
He trimm'd his flight another way.
* * * * *
Our dear delights are often such,
Exposed to view, but not to touch;
The sight our foolish heart inflames,
We long for pineapples in frames;
With hopeless wish one looks and lingers;
One breaks the glass, and cuts his fingers;
But they whom Truth and Wisdom lead,
Can gather honey from a weed.
Amelia and the Spider
The muslin torn, from tears of grief
In vain Amelia sought relief;
In sighs and plaints she passed the day,
The tattered frock neglected lay:
While busied at the weaving trade,
A Spider heard the sighing maid,
And kindly stopping in a trice,
Thus offered (gratis) her advice:
"Turn, little girl, behold in me
A stimulus to industry;
Compare your woes my dear, with mine,
Then tell me who should most repine;
This morning, ere you'd left your room,
The chambermaid's relentless broom,
In one sad moment that destroyed
To build which thousands were employed.
The shock was great, but as my life
I saved in the relentless strife,
I knew lamenting was in vain,
So patient went to work again;
By constant work a day or more
My little mansion did restore.
And if each tear which you have shed
Had been a needleful of thread,
If every sigh of sad despair
Had been a stitch of proper care,
Closed would have been the luckless rent,
Nor thus the day have been misspent."
The Goose and the Swans
A Goose, affected, empty, vain,
The shrillest of the cackling train,
With proud and elevated crest,
Precedence claimed above the rest,
Says she, "I laugh at human race,
Who say Geese hobble in their pace;
Look here—the slander base detect;
Not haughty man is so erect.
That Peacock yonder, see how vain
The creature's of his gaudy train.
If both were stripped, I'd pledge my word
A Goose would be the finer bird.
Nature, to hide her own defects,
Her bungled work with finery decks.
Were Geese set off with half that show,
Would men admire the Peacock? No!"
Thus vaunting, 'cross the mead she stalks,
The cackling breed attend her walks;
The sun shot down his noontide beams,
The Swans were sporting in the streams.
Their snowy plumes and stately pride
Provoked her spleen. "Why, there," she cried,
"Again, what arrogance we see!
Those creatures, how they mimic me!
Shall every fowl the waters skim
Because we Geese are known to swim?
Humility they soon shall learn,
And their own emptiness discern."
So saying, with extended wings,
Lightly upon the wave she springs;
Her bosom swells, she spreads her plumes,
And the Swan's stately crest assumes.
Contempt and mockery ensued,
And bursts of laughter shook the flood.
A Swan, superior to the rest,
Sprung forth, and thus the fool addressed:
"Conceited thing, elate with pride,
Thy affectation all deride;
These airs thy awkwardness impart,
And show thee plainly as thou art.
Among thy equals of the flock,
Thou hadst escaped the public mock;
And, as thy parts to good conduce,
Been deemed an honest, hobbling Goose.
Learn hence to study wisdom's rules;
Know, foppery's the pride of fools;
And, striving nature to conceal,
You only her defects reveal."
The Rats and the Cheese
If Bees a government maintain,
Why may not Rats, of stronger brain
And greater power, as well be thought
By Machiavellian axioms taught?
And so they are, for thus of late
It happened in the Rats' free state.
Their prince (his subjects more to please)
Had got a mighty Cheshire Cheese,
In which his ministers of state
Might live in plenty and grow great.
A powerful party straight combined,
And their united forces joined
To bring their measures into play,
For none so loyal were as they;
And none such patriots to support
As well the country as the court.
No sooner were those Dons admitted,
But (all those wondrous virtues quitted)
They all the speediest means devise
To raise themselves and families.
Another party well observing
These pampered were, while they were starving,
Their ministry brought in disgrace,
Expelled them and supplied their place;
These on just principles were known
The true supporters of the throne.
And for the subjects' liberty,
They'd (marry, would they) freely die;
But being well fixed in their station,
Regardless of their prince and nation,
Just like the others, all their skill
Was how they might their paunches fill.
On this a Rat not quite so blind
In state intrigues as human kind,
But of more honour, thus replied:
"Confound ye all on either side;
All your contentions are but these,
Whose arts shall best secure the Cheese."
The Drop of Rain
A little particle of rain
That from a passing cloud descended:
Was heard thus idly to complain:
"My brief existence now is ended!
Outcast alike of earth and sky,
Useless to live, unknown to die!"
It chanced to fall into the sea,
And there an open shell received it;
And after years how rich was he
Who from its prison-house released it!
The drop of rain had formed a gem
To deck a monarch's diadem.
The Lion and the Echo
A Lion bravest of the wood,
Whose title undisputed stood,
As o'er the wide domains he prowled,
And in pursuit of booty growled,
An Echo from a distant cave
Re-growled articulately grave.
His Majesty, surprised, began
To think at first it was a man;
But, on reflection sage, he found
It was too like a lion's sound.
"Whose voice is that which growls at mine?"
His Highness asked. Says Echo, "Mine!"
"Thine," says the Lion; "who art thou?"
Echo as stern cried, "Who art thou?"
"Know I'm a lion, hear and tremble!"
Replied the king. Cried Echo, "Tremble!"
"Come forth," says Lion, "show thyself!"
Laconic Echo answered, "Elf!"
"Elf dost thou call me, vile pretender?"
Echo as loud replied, "Pretender?"
At this, as jealous of his reign,
He growled in rage—she growled again.
Incensed the more, he chafed and foamed,
And round the spacious forest roamed,
To find the rival of his throne,
Who durst with him dispute the crown.
A Fox, who listened all the while,
Addressed the monarch with a smile:
"My liege, most humbly I make bold,
Though truth may not be always told,
That this same phantom that you hear,
That so alarms your royal ear,
Is not a rival of your throne—
The voice and fears are all your own."
Imaginary terrors scare
A timorous soul with real fear!
Nay, e'en the wise and brave are cowed
By apprehensions from the crowd;
A frog a lion may disarm,
And yet how causeless the alarm!
Here check we our career;
Long books I greatly fear;
I would not quite exhaust my stuff;
The flower of subjects is enough.
JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
INDEX OF TITLES
Acorn and the Pumpkin, The. La Fontaine (French)
Aesop and His Fellow Servants. Aesop (Greek)
Amelia and the Spider. Anonymous (English)
Animals' Peace Party, The. (Chinese)
Animals Sick of the Plague, The. La Fontaine (French)
Ant and the Fly, The. Aesop (Greek)
Ass and His Master, The. Aesop (Greek)
Ass and His Purchaser, The. Aesop (Greek)
Ass and His Shadow, The. Aesop (Greek)
Ass and the Dog, The. La Fontaine (French)
Ass and the Lap-dog, The. La Fontaine (French)
Ass Carrying Relics, The. La Fontaine (French)
Ass in the Lion's Skin, The. Aesop (Greek)
Bat and the Two Weasels, The. La Fontaine (French)
Bear and the Fowls, The. Aesop (Greek)
Bear, the Monkey and the Pig, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Bee and the Cuckoo, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Belling the Cat. Aesop (Greek)
Birds and the Monkeys, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Blackamoor, The. Aesop (Greek)
Blue Jackal, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Boasting Traveller, The. Aesop (Greek)
Boy and the Filberts, The. Aesop (Greek)
Boy and the Wolf, The. Aesop (Greek)
Boys and the Frogs, The. Aesop (Greek)
Brahmin and the Goat, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Buffoon and the Countryman, The. Aesop (Greek)
Builder of Ability and the Builder of Haste, The. (African)
Camel and His Master, The. Aesop (Greek)
Camel and the Pig, The. Raju (Indian)
Cat and the Fox, The. La Fontaine (French)
Cat and the Mice, The. Aesop (Greek)
Cat and the Two Sparrows, The. La Fontaine (French)
Chameleon, The. Aesop (Greek)
City Rat and the Country Rat, The. La Fontaine (French)
Cock and the Fox, The. La Fontaine (French)
Cock and the Jewel, The. Aesop (Greek)
Council of Horses, The. Gay (English)
Country Fellow and the River, A. Aesop (Greek)
Countryman and the Serpent, The. La Fontaine (French)
Crab and Its Mother, The. Aesop (Greek)
Crane and the Fool, The. Raju (Indian)
Crow and the Mussel, The. Aesop (Greek)
Crow and the Partridge, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Crow and the Pitcher, The. Aesop (Greek)
Cuckoo and the Cock, The. Krilof (Russian)
Cuckoo and the Eagle, The. Krilof (Russian)
Cuckoo and the Turtle-dove, The. Krilof (Russian)
Dairywoman and the Pot of Milk, The. La Fontaine (French)
Deer and the Lion, The. Aesop (Greek)
Demian's Fish Soup. Krilof (Russian)
Despot and the Wag, The. Raju (Indian)
Discontented Ass, The. Aesop (Greek)
Dog and His Shadow, The. Aesop (Greek)
Dog and the Crocodile, The. Aesop (Greek)
Dog and the Kingship. (African)
Dog in the Manger, The. Aesop (Greek)
Dove and the Ant, The. La Fontaine (French)
Drop of Rain, The. Anonymous (English)
Duck and the Serpent, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Eagle and the Beetle, The. La Fontaine (French)
Eagle and the Mole, The. Krilof (Russian)
Eagle and the Owl, The. Aesop (Greek)
Eagle and the Owl, The. La Fontaine (French)
Eagle, the Jackdaw and the Magpie, The. Aesop (Greek)
Ears of the Hare, The. La Fontaine (French)
Earthen Pot and the Iron Pot, The. La Fontaine (French)
Education of the Lion, The. Krilof (Russian)
Elephant and Frog (African)
Elephant and the Jackal, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Elephant as Governor, The. Krilof (Russian)
Elephant Has a Bet with the Tiger, The. (Malayan)
Elephant in Favour, The. Krilof (Russian)
Falcon and the Capon, The. Aesop (Greek)
Farmer and His Dog, The. Aesop (Greek)
Farmer and the Stork, The. Aesop (Greek)
Farmer's Wife and the Raven, The. Gay (English)
Father "Lime-stick" and the Flower-pecker (Malayan)
Fawn and the Little Tiger, The. Raju (Indian)
Flies and the Honey-pot, The. Aesop (Greek)
Flint and the Steel, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Fowler, the Hawk, and the Lark, The. La Fontaine (French)
Fox and the Countryman, The. Aesop (Greek)
Fox and the Crabs, The. Raju (Indian)
Fox and the Crow, The. Aesop (Greek)
Fox and the Drum, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Fox and the Grapes, The. Aesop (Greek)
Fox and the Stork, The. Aesop (Greek)
Fox and the Villagers, The. Raju (Indian)
Fox in the Well, The. Aesop (Greek)
Fox in the Well, The. Raju (Indian)
Fox, the Monkey, and the Animals, The. La Fontaine (French)
Fox, the Wolf, and the Horse, The. La Fontaine (French)
Fox Without a Tail, The. Aesop (Greek)
Frog Who Wished to Be as Big as an Ox, The. (Greek)
Frogs Desiring a King, The. Aesop (Greek)
Geese and the Tortoise, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Glowworm and the Daw, The. Raju (Indian)
Gnat and the Bull, The. Aesop (Greek)
Goose and the Swans, The. Anonymous (English)
Goose with the Golden Eggs, The. Aesop (Greek)
Grasshopper and the Ant, The. La Fontaine (French)
Greedy Jackal, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Hare and Many Friends, The. Gay (English)
Hare and the Partridge, The, La Fontaine (French)
Hare and the Pig, The. Raju (Indian)
Hare and the Tortoise, The. Aesop (Greek)
Hares and the Frogs, The. Aesop (Greek)
Hen and the Cat, The. (African)
Hen and the Chinese Mountain Turtle, The. (Chinese)
Hen and the Fox, The. Aesop (Greek)
Hercules and the Wagoner. Aesop (Greek)
Hermit, the Thief, and the Demon, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Hornets and the Bees, The. La Fontaine (French)
How Sense Was Distributed. (African)
Invalid Lion, The. Aesop (Greek)
Jackal and the Cat, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Jackdaw with Borrowed Plumes, The. Aesop (Greek)
Jupiter's Two Wallets. Aesop (Greek)
King and the Hawk, The. Bidpai (Indian)
King-crow and the Water-snail, The. (Malayan)
Kite and the Pigeons, The. Aesop (Greek)
Lark and Her Young Ones, The. Aesop (Greek)
Leopard and the Other Animals (African)
Lion and the Ass Hunting, The. La Fontaine (French)
Lion and the Echo, The. Anonymous (English)
Lion and the Gadfly, The. Raju (Indian)
Lion and the Gnat, The. La Fontaine (French)
Lion and the Goat, The. Raju (Indian)
Lion and the Mosquitoes, The. (Chinese)
Lion and the Mouse, The. Aesop (Greek)
Lion and the Rabbit, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Lion and the Wild Dog, The. (African)
Lion Going to War, The. La Fontaine (French)
Lion, the Bear, the Monkey, and the Fox, The. Aesop (Greek)
Lion, the Fox, and the Story-teller, The. Raju (Indian)
Lion, the Mouse, and the Cat, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Lion's Share, The. La Fontaine (French)
Lioness and the Bear, The. La Fontaine (French)
Man and His Piece of Cloth, The. Raju (Indian)
Man and the Lion, The. Aesop (Greek)
Man and Turtle (African)
Man of Luck, and the Man of Pluck, The. Raju (Indian)
Matter of Arbitration, A. Aesop (Greek)
Monkey and the Cat, The. La Fontaine (French)
Monkey and the Leopard, The. La Fontaine (French)
Monkey Who Had Seen the World, The. Gay (English)
Mouse and the Frog, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Mouse Who Became a Tiger, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Mouse-deer's Shipwreck, The. (Malayan)
Muff, the Fan, and the Parasol, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Mule and the Lion, The. (Chinese)
Mule, Jackal and Lion. (Moorish)
Nianga Dia Ngenga and Leopard. (African)
Nightingale and the Glowworm, The. Cowper (English)
Oak and the Reed, The, La Fontaine (French)
Old Man and His Sons, The. Aesop (Greek)
Old Man and the Ass, The. La Fontaine (French)
Old Man, His Son, and the Ass, The. Aesop (Greek)
Old Woman and Her Maids, The. Aesop (Greek)
Old Woman and the Doctor, The. Aesop (Greek)
Old Woman's Cat, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Pairing Time Anticipated. Cowper (English)
Passenger and the Pilot, The. Aesop (Greek)
Peacock and the Fox, The. Raju (Indian)
Peacock Complaining to Juno, The. La Fontaine (French)
Peasant and the Horse, The. Krilof (Russian)
Peasant and the Robber, The. Krilof (Russian)
Peasant and the Sheep, The. Krilof (Russian)
Pebble and the Diamond, The. Krilof (Russian)
Phoebus and Boreas. La Fontaine (French)
Pike, The. Krilof (Russian)
Pike and the Cat, The. Krilof (Russian)
Pineapple and the Bee, The. Cowper (English)
Playful Ass, The. Aesop (Greek)
Ploughman and His Sons, The. La Fontaine (French)
Poet, the Oyster, and Sensitive Plant, The. Cowper (English)
Poor Woman and the Bell, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Porcupine and the Snakes, The. Aesop (Greek)
Power of Fables, The. Aesop (Greek)
Proud Chicken, The. (Chinese)
Proud Fox and the Crab, The. (Chinese)
Quartette, The. Krilof (Russian)
Rabbits and the Elephants, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Rat and the Elephant, The. La Fontaine (French)
Rat and the Oyster, The. La Fontaine (French)
Rat and the Toad, The. (African)
Rat-catcher and Cats, The. Gay (English)
Rats and the Cheese, The. Anonymous (English)
Raven, The. Cowper (English)
Rope Dancer and His Pupil, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Sagacious Snake, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Satyr and the Traveller, The. Aesop (Greek)
Shepherd and His Dog, The. La Fontaine (French)
Shepherd and the Lion, The. La Fontaine (French)
Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf, The. Gay. (English)
Sick Stag, The. La Fontaine (French)
Snake and the Sparrows, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Sparrows and the Falcon, The. Bidpai (Indian)
Spectacles, The. Aesop (Greek)
Spider and the Bee, The. Krilof (Russian)
Squirrel and the Horse, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Stag and the Vine, The. La Fontaine (French)
Stork and the Toad, The. (African)
Sunling, The. Raju (Indian)
Swallow and Other Birds, The. Aesop (Greek)
Swan and the Cook, The. La Fontaine (French)
Swan and the Linnet, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Sword-blade, The. Krilof (Russian)
Tail of the Serpent, The. Aesop (Greek)
Tea and the Sage, The. Yriarte (Spanish)
Tiger and the Giraffe, The. Raju (Indian)
Tiger and the Shadow, The. (Malayan)
Tiger Gets His Deserts, The. (Malayan)
Tiger, the Fox, and the Hunters, The. Raju (Indian)
Tinsel and Lightning. Raju (Indian)
Traveller and the Tiger, The. Hitopadesa (Sanskrit)
Travellers and the Bear, The. Aesop (Greek)
Trishka's Caftan. Krilof (Russian)
Tune that Makes the Tiger Drowsy, The (Malayan)
Two Mules, The. La Fontaine (French)
Two Rats, the Fox, and the Egg, The. La Fontaine (French)
Two Travellers, The. Aesop (Greek)
Two Travellers and the Oyster, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wagtail and the Jackal, The. (Moorish)
Weasel in the Granary, The. La Fontaine (French)
What Employment Our Lord Gave to Insects (African)
Wolf and Its Cub, The. Krilof (Russian)
Wolf and the Cat. The. Krilof (Russian)
Wolf and the Crane, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wolf and the Fox, The. La Fontaine (French)
Wolf and the Lamb, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wolf and the Lamb, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wolf and the Lean Dog, The. La Fontaine (French)
Wolf and the Mastiff, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wolf and the Sheep, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, The. Aesop (Greek)
Wolf, the Goat, and the Kid, The. La Fontaine (French)
Wolf Turned Shepherd, The. La Fontaine (French)
Woodman and Mercury, The. La Fontaine (French)
Woods and the Woodman, The. La Fontaine (French)
Wren, The. (Moorish)
Young Mouse, the Cock, and the Cat, The. Aesop (Greek)
Young Tiger, The. Bidpai (Indian)