Favourite Fables in Prose and Verse
Author: Various
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While he was giving himself these airs, he was alarmed with the noise of some huntsmen and a pack of hounds that had been just laid on upon the scent, and were making towards him.

Away he flees in some consternation, and, bounding nimbly over the plain, threw dogs and men at a vast distance behind him. After which, taking a very thick copse, he had the ill-fortune to be entangled by his horns in a thicket, where he was held fast, till the hounds came in and pulled him down. Finding now how it was likely to go with him, in the pangs of death, he is said to have uttered these words:—"Unhappy creature that I am! I am too late convinced that what I prided myself in has been the cause of my undoing, and what I so much disliked was the only thing that could have saved me."


Beauty often becomes a snare and ruin, while solid virtue, though unadorned, gains respect. The latter, too, will mature with age, while the former will surely fade.



A SWALLOW, observing a husbandman employed in sowing hemp, called the little Birds together, and informed them 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 unanimously to join 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. The friendly Swallow again addressed himself to them—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, they still rejecting 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 great number of these very Birds, imprisoned in a cage, on the shoulders of a bird-catcher. "Unhappy wretches!" said he, "you now feel the punishment of your former neglect. But those who, having no foresight of their own, despise the wholesome admonition of their friends, deserve the mischiefs which their own obstinacy or negligence bring upon their heads."


This Fable teaches thoughtless youth A most important moral truth:— The seeds, which proved the young birds' ruin, Are emblems of their own undoing, Should they neglect, while yet 'tis time, To pluck the early shoots of crime; Or, in their own opinions wise, The counsel of their friends despise. For evil habits, left to grow, Are ever sure to lead to woe; But checked in time with vigorous hand, Will bend to virtue's firm command.



The rain so soft had made the road, That, in a rut, a waggon-load, The poor man's harvest, (bitter luck!) Sank down a foot, and there it stuck. He whipped his horses, but in vain; They pulled and splashed, and pulled again, But vainly still; the slippery soil Defied their strength, and mocked their toil. Panting they stood, with legs outspread; The driver stood, and scratched his head: (A common custom, by-the-bye, When people know not what to try, Though not, it seems, a remedy).

A Butterfly, in flower concealed, Had travelled with them from the field; Who in the waggon was thrown up, While feasting on a buttercup. The panting of each labouring beast Disturbed her at her fragrant feast; The sudden stop, the driver's sigh, Awoke her generous sympathy. And, seeing the distressing case She cried, while springing from her place, (Imagining her tiny freight A vast addition to the weight,) "I must have pity—and be gone, Now, master Waggoner, drive on."


Do not admire this Butterfly, Young reader; I will tell you why. At first, goodnature seems a cause, Why she should merit your applause; But 'twas conceit that filled her breast: Her self-importance made a jest Of what might otherwise have claimed Your praise,—but now she must be blamed. Should any case occur, when you May have some friendly act to do; Give all your feeble aid—as such, But estimate it not too much.



A LION and a Bear quarrelling over the carcase of a Fawn, which they found in the forest, their title to him had to be decided by force of arms. The battle was severe and tough on both sides, and they fought it out, tearing and worrying one another so long, that, what with wounds and fatigue, they were so faint and weary, that they were not able to strike another stroke. Thus, while they lay upon the ground, panting and lolling out their tongues, a Fox chanced to pass by that way, who, perceiving how the case stood, very impudently stepped in between them, seized the booty which they had all this while been contending for, and carried it off. The two combatants, who lay and beheld all this, without having strength to stir and prevent it, were only wise enough to make this reflection:—"Behold the fruits of our strife and contention! That villain, the Fox, bears away the prize, and we ourselves have deprived each other of the power to recover it from him."


When fools quarrel, knaves get the prize of contention.



In days of yore, when a young Fox would take more pains to get a bunch of grapes than a plump, fat goose, an arch young thief cast his eyes on a fine bunch which hung on the top of a poor man's vine, and made him lick his lips like a hound at the sight of a joint of meat. "Oh," said he, "how nice they look! I must have a taste of them, if I die for it;" and with that, up he jumped with all his might, but had the ill-luck not to reach the grapes; yet, as he could not find in his heart to leave them, he tried for them as long as he was able; so he leaped and jumped, and jumped and leaped, till at last he was glad to rest. But when he found all his pains were in vain, "Hang them!" said he, "I am sure they are not fit to eat, for they are as sour as crabs, and would set my teeth on edge for a whole week; and so I shall leave them for the next fool who may chance to come this way."


Some men make light of that which is out of their reach, though at the same time in their hearts they know not what to do for want of it.



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.

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 approach 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, ev'ry burthen's light."

The Horse replied,—"Poor, honest Puss! It grieves my heart to see thee thus: Be comforted,—relief is near; For all our 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 favourite cow Expects me near yon barley-mow; And when a lady's in the case, You know, all other things give place. To leave you thus may 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 pass 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."


Friendships are single: who depend On many rarely find a friend.



A COCK, being perched among the branches of a lofty tree, crowed aloud, so that the shrillness of his voice echoed through the wood and invited a Fox to the place, who was prowling in that neighbourhood in quest of his prey. But Reynard, finding the Cock was inaccessible by reason of the height of his situation, had recourse to stratagem in order to decoy him down. So, approaching the tree, "Cousin," says he, "I am heartily glad to see you; but at the same time I cannot forbear expressing my uneasiness at the inconvenience of the place, which will not let me pay my respects to you in a handsomer manner; though I suppose you will come down presently, and thus the difficulty will be easily removed."

"Indeed, cousin," says the Cock, "to tell you the truth, I do not think it safe to venture upon the ground; for though I am convinced how much you are my friend, yet I may have the misfortune to fall into the clutches of some other beasts, and what will become of me then?" "Oh, dear!" says Reynard, "is it possible that you can be so ignorant, as not to know of the peace which has been lately proclaimed between all kinds of birds and beasts; and that we are for the future to forbear hostilities on all sides, and to live in the utmost love and harmony, and this, under the penalty of suffering the severest punishment that can be inflicted?" All this while the Cock seemed to give little attention to what was said, but stretched out his neck, as if he saw something at a distance.

"Cousin," says the Fox, "what is it that you look at so earnestly?" "Why," says the Cock, "I think I see a pack of hounds yonder, a little way off." "Oh, then," says the Fox, "your humble servant, I must begone." "Nay, pray cousin, do not go," says the Cock, "I am just coming down; surely you are not afraid of Dogs in these peaceable times?" "No, no," says he, "but ten to one whether they have heard of the proclamation yet."


When rogues are met in their own strain, they are generally worsted. It is interesting to see the snares of the wicked defeated by the discreet management of the innocent. "Answer a fool according to his folly," is an old maxim.



A LION, faint with heat and weary with hunting, was lying down to take his repose under the spreading boughs of a thick shady oak. It happened that while he slept, a company of scrambling mice ran over his back, and waked him; upon which, starting up, he clapped his paw upon one of them, and was just going to put it to death, when the little supplicant implored his mercy in a very moving manner, begging him not to stain his noble character with the blood of so despicable and small a beast.

The Lion, considering the matter, thought proper to do as he was desired, and immediately released his little trembling prisoner.

Not long after, while traversing the forest in pursuit of his prey, he chanced to run into the toils of the hunters, from whence, not being able to disengage himself, he set up a most hideous and loud roar.

The Mouse, hearing a voice, and knowing it to be the Lion's, immediately repaired to the place, and bid him fear nothing, for that he was his friend. Then straight he fell to work, and with his sharp little teeth gnawing asunder the knots and fastenings of the toils, set the royal brute at liberty.


There is none so little, but that even the greatest may at some time or other stand in need of his assistance.



A TRUMPETER, being taken prisoner in a battle, begged hard for quarter, declaring his innocence, and protesting that he neither had nor could kill any man, bearing no arms but only a trumpet, which he was obliged to sound at the word of command. "For that reason," replied his enemies, "we are determined not to spare you; for though you yourself never fight, yet with that wicked instrument of yours, you blow up animosity between other people, and so become the occasion of much bloodshed."


The hand may rest quiet by the side, and yet the tongue be the means of doing more injury than a thousand hands.



A PERT young Mouse, but just arrived From Athens, where some time he'd lived; And daily to the portico, To pick up learning, used to go; Vain of the wisdom he had stored, And of the books he had devoured; Puffed up with pride and self-conceit, And proud to show his little wit, Thus to an Elephant, one day, He took it in his head to say:—

"Nay, not so pompous in your gait, Because Dame Nature made you great; I tell you, sir, your mighty size Is of no value in my eyes;— Your magnitude, I have a notion, Is quite unfit for locomotion; When journeying far, you often prove How sluggishly your feet can move. Now, look at me: I'm made to fly; Behold, with what rapidity I skip about from place to place, And still unwearied with the race; But you—how lazily you creep, And stop to breathe at every step! Whenever I your bulk survey, I pity—" What he meant to say, Or with what kind of peroration He'd have concluded his oration, I cannot tell; for, all at once, There pounced upon the learned dunce An ambushed Cat; who, very soon, Experimentally made known, That between Mice and Elephants There is a mighty difference.


When fools pretend to wit and sense, And wish to shine at your expense, Defy them to the proof, and you Will make them their own folly show.



A CERTAIN Husbandman, lying at the point of death, and being desirous his sons should pursue that innocent, entertaining course of agriculture in which he himself had been engaged all his life, made use of this expedient to induce them to it. He called them to his bed-side and spoke to this effect: "All the patrimony I have to bequeath you, Sons, is my farm and my vineyard, of which I make you joint heirs. But I charge you not to let it go out of your own occupation; for if I have any treasure besides, it lies buried somewhere in the ground, within a foot of the surface."

This made the Sons conclude that he talked of money which he had hid there; so, after their father's death, with unwearied diligence and application, they carefully dug up every inch, both of the farm and vineyard; from which it came to pass that, though they missed the treasure which they expected, the ground, by being so well stirred and loosened, produced so plentiful a crop of all that was sowed in it as proved a real, and no inconsiderable treasure.


Labour and industry, well applied, seldom fail of finding a rich treasure. And if these do not give us exactly the wealth we are looking for, they will certainly give us health and cheerfulness, with a tranquil mind, and, without these, all the gold of Peru would lie in our coffers useless.



A CERTAIN Knight growing old, his hair fell off, and he became bald; to hide which imperfection he wore a periwig. But as he was riding out with some others a-hunting, a sudden gust of wind blew off the periwig, and exposed his bald pate.

The company could not forbear laughing at the accident; and he himself laughed as loud as anybody, saying, "How was it to be expected that I should keep strange hair on my head, when my own would not stay there."


If, by any word or action, we happen to raise the laughter of those about us, we cannot stifle it better than, by a brisk presence of mind, to join in the mirth of the company, and, if possible, anticipate the jests they are ready to make on us.



A DOG was lying upon a manger full of hay. An Ox, being hungry, came near, and wanted to eat of the hay; but the envious, ill-natured cur, getting up and snarling at him, would not suffer him to touch it. Upon which the Ox, in the bitterness of his heart, said, "What a selfish wretch thou art, for thou canst neither eat hay thyself, nor suffer others to do so."


Selfishness is a most contemptible thing; but that degree of it which withholds from others what we can make no possible use of ourselves, is hateful in the extreme.



A POOR, feeble old Man, who had crawled out into a neighbouring wood to gather a few sticks, had made up his bundle, and, laying it over his shoulders, was trudging homeward with it; but what with age, and the length of the way, and the weight of his burden, he grew so faint and weak that he sunk under it, and, as he sat on the ground, called upon Death to come and ease him of his troubles. Death no sooner heard him than he came and demanded of him what he wanted. The poor old creature, who little thought Death had been so near, and frightened almost out of his senses with his terrible aspect, answered him, trembling, That, having by chance let his bundle of sticks fall, and being too infirm to get it up himself, he had made bold to call upon him to help him; that, indeed, this was all he wanted at present, and that he hoped his worship was not offended with him for the liberty he had taken in so doing.


Men lightly speak of Death when they think he is far away; but let him appear near, and the very sense of his approach almost drives the life away. Men then resume the burden of cares which they had thrown down as insupportable, being content to bear the ills they have than fly to others that they know not of.



As an old Hen led forth her train, And seemed to peck, to show the grain; She raked the chaff, she scratched the ground, And gleaned the spacious yard around. A giddy chick, to try her wings, On the well's narrow margin springs, And prone she drops. The mother's breast All day with sorrow was possessed.

A Cock she met—her son, she knew; And in her heart affection grew.

"My son," says she, "I grant, your years Have reached beyond a mother's cares; I see you vigorous, strong, and bold; I hear, with joy, your triumphs told. 'Tis not from Cocks thy fate I dread; But let thy ever-wary tread Avoid yon well; that fatal place Is sure perdition to our race. Print this, my counsel, on thy breast; To the just gods I leave the rest."

He thanked her care; yet, day by day, His bosom burned to disobey; And every time the well he saw, Scorned, in his heart, the foolish law; Near and more near each day he drew, And longed to try the dangerous view.

"Why was this idle charge?" he cries; "Let courage female fears despise! Or did she doubt my heart was brave, And, therefore, this injunction gave? Or does her harvest store the place, A treasure for her younger race? And would she thus my search prevent?— I stand resolved, and dare th' event."

Thus said, he mounts the margin's round, And pries into the depth profound. He stretched his neck; and, from below, With stretching neck advanced a foe: With wrath his ruffled plumes he tears; The foe with ruffled plumes appears: Threat answered threat, his fury grew; Headlong to meet the war he flew; But when the watery death he found, He thus lamented as he drowned: "I ne'er had been in this condition, Had I obeyed the prohibition."


Obey your parents, or 'twill be your fate, To feel repentance when it comes too late.



A MAN was felling a tree on the bank of a river, and by chance let his hatchet slip out of his hand, which dropped into the water, and immediately sunk to the bottom. Being, therefore, in great distress from the loss of his tool, he sat down and bemoaned himself most lamentably.

Upon this, Mercury appeared to him, and being informed of the cause of his complaint, dived to the bottom of the river, and, coming up again, showed the man a golden hatchet, demanding if that were his. He denied that it was; upon which Mercury dived a second time, and brought up a silver one. The Man refused it, alleging likewise that this was not his. He dived a third time, and fetched up the individual hatchet the man had lost; upon sight of which the poor fellow was overjoyed, and took it with all humility and thankfulness. Mercury was so pleased with the fellow's honesty, that he gave him the other two into the bargain, as a reward for his just dealing.

The man then went to his companions, and, giving them an account of what had happened, one of them went presently to the river side, and let his hatchet fall designedly into the stream. Then, sitting down upon the bank, he fell a-weeping and lamenting, as if he had been really and sorely afflicted. Mercury appeared as before, and, diving, brought him up a golden hatchet, asking if that was the one he had lost. Transported at the precious metal, he answered "Yes," and went to snatch it greedily. But the god, detesting his abominable impudence, not only refused to give him that, but would not so much as let him have his own hatchet again.


Honesty is the best policy; it has made many a man's fortune, being blessed by God, and highly valued by man.



The GOAT, going abroad to feed, shut up her young kid at home, charging him to bolt the door fast, and open it to nobody, till she herself should return. The Wolf, who lay lurking just by, heard this charge given, and soon after came and knocked at the door, counterfeiting the voice of the Goat, and desiring to be admitted. The Kid, looking out of the window and discovering the cheat, bid him go about his business; for however he might imitate a Goat's voice, yet he appeared too much like a Wolf to be trusted.


We cannot use too much caution in avoiding those things which those who have more experience than we have warned us against.



An Old Man had many Sons, who were often falling out with one another. When the father had exerted his authority, and used other means in order to reconcile them, and all to no purpose, he at last had recourse to this expedient: he ordered his Sons to be called before him, and a short bundle of sticks to be brought; and then commanded them, one by one, to try if, with all their might and strength, they could any of them break it. They all tried, but to no purpose; for the sticks being closely and compactly bound up together, it was impossible for the force of man to do it.

After this the father ordered the bundle to be untied, and gave a single stick to each of his Sons, at the same time bidding him try to break it, which, when each did, with all imaginable ease, the father addressed himself to them to this effect: "O, my sons, behold the power of unity! for if you, in like manner, would but keep yourselves strictly joined in the bonds of friendship, it would not be in the power of any mortal to hurt you; but when once the ties of brotherly affection are dissolved, how soon do you fall to pieces, and become liable to be violated by every injurious hand that assaults you."


Union is strength. Love is a powerful bond, which, when cherished, will make those who are bound together by it irresistible.



A FOUNTAIN varied gambols played, Close by an humble Brook; While gently murmuring through the glade, Its peaceful course it took.

Perhaps it gave one envious gaze Upon the Fountain's height, While glittering in the morning rays Pre-eminently bright.

In all the colours of the sky, Alternately it shone: The Brook observed it with a sigh, But quietly rolled on.

The owner of the Fountain died; Neglect soon brought decay; The bursting pipes were ill-supplied; The Fountain ceased to play.

But still the Brook its peaceful course Continued to pursue; Her ample, inexhausted source, From Nature's fount she drew.

"Now," said the Brook, "I bless my fate, My showy rival gone; Contented in its native state My little stream rolls on.

And all the world has cause, indeed, To own, with grateful heart, How much great Nature's works excel The feeble works of art."


Humble usefulness is preferable to idle splendour.



The Mice called a general council, and, having met, after the doors were locked, entered into a free consultation about ways and means how to render their fortunes and estates more secure from the danger of the Cat. Many things were offered, and much was debated, "pro and con," upon the matter. At last, a young Mouse, in a fine, florid speech, concluded with an expedient, and that the only one, which was to put them for the future entirely out of the power of the enemy; and this was that the Cat should wear a bell about her neck, which, upon the least motion, would give the alarm, and be a signal for them to retire into their holes. This speech was received with great applause, and it was even proposed by some that the Mouse who made it should have the thanks of the assembly; upon which an old, grave Mouse, who had sat silent all the while, stood up, and, in another speech, owned that the contrivance was admirable, and the author of it, without doubt, an ingenious Mouse, but, he said, he thought it would not be so proper to vote him thanks till he should farther inform them how this bell was to be fastened about the Cat's neck, and what Mouse would undertake to do it.


Many things appear excellent in theory which are impossible in practice. It often requires a great deal of courage to carry out projects which a fine, florid speech may persuade the hearers are most plausible.



A FOX, having fallen into a well, made a shift by sticking his claws into the sides to keep his head above water. Soon after a Wolf came and peeped over the brink, to whom the Fox applied very earnestly for assistance; entreating that he would help him to a rope, or something of the kind, which might favour his escape. The Wolf moved with compassion at his misfortune, could not forbear expressing his concern. "Ah, poor Reynard," says he, "I am sorry for you with all my heart; how could you possibly come into this melancholy condition?"

"Nay, pr'ythee, friend," replied the Fox, "if you wish me well, do not stand pitying me, but lend me some succour as fast as you can; for pity is but cold comfort when one is up to the chin in water, and within a hair's breadth of starving or drowning."


Mere expressions of pity, without a desire or attempt to alleviate suffering, are a mockery. He that would be truly a friend, will be ready to give his assistance when needed.



As a Wolf was roaming over a farm, he came to a field of oats, but not being able to eat them, he left them and went his way.

Presently, meeting with a Horse, he bade him come with him into the field, "For," says he, "I have found some capital oats; and I have not tasted one, but have kept them all for you, for the very sound of your teeth is music to my ear." But the Horse replied, "A pretty fellow! if Wolves were able to eat oats, I suspect you would not have preferred your ears to your appetite."


Little thanks are due to him, who only gives away whatever is of no use to himself.



Two springs, which issued from the same mountain, began their course together: one of them took her way in a silent and gentle stream, while the other rushed along with a sounding and rapid current. "Sister," said the latter, "at the rate you move, you will probably be dried up, before you advance much farther; whereas, for myself, I will venture a wager, that, within two or three hundred furlongs, I shall become navigable; and, after distributing commerce and wealth wherever I flow, I shall majestically proceed to pay my tribute to the ocean. So, farewell, dear sister! and patiently submit to your fate."

Her sister made no reply; but, calmly descending to the meadows below, increased her stream by numberless little rills which she collected in her progress, till, at length, she was enabled to rise into a considerable river; whilst the proud stream, who had the vanity to depend solely upon her own sufficiency, continued a shallow brook; and was glad, at last, to be helped forward, by throwing herself into the arms of her despised sister.


His strength in words the blusterer vainly spends, While steadiness in quiet gains its ends.



A RAVEN, while with glossy breast, Her new laid eggs she fondly pressed, And, on her wicker-work 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's 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, And all 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 conjurors 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.


Safety consists not in escape From danger of a frightful shape; 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.



A FOX, hard pressed by the hounds, was getting over a hedge, but tore his foot upon a Bramble, which grew just in the midst of it, upon which he reproached the Bramble for his inhospitable cruelty in using a stranger, which had fled to him for protection, after such a barbarous manner. "Yes," says the Bramble, "you intended to have made me serve your turn, I know; but take this piece of advice with you for the future: Never lay hold of a Bramble again, as you value your sweet person; for laying hold is a privilege that belongs to us Brambles, and we do not care to let it go out of the family."


Impertinent people, who take liberties with others, are often much surprised if they are retorted on with severity. It is better, then, to keep from undue familiarity with strangers, for we know not of what temper they may be.



As a clownish fellow was driving his cart along a deep miry lane, the wheels stuck so fast in the clay, that the horses could not draw them out. Upon this he fell a-bawling and praying to Hercules to come and help him.

Hercules, looking down from a cloud, bade him not lie there, like an idle rascal, as he was, but get up and whip his horses stoutly, and clap his shoulder to the wheel; adding, that this was the only way for him to obtain his assistance.


The man who asks Heaven for gifts, and neglects the gifts Heaven has given, must expect silence until he shows that he is in earnest by putting his shoulder to the wheel.



On the margin of a large lake, which was inhabited by a great number of Frogs, a company of Boys happened to be at play. Their diversion was duck and drake, and whole volleys of stones were thrown into the water, to the great annoyance and danger of the poor terrified Frogs. At length, one of the most hardy, lifting up his head above the surface of the lake;—"Ah! dear children!" said he, "why will ye learn so soon to be cruel? Consider, I beseech you, that though this may be sport to you, it is death to us."


A noble mind disdains to gain Its pleasure from another's pain.



A BRISK young Cock, in company with two or three pullets, raking upon a dunghill for something to entertain them with, happened to scratch up a jewel, which sparkled with an exceeding bright lustre; but, not knowing what to do with it, endeavoured to cover his ignorance under a look of contempt. So, shrugging up his wings, shaking his head, and putting on a grimace, he expressed himself to this purpose: "Indeed, you are a very fine thing, but I know not what business you have here. I make no scruple of declaring that my taste lies quite another way, and I had rather have one grain of dear delicious barley than all the jewels under the sun."


We should not despise as worthless what does not come within the limit of our understanding. Some lose what is truly valuable for want of knowledge, and prefer what is comparatively worthless.



A NIGHTINGALE, that, all day long, Had cheered the village with his song, Nor yet 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 Glow-worm by his spark; So, stooping 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.


From this short fable, youth may learn Their real interest to discern, That brother should not strive with brother, And worry and oppress each other; But, joined in unity and peace, Their mutual happiness increase: Pleased when each others' faults they hide, And in their virtues feel a pride.



It was reported that the Lion was sick, and the beasts were made to believe that they could not make their court better than by going to visit him. Upon this, they generally went, but it was particularly remarked that the Fox was not one of the number. The Lion, therefore, dispatched one of his Jackals to sound him about it, and to ask him why he had so little charity and respect as never to come near him at a time when he lay so dangerously ill, and everybody else had been to see him. "Why," replied the Fox, "pray present my duty to his majesty, and tell him that I have the same respect for him as ever, and have been coming several times to kiss his royal paw, but I am so terribly frightened at the mouth of his cave, to see the print of my fellow-subjects' feet all pointing forwards, and none backwards, that I had not resolution enough to venture in."

Now, the truth of the matter was, that the sickness of the Lion was only a sham to draw the beasts into his den, the more easily to devour them.


It is well to weigh and consider the nature of any proposal thoroughly before we accede to it; but, certainly, if we have reason, from the injury done to others, to suspect that we may suffer harm, it is decidedly better to decline.



A LION, tired with state affairs, Quite sick of pomp, and worn with cares, Resolved (remote from noise and strife) In peace to pass his latter life.

It was proclaimed: the day was set: Behold the general council met: The Fox was viceroy named. The crowd To the new regent humbly bowed! Wolves, bears, and mighty tigers bend, And strive who most shall condescend. The crowd admire his wit, his sense: Each word hath weight and consequence. The flatterer all his art displays; He who hath power, is sure of praise. A Fox stepped forth before the rest, And thus the servile throng addressed:—

"How vast his talents, born to rule, And train'd in virtue's honest school! What clemency his temper sways! How uncorrupt are all his ways! Beneath his conduct and command Rapine shall cease to waste the land; What blessings must attend the nation Under this good administration!"

He said. A Goose, who distant stood, Harangu'd apart the cackling brood:

"Whene'er I hear a knave commend, He bids me shun his worthy friend. What praise! what mighty commendation! But 'twas a Fox who spoke th' oration. Foxes this government may prize, As gentle, plentiful, and wise; If they enjoy the sweets, 'tis plain We Geese must feel a tyrant reign. What havoc now shall thin our race! When every petty clerk in place, To prove his taste, and seem polite, Will feed on Geese both noon and night."


Those flatter the plunderer who share in the spoil.



A DOE, that had but one eye, used to graze near the sea, and that she might be the more secure from harm, she kept her blind side toward the water, from whence she had no apprehension of danger, and with the other surveyed the country as she fed.

By this vigilance and precaution she thought herself in the utmost security; when a sly fellow, with two or three of his companions, who had been poaching after her several days to no purpose, at last took a boat, and, fetching a compass upon the sea, came gently down upon her, and shot her. The Doe, in the agonies of death, breathed out this doleful complaint:—"Oh, hard fate! that I should receive my death wound from that side whence I expected no ill; and be safe in that part where I looked for the most danger."


Our troubles and dangers frequently arise from the direction we least expect them.



A FOX, who was half-starved with hunger, stretched himself all along upon the ground, and lay as if he were dead, that he might entice the harmless birds to come within his reach, and then leap of a sudden upon them, and make them his prey; but it happened that a Raven, who was hovering near him, observed that he fetched his breath; and, by consequence, found it to be only a trick in him to catch the birds. She, therefore, instantly gave them notice of it; and forewarned them, as they valued their own lives, not to come within reach of the Fox, who only feigned himself to be dead.

The Fox, finding his plot to be discovered, was obliged to go away hungry; but soon bethought himself of another invention: which was, to go and kennel himself in a hollow tree, upon which a Dove had her nest, and was breeding up her young ones. Having done this, he called to her, that, unless she would throw down to him sometimes one of her eggs, and sometimes one of her young ones, he would climb up the tree, take away all her eggs, kill both her and her young, and break her nest to pieces.

The harmless Dove, thinking of two ills to choose the least, did as the Fox required her; and threw him down now one of her eggs, and then one of her young ones. Having done so, for some time, with a great deal of grief and sorrow, and the Fox continuing still to demand it of her, she, at last, made her complaint to the Raven, who chanced to come and perch herself on the same tree; grievously bemoaning her fate, that she, like a good mother, to provide for her children, was at last obliged to make them a sacrifice to such a villain. But the Raven, who was not so timorous as she, advised her, whenever the Fox threatened her again, that he would kill both her and her young, if she would not throw one of them down to him, to answer him roundly,—"If you could have flown or climbed up the tree, you would not have been so often contented with one of my eggs, or of my young; but would, long since, according to your ravenous and blood-thirsty nature, have devoured both me and them." In short, the next time the Fox came, and threatened her as before, she replied as the Raven had instructed her.

The Fox, hearing her answer, and knowing very well that she was not so wise and cunning of herself, resolved to find out the truth of the matter; and, at length, came to understand that it was the Raven who had been her counsellor. He, therefore, vowed to be revenged on her, who had now, the second time, hindered him from getting his prey. Not long after, he espied her sitting on a high thorn-tree; and, going to her, began to praise her at a mighty rate,—magnifying her good fortune above that of all beasts, who could neither fly like her, nor tread the ground with so majestical a gait: adding, withal, that it would be a great pleasure to him to see her lordly walk; that he might from thence, be certain whether she were indeed so divine and prophetic a bird as men had always held her to be.

The Raven, transported to hear herself thus praised to the skies, flew down; and, pitching upon the ground, walked to and fro, in mighty pomp and state. The Fox seemed highly delighted; and said, that he extremely wondered how the Raven could keep upon the ground, when the wind blew her feathers over her eyes, and hindered her sight; but chiefly when it blew before, behind, and on all sides of her. "I can very well provide against that," said the Raven; "for then I hide my head under my left wing." "How!" cried the Fox; "hide your head under your left wing! So wonderful a thing I can never believe, till I see it." Immediately the Raven put her head under her left wing, and held it there so long that the Fox caught hold of her and killed her for his prey.


So must they fare who give good advice to others, but have not discretion enough to follow it themselves.



Two Pots, of different size and matter made, Were swiftly down a rolling stream convey'd. The larger vessel, form'd of solid brass, Did boldly o'er the rapid water pass; While that whose substance was but brittle clay, Would, for his safety, give the stronger way. Him the Brass Pot invited to draw near, And said, "His frailty need not cause his fear; For he, with just precaution would prevent The danger of their jostling as they went." The Earthen Pot, that knew his weaker frame, Excused himself, that he no nearer came; And said, "My friend, if the impetuous tide Should dash my clay against your brazen side, By the hard fate of that unequal stroke, While you are whole, I shall be surely broke."


Men safest still in equal friendship live, Where they can do no harm, and none receive; The strong, by power led to insult the weak, With every touch the brittle vessels break; While they, abused and injured by the strong, Must, without remedy, sustain the wrong.



One hot, sultry summer, the lakes and ponds being almost everywhere dried up, a couple of Frogs agreed to travel together in search of water. At last they came to a deep well, and, sitting on the brink of it, began to consult whether they should leap in or no. One of them was so inclined, urging that there was plenty of clear, spring water, and no danger of being disturbed. "Well," says the other, "all this may be true, and yet I cannot come into your opinion for my life; for if the water should happen to dry up here too, how should we get out again."


Skilful generals always secure a way for retreat. "Look before you leap" is an old and trite proverb. We should not undertake any action of importance without considering what may be the result, in all its aspects.



A FOX, being in a shop where Masks were sold, laid his foot upon one of them, and considering it awhile attentively, at last broke out into this exclamation:—"Bless me!" says he, "what a handsome face this is! What a pity it is that it should want brains!"


Beauty without sense is of little value. A fair outside is but a poor substitute for inward worth.



A YOUNG Mouse, that had seen very little of the world, came running, one day, to his mother in great haste:—"Oh, mother!" said he, "I am frightened almost to death! I have seen the most extraordinary creature that ever was. He has a fierce, angry look, and struts about on two legs; a strange piece of flesh grows on his head, and another under his throat, as red as blood: he flapped his arms against his sides, as if he intended to rise into the air; and stretching out his head, he opened a sharp-pointed mouth so wide, that I thought he was preparing to swallow me up: then he roared at me so horribly, that I trembled in every joint, and was glad to run home as fast as I could. If I had not been frightened away by this terrible monster, I was just going to commence an acquaintance with the prettiest creature you ever saw. She had a soft fur skin, thicker than ours, and all beautifully streaked with black and grey; with a modest look, and a demeanour so humble and courteous, that methought I could have fallen in love with her. Then she had a fine, long tail, which she waved about so prettily, and looked so earnestly at me, that I do believe she was just going to speak to me, when the horrid monster frightened me away."

"Ah, my dear child!" said the mother, "you have escaped being devoured, but not by that monster you were so much afraid of; which, in truth, was only a bird, and would have done you no manner of harm. Whereas, the sweet creature, of whom you seem so fond, was no other than a Cat; who, under that hypocritical countenance, conceals the most inveterate hatred to all our race, and subsists entirely by devouring Mice. Learn from this incident, my dear, never, while you live, to rely on outward appearances."


Beneath a fair, alluring guise, A hidden danger often lies.



Once upon a time, the Mice saw a broiled rasher of bacon hanging up in a very little room, the door of which being open, enticed them to fall on with greedy appetites. But some of them took particular notice that there was but one way into the room, and, by consequence, but one way to get out of it; so that, if that door, by misfortune or art, should chance to be shut, they would all be inevitably taken: they could not, therefore, find in their hearts to venture in; but said, that they had rather content themselves with homely fare, in safety, than, for the sake of a dainty bit, to run the danger of being taken, and lost for ever.

The other Mice, who were looked upon to be great epicures, declared that they saw no danger; and, therefore, ran into the room, and fell to eating the bacon with great delight: but they soon heard the door fall down, and saw that they were all taken. Then the fear of approaching death so seized them, that they found no relish in their exquisite food; and immediately came the Cook who had set the Trap, and killed them: but the others, who had contented themselves with their usual food, fled into their holes, and, by that means, preserved their lives.



Oft has it been my lot to mark A proud, conceited, talking spark, With eyes that hardly served at most To guard their master 'gainst a post; Yet round the world the blade has been, To see whatever could be seen. Returning from his finish'd tour, Grown ten times perter than before, Whatever word you chance to drop, The travelled fool your mouth will stop; "Sir, if my judgment you'll allow,— I've seen,—and, sure, I ought to know;"— So begs you'd pay a due submission, And acquiesce in his decision.

Two travellers, of such a cast, As o'er Arabia's wilds they pass'd, And on their way, in friendly chat, Now talked of this, and then of that; Discoursed awhile, 'mongst other matter, Of the Chameleon's form and nature. "A stranger animal," cries one, "Sure never lived beneath the sun: A lizard's body, lean and long, A fish's head, a serpent's tongue. In truth, with triple jaw disjoin'd; And what a length of tail behind! How slow its pace! and then its hue! Who ever saw so fine a blue?"

"Hold there!" the other quick replies, "'Tis green:—I saw it with these eyes, As late with open mouth it lay, And warm'd it in the sunny ray: Stretch'd at its ease the beast I view'd, And saw it eat the air for food."

"I've seen it, sir, as well as you, And must again affirm it blue; At leisure I the beast survey'd, Extended in the cooling shade."

"'Tis green! 'tis green! sir, I assure ye."— "Green!" cries the other, in a fury,— "Why, sir, d'ye think I've lost my eyes?" "'Twere no great loss!" the friend replies; "For if they always serve you thus, You find 'em but of little use."

So high at last the contest rose, From words they almost came to blows; When, luckily, came by a third; To him the question they referr'd; And begged he'd tell 'em, if he knew, Whether the thing was green or blue.

"Sirs," cries the umpire, "cease your pother— The creature's neither one nor t'other. I caught the animal last night, And viewed it o'er by candle-light; I marked it well—'twas black as jet;— You stare—but, sirs, I've got it yet, And can produce it."—"Pray, sir, do; I'll lay my life the thing is blue." "And I'll be sworn that when you've seen The reptile, you'll pronounce him green."

"Well, then, at once to ease the doubt," Replies the man, "I'll turn him out; And when before your eyes I've set him, If you don't find him black I'll eat him;" He said. Then full before their sight, Produced the beast, and lo! 'twas white. Both stared, the man looked wondrous wise. "My children," the Chameleon cries, (Then first the creature found a tongue), "You all are right and all are wrong; When next you talk of what you view, Think others see as well as you; Nor wonder, if you find that none Prefers your eye-sight to his own."



The Lion, as king of the beasts, made a law that no beast should, without lawful cause, do any hurt to another; and should come once a year to court, to confess, and be absolved or punished, according to his deserts. Now it happened that the Wolf and the Fox were going thither together, and overtaking the Ass on the road, said to him:—"Brother, it is a long way to court, and it certainly must be much more tedious to you than to ourselves, because of your slow pace; but we can avoid the trouble of going thither, if you think fit. Let us three confess ourselves to one another, and send our absolutions to court, attested by two of us as witnesses."

The Ass liked the proposal; into a clover field they went, and the Fox thus confessed himself first:—"It happened, as I was going one night through a village, a Cock, by his loud crowing, disturbed all the people that were asleep; at which I grew very angry, and bit off his head; then, fearing that the stench of his dead body might be offensive to the Hens, I ate him up. Nevertheless, it happened, three days after, as I was going by the same village, those very Hens spied me; and, instead of thanking me for the great kindness I had done them, cried out, 'Murderer, murderer!' Then I, in defence of my honour, killed three of them; and, lest they should have stunk and offended the neighbourhood, ate them up too. This is all I have done; for which I now await your sentence."

The Wolf thereupon expressed himself thus:—"You have, indeed, offended against the letter of our monarch's law, but not against the meaning of it; since your intentions were honourable, to take care of the quiet of men, and to vindicate your injured reputation. If, therefore, you will promise never to be so hasty again in killing any beast, I vote for your absolution." This the Fox readily did; and the Ass joined in opinion with the Wolf, who then thus began his confession:—

"As I was one day walking along, I saw a Sow trampling down the corn of a poor peasant, and tearing it up by the roots, while her hungry Pigs were strayed far from her, and could not get themselves out of the mire; so that I, growing very angry at the great mischief she did the peasant, and at her neglect of motherly duty, killed and ate her up. Three days after, chancing to go again the same way, I observed that those Pigs were grown very lean; and reflecting that, through want of their mother's milk, they would certainly die a languishing death, I put an end to their miseries, and ate them up too. This I have to confess."

The Fox instantly argued in this manner:—"Though you confess to having killed both mother and children; and though it seems, at first sight, that you have heinously offended against the law of our king; yet I see, nevertheless, that your intentions were good: to prevent mischief from falling upon men, to stir up a mother to her duty, and to show compassion to her miserable children, are virtues that no law can forbid or punish. I, therefore, declare you absolved." To which the Ass agreed.

The Ass then made his confession:—"You both know," said he, "that it is not in my nature to do hurt to other beasts, nor to shed blood; and, therefore, you cannot expect to hear any such thing from me; but, to content you, I will relate to you what happened innocently to me, while I was in the service of a master. He was an old man, and apt to take cold in his feet; so that, when he travelled, to keep them dry and warm, he was wont to stick a little hay in his shoes. Now I carried him, one winter, to an inn, where he was to lie all night; and when we came to the door, the innkeeper brought him a pair of dry slippers, that his dirty shoes might not soil the house; so that he pulled them off, and left them without, and me by them. In short, my master and his host found themselves so well in the chimney-corner, that they never thought of poor me; but left me all night in the bitter cold, without giving me a handful of food: so that I ate up all the hay that stuck in his shoes. This is all I have to say;—if you will call it a confession, you may: however, I think nothing can be said against it."

"Oh!" said the Fox, immediately, "this is not, indeed, an offence against the letter of the law, which mentions only the doing hurt to beasts, and takes no notice of eating of hay; but, if we reflect on the dangerous consequences of this action, and that so reverend a creature as a chill, aged man, by being thus robbed of his hay in the winter, and the next day continuing his road without it, might have caught a cold, a cough, and a cholic, that would have brought his grey hairs to the grave:—whoever, I say, reflects on this, cannot but be of my opinion,—which is, that the Ass largely deserves to die. Cousin Wolf, what say you to this matter?" "I," said the Wolf, "am of opinion that by reason of the ill consequences that might have attended this action, the Ass deserves a double death, and to be made an example to others." With that he leaped upon him, and tore out his throat, and the Fox and he immediately ate him up.


Knaves can always find reasons for justifying their own conduct, and condemning that of others.



A boy, greatly smitten with the colours of a Butterfly, pursued it from flower to flower with indefatigable pains. First, he aimed to surprise it among the leaves of a rose; then to cover it with his hat, as it was feeding on a daisy; now hoped to secure it, as it rested on a sprig of myrtle; and now grew sure of his prize, perceiving it loiter on a bed of violets. But the fickle Fly, continually changing one blossom for another, still eluded his attempts. At length, observing it half buried in the cup of a tulip, he rushed forward, and snatching it with violence, crushed it all to pieces.


Pleasure, like the Butterfly, Will still elude as we draw nigh; And when we think we hold it fast, Will, like the insect, breathe its last.



A Crow, ready to die with thirst, flew with joy to a Pitcher, which he beheld at some distance. When he came he found water in it, indeed, but so near the bottom that, with all his stooping and straining, he was not able to reach it. Then he endeavoured to overturn the Pitcher, that so at least he might be able to get a little of it. But his strength was not sufficient for this. At last, seeing some pebbles lie near the place, he cast them one by one into the Pitcher; and thus, by degrees, raised the water up to the very brim, and satisfied his thirst.


Necessity is the mother of invention, and that which cannot be accomplished by strength may be achieved by ingenuity.


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