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that Ass your own?' "Yes," replied the old man. "O, one would
not have thought so," said the other, "by the way you load him.
Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than
he you." "Anything to please you," said the old man; "we can but
try." So, alighting with his son, they tied the legs of the Ass
together and with the help of a pole endeavored to carry him on
their shoulders over a bridge near the entrance to the town.
This entertaining sight brought the people in crowds to laugh at
it, till the Ass, not liking the noise nor the strange handling
that he was subject to, broke the cords that bound him and,
tumbling off the pole, fell into the river. Upon this, the old
man, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again,
convinced that by endeavoring to please everybody he had pleased
nobody, and lost his Ass in the bargain.

The Crow and the Sheep

A TROUBLESOME CROW seated herself on the back of a Sheep. The
Sheep, much against his will, carried her backward and forward
for a long time, and at last said, "If you had treated a dog in
this way, you would have had your deserts from his sharp teeth."
To this the Crow replied, "I despise the weak and yield to the
strong. I know whom I may bully and whom I must flatter; and I
thus prolong my life to a good old age."

The Fox and the Bramble

A FOX was mounting a hedge when he lost his footing and caught
hold of a Bramble to save himself. Having pricked and grievously
tom the soles of his feet, he accused the Bramble because, when
he had fled to her for assistance, she had used him worse than
the hedge itself. The Bramble, interrupting him, said, "But you
really must have been out of your senses to fasten yourself on
me, who am myself always accustomed to fasten upon others."

The Wolf and the Lion

A WOLF, having stolen a lamb from a fold, was carrying him off to
his lair. A Lion met him in the path, and seizing the lamb, took
it from him. Standing at a safe distance, the Wolf exclaimed,
"You have unrighteously taken that which was mine from me!" To
which the Lion jeeringly replied, "It was righteously yours, eh?
The gift of a friend?'

The Dog and the Oyster

A DOG, used to eating eggs, saw an Oyster and, opening his mouth
to its widest extent, swallowed it down with the utmost relish,
supposing it to be an egg. Soon afterwards suffering great pain
in his stomach, he said, "I deserve all this torment, for my
folly in thinking that everything round must be an egg."

They who act without sufficient thought, will often fall into
unsuspected danger.

The Ant and the Dove

AN ANT went to the bank of a river to quench its thirst, and
being carried away by the rush of the stream, was on the point of
drowning. A Dove sitting on a tree overhanging the water plucked
a leaf and let it fall into the stream close to her. The Ant
climbed onto it and floated in safety to the bank. Shortly
afterwards a birdcatcher came and stood under the tree, and laid
his lime-twigs for the Dove, which sat in the branches. The Ant,
perceiving his design, stung him in the foot. In pain the
birdcatcher threw down the twigs, and the noise made the Dove
take wing.

The Partridge and the Fowler

A FOWLER caught a Partridge and was about to kill it. The
Partridge earnestly begged him to spare his life, saying, "Pray,
master, permit me to live and I will entice many Partridges to
you in recompense for your mercy to me." The Fowler replied, "I
shall now with less scruple take your life, because you are
willing to save it at the cost of betraying your friends and

The Flea and the Man

A MAN, very much annoyed with a Flea, caught him at last, and
said, "Who are you who dare to feed on my limbs, and to cost me
so much trouble in catching you?' The Flea replied, "O my dear
sir, pray spare my life, and destroy me not, for I cannot
possibly do you much harm." The Man, laughing, replied, "Now you
shall certainly die by mine own hands, for no evil, whether it be
small or large, ought to be tolerated."

The Thieves and the Cock

SOME THIEVES broke into a house and found nothing but a Cock,
whom they stole, and got off as fast as they could. Upon
arriving at home they prepared to kill the Cock, who thus pleaded
for his life: "Pray spare me; I am very serviceable to men. I
wake them up in the night to their work." "That is the very
reason why we must the more kill you," they replied; "for when
you wake your neighbors, you entirely put an end to our

The safeguards of virtue are hateful to those with evil

The Dog and the Cook

A RICH MAN gave a great feast, to which he invited many friends
and acquaintances. His Dog availed himself of the occasion to
invite a stranger Dog, a friend of his, saying, "My master gives
a feast, and there is always much food remaining; come and sup
with me tonight." The Dog thus invited went at the hour
appointed, and seeing the preparations for so grand an
entertainment, said in the joy of his heart, "How glad I am that
I came! I do not often get such a chance as this. I will take
care and eat enough to last me both today and tomorrow." While he
was congratulating himself and wagging his tail to convey his
pleasure to his friend, the Cook saw him moving about among his
dishes and, seizing him by his fore and hind paws, bundled him
without ceremony out of the window. He fell with force upon the
ground and limped away, howling dreadfully. His yelling soon
attracted other street dogs, who came up to him and inquired how
he had enjoyed his supper. He replied, "Why, to tell you the
truth, I drank so much wine that I remember nothing. I do not
know how I got out of the house."

The Travelers and the Plane-Tree

TWO TRAVELERS, worn out by the heat of the summer's sun, laid
themselves down at noon under the widespreading branches of a
Plane-Tree. As they rested under its shade, one of the Travelers
said to the other, "What a singularly useless tree is the Plane!
It bears no fruit, and is not of the least service to man." The
Plane-Tree, interrupting him, said, "You ungrateful fellows! Do
you, while receiving benefits from me and resting under my shade,
dare to describe me as useless, and unprofitable?'

Some men underrate their best blessings.

The Hares and the Frogs

THE HARES, oppressed by their own exceeding timidity and weary of
the perpetual alarm to which they were exposed, with one accord
determined to put an end to themselves and their troubles by
jumping from a lofty precipice into a deep lake below. As they
scampered off in large numbers to carry out their resolve, the
Frogs lying on the banks of the lake heard the noise of their
feet and rushed helter-skelter to the deep water for safety. On
seeing the rapid disappearance of the Frogs, one of the Hares
cried out to his companions: "Stay, my friends, do not do as you
intended; for you now see that there are creatures who are still
more timid than ourselves."

The Lion, Jupiter, and the Elephant

THE LION wearied Jupiter with his frequent complaints. "It is
true, O Jupiter!" he said, "that I am gigantic in strength,
handsome in shape, and powerful in attack. I have jaws well
provided with teeth, and feet furnished with claws, and I lord it
over all the beasts of the forest, and what a disgrace it is,
that being such as I am, I should be frightened by the crowing of
a cock." Jupiter replied, "Why do you blame me without a cause? I
have given you all the attributes which I possess myself, and
your courage never fails you except in this one instance." On
hearing this the Lion groaned and lamented very much and,
reproaching himself with his cowardice, wished that he might die.
As these thoughts passed through his mind, he met an Elephant and
came close to hold a conversation with him. After a time he
observed that the Elephant shook his ears very often, and he
inquired what was the matter and why his ears moved with such a
tremor every now and then. Just at that moment a Gnat settled on
the head of the Elephant, and he replied, "Do you see that little
buzzing insect? If it enters my ear, my fate is sealed. I should
die presently." The Lion said, "Well, since so huge a beast is
afraid of a tiny gnat, I will no more complain, nor wish myself
dead. I find myself, even as I am, better off than the

The Lamb and the Wolf

A WOLF pursued a Lamb, which fled for refuge to a certain Temple.
The Wolf called out to him and said, "The Priest will slay you in
sacrifice, if he should catch you." On which the Lamb replied,
"It would be better for me to be sacrificed in the Temple than to
be eaten by you."

The Rich Man and the Tanner

A RICH MAN lived near a Tanner, and not being able to bear the
unpleasant smell of the tan-yard, he pressed his neighbor to go
away. The Tanner put off his departure from time to time, saying
that he would leave soon. But as he still continued to stay, as
time went on, the rich man became accustomed to the smell, and
feeling no manner of inconvenience, made no further complaints.

The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea

A SHIPWRECKED MAN, having been cast upon a certain shore, slept
after his buffetings with the deep. After a while he awoke, and
looking upon the Sea, loaded it with reproaches. He argued that
it enticed men with the calmness of its looks, but when it had
induced them to plow its waters, it grew rough and destroyed
them. The Sea, assuming the form of a woman, replied to him:
"Blame not me, my good sir, but the winds, for I am by my own
nature as calm and firm even as this earth; but the winds
suddenly falling on me create these waves, and lash me into

The Mules and the Robbers

TWO MULES well-laden with packs were trudging along. One carried
panniers filled with money, the other sacks weighted with grain.
The Mule carrying the treasure walked with head erect, as if
conscious of the value of his burden, and tossed up and down the
clear-toned bells fastened to his neck. His companion followed
with quiet and easy step. All of a sudden Robbers rushed upon
them from their hiding-places, and in the scuffle with their
owners, wounded with a sword the Mule carrying the treasure,
which they greedily seized while taking no notice of the grain.
The Mule which had been robbed and wounded bewailed his
misfortunes. The other replied, "I am indeed glad that I was
thought so little of, for I have lost nothing, nor am I hurt with
any wound."

The Viper and the File

A LION, entering the workshop of a smith, sought from the tools
the means of satisfying his hunger. He more particularly
addressed himself to a File, and asked of him the favor of a
meal. The File replied, "You must indeed be a simple-minded
fellow if you expect to get anything from me, who am accustomed
to take from everyone, and never to give anything in return."

The Lion and the Shepherd

A LION, roaming through a forest, trod upon a thorn. Soon
afterward he came up to a Shepherd and fawned upon him, wagging
his tail as if to say, "I am a suppliant, and seek your aid." The
Shepherd boldly examined the beast, discovered the thorn, and
placing his paw upon his lap, pulled it out; thus relieved of his
pain, the Lion returned into the forest. Some time after, the
Shepherd, being imprisoned on a false accusation, was condemned
"to be cast to the Lions" as the punishment for his imputed
crime. But when the Lion was released from his cage, he
recognized the Shepherd as the man who healed him, and instead of
attacking him, approached and placed his foot upon his lap. The
King, as soon as he heard the tale, ordered the Lion to be set
free again in the forest, and the Shepherd to be pardoned and
restored to his friends.

The Camel and Jupiter

THE CAMEL, when he saw the Bull adorned with horns, envied him
and wished that he himself could obtain the same honors. He went
to Jupiter, and besought him to give him horns. Jupiter, vexed
at his request because he was not satisfied with his size and
strength of body, and desired yet more, not only refused to give
him horns, but even deprived him of a portion of his ears.

The Panther and the Shepherds

A PANTHER, by some mischance, fell into a pit. The Shepherds
discovered him, and some threw sticks at him and pelted him with
stones, while others, moved with compassion towards one about to
die even though no one should hurt him, threw in some food to
prolong his life. At night they returned home, not dreaming of
any danger, but supposing that on the morrow they would find him
dead. The Panther, however, when he had recruited his feeble
strength, freed himself with a sudden bound from the pit, and
hastened to his den with rapid steps. After a few days he came
forth and slaughtered the cattle, and, killing the Shepherds who
had attacked him, raged with angry fury. Then they who had
spared his life, fearing for their safety, surrendered to him
their flocks and begged only for their lives. To them the
Panther made this reply: "I remember alike those who sought my
life with stones, and those who gave me food
aside, therefore, your fears. I return as an enemy only to those
who injured me."

The Ass and the Charger

AN ASS congratulated a Horse on being so ungrudgingly and
carefully provided for, while he himself had scarcely enough to
eat and not even that without hard work. But when war broke out,
a heavily armed soldier mounted the Horse, and riding him to the
charge, rushed into the very midst of the enemy. The Horse was
wounded and fell dead on the battlefield. Then the Ass, seeing
all these things, changed his mind, and commiserated the Horse.

The Eagle and His Captor

AN EAGLE was once captured by a man, who immediately clipped his
wings and put him into his poultry-yard with the other birds, at
which treatment the Eagle was weighed down with grief. Later,
another neighbor purchased him and allowed his feathers to grow
again. The Eagle took flight, and pouncing upon a hare, brought
it at once as an offering to his benefactor. A Fox, seeing this,
exclaimed, "Do not cultivate the favor of this man, but of your
former owner, lest he should again hunt for you and deprive you a
second time of your wings."

The Bald Man and the Fly

A FLY bit the bare head of a Bald Man who, endeavoring to destroy
it, gave himself a heavy slap. Escaping, the Fly said mockingly,
"You who have wished to revenge, even with death, the Prick of a
tiny insect, see what you have done to yourself to add insult to
injury?' The Bald Man replied, "I can easily make peace with
myself, because I know there was no intention to hurt. But you,
an ill-favored and contemptible insect who delights in sucking
human blood, I wish that I could have killed you even if I had
incurred a heavier penalty."

The Olive-Tree and the Fig-Tree

THE OLIVE-TREE ridiculed the Fig-Tree because, while she was
green all the year round, the Fig-Tree changed its leaves with
the seasons. A shower of snow fell upon them, and, finding the
Olive full of foliage, it settled upon its branches and broke
them down with its weight, at once despoiling it of its beauty
and killing the tree. But finding the Fig-Tree denuded of
leaves, the snow fell through to the ground, and did not injure
it at all.

The Eagle and the Kite

AN EAGLE, overwhelmed with sorrow, sat upon the branches of a
tree in company with a Kite. "Why," said the Kite, "do I see you
with such a rueful look?' "I seek," she replied, "a mate suitable
for me, and am not able to find one." "Take me," returned the
Kite, "I am much stronger than you are." "Why, are you able to
secure the means of living by your plunder?' "Well, I have often
caught and carried away an ostrich in my talons." The Eagle,
persuaded by these words, accepted him as her mate. Shortly
after the nuptials, the Eagle said, "Fly off and bring me back
the ostrich you promised me." The Kite, soaring aloft into the
air, brought back the shabbiest possible mouse, stinking from the
length of time it had lain about the fields. "Is this," said the
Eagle, "the faithful fulfillment of your promise to me?' The Kite
replied, "That I might attain your royal hand, there is nothing
that I would not have promised, however much I knew that I must
fail in the performance."

The Ass and His Driver

AN ASS, being driven along a high road, suddenly started off and
bolted to the brink of a deep precipice. While he was in the act
of throwing himself over, his owner seized him by the tail,
endeavoring to pull him back. When the Ass persisted in his
effort, the man let him go and said, "Conquer, but conquer to
your cost."

The Thrush and the Fowler

A THRUSH was feeding on a myrtle-tree and did not move from it
because its berries were so delicious. A Fowler observed her
staying so long in one spot, and having well bird-limed his
reeds, caught her. The Thrush, being at the point of death,
exclaimed, "O foolish creature that I am! For the sake of a
little pleasant food I have deprived myself of my life."

The Rose and the Amaranth

AN AMARANTH planted in a garden near a Rose-Tree, thus addressed
it: "What a lovely flower is the Rose, a favorite alike with Gods
and with men. I envy you your beauty and your perfume." The Rose
replied, "I indeed, dear Amaranth, flourish but for a brief
season! If no cruel hand pluck me from my stem, yet I must perish
by an early doom. But thou art immortal and dost never fade, but
bloomest for ever in renewed youth."

The Frogs' Complaint Against the Sun

ONCE UPON A TIME, when the Sun announced his intention to take a
wife, the Frogs lifted up their voices in clamor to the sky.
Jupiter, disturbed by the noise of their croaking, inquired the
cause of their complaint. One of them said, "The Sun, now while
he is single, parches up the marsh, and compels us to die
miserably in our arid homes. What will be our future condition
if he should beget other suns?'


THE LIFE and History of Aesop is involved, like that of Homer,
the most famous of Greek poets, in much obscurity. Sardis, the
capital of Lydia; Samos, a Greek island; Mesembria, an ancient
colony in Thrace; and Cotiaeum, the chief city of a province of
Phrygia, contend for the distinction of being the birthplace of
Aesop. Although the honor thus claimed cannot be definitely
assigned to any one of these places, yet there are a few
incidents now generally accepted by scholars as established
facts, relating to the birth, life, and death of Aesop. He is,
by an almost universal consent, allowed to have been born about
the year 620 B.C., and to have been by birth a slave. He was
owned by two masters in succession, both inhabitants of Samos,
Xanthus and Jadmon, the latter of whom gave him his liberty as a
reward for his learning and wit. One of the privileges of a
freedman in the ancient republics of Greece, was the permission
to take an active interest in public affairs; and Aesop, like the
philosophers Phaedo, Menippus, and Epictetus, in later times,
raised himself from the indignity of a servile condition to a
position of high renown. In his desire alike to instruct and to
be instructed, he travelled through many countries, and among
others came to Sardis, the capital of the famous king of Lydia,
the great patron, in that day, of learning and of learned men.
He met at the court of Croesus with Solon, Thales, and other
sages, and is related so to have pleased his royal master, by the
part he took in the conversations held with these philosophers,
that he applied to him an expression which has since passed into
a proverb, "The Phrygian has spoken better than all."

On the invitation of Croesus he fixed his residence at Sardis,
and was employed by that monarch in various difficult and
delicate affairs of State. In his discharge of these commissions
he visited the different petty republics of Greece. At one time
he is found in Corinth, and at another in Athens, endeavouring,
by the narration of some of his wise fables, to reconcile the
inhabitants of those cities to the administration of their
respective rulers Periander and Pisistratus. One of these
ambassadorial missions, undertaken at the command of Croesus, was
the occasion of his death. Having been sent to Delphi with a
large sum of gold for distribution among the citizens, he was so
provoked at their covetousness that he refused to divide the
money, and sent it back to his master. The Delphians, enraged at
this treatment, accused him of impiety, and, in spite of his
sacred character as ambassador, executed him as a public
criminal. This cruel death of Aesop was not unavenged. The
citizens of Delphi were visited with a series of calamities,
until they made a public reparation of their crime; and, "The
blood of Aesop" became a well-
known adage, bearing witness to the truth that deeds of wrong
would not pass unpunished. Neither did the great fabulist lack
posthumous honors; for a statue was erected to his memory at
Athens, the work of Lysippus, one of the most famous of Greek
sculptors. Phaedrus thus immortalizes the event:

Aesopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici,
Servumque collocarunt aeterna in basi:
Patere honoris scirent ut cuncti viam;
Nec generi tribui sed virtuti gloriam.

These few facts are all that can be relied on with any degree of
certainty, in reference to the birth, life, and death of Aesop.
They were first brought to light, after a patient search and
diligent perusal of ancient authors, by a Frenchman, M. Claude
Gaspard Bachet de Mezeriac, who declined the honor of being
tutor to Louis XIII of France, from his desire to devote himself
exclusively to literature. He published his Life of Aesop, Anno
Domini 1632. The later investigations of a host of English and
German scholars have added very little to the facts given by M.
Mezeriac. The substantial truth of his statements has been
confirmed by later criticism and inquiry. It remains to state,
that prior to this publication of M. Mezeriac, the life of Aesop
was from the pen of Maximus Planudes, a monk of Constantinople,
who was sent on an embassy to Venice by the Byzantine Emperor
Andronicus the elder, and who wrote in the early part of the
fourteenth century. His life was prefixed to all the early
editions of these fables, and was republished as late as 1727 by
Archdeacon Croxall as the introduction to his edition of Aesop.
This life by Planudes contains, however, so small an amount of
truth, and is so full of absurd pictures of the grotesque
deformity of Aesop, of wondrous apocryphal stories, of lying
legends, and gross anachronisms, that it is now universally
condemned as false, puerile, and unauthentic. l It is given up
in the present day, by general consent, as unworthy of the
slightest credit.

1 M. Bayle thus characterises this Life of Aesop by Planudes,
"Tous les habiles gens conviennent que c'est un roman, et que les
absurdites grossieres qui l'on y trouve le rendent indigne de
Dictionnaire Historique. Art. Esope.

THE TALE, the Parable, and the Fable are all common and popular
modes of conveying instruction. Each is distinguished by its own
special characteristics. The Tale consists simply in the
narration of a story either founded on facts, or created solely
by the imagination, and not necessarily associated with the
teaching of any moral lesson. The Parable is the designed use of
language purposely intended to convey a hidden and secret
meaning other than that contained in the words themselves; and
which may or may not bear a special reference to the hearer, or
reader. The Fable partly agrees with, and partly differs from
both of these. It will contain, like the Tale, a short but real
narrative; it will seek, like the Parable, to convey a hidden
meaning, and that not so much by the use of language, as by the
skilful introduction of fictitious characters; and yet unlike to
either Tale or Parable, it will ever keep in view, as its high
prerogative, and inseparable attribute, the great purpose of
instruction, and will necessarily seek to inculcate some moral
maxim, social duty, or political truth. The true Fable, if it
rise to its high requirements, ever aims at one great end and
purpose representation of human motive, and the improvement of
human conduct, and yet it so conceals its design under the
disguise of fictitious characters, by clothing with speech the
animals of the field, the birds of the air, the trees of the
wood, or the beasts of the forest, that the reader shall receive
advice without perceiving the presence of the adviser. Thus the
superiority of the counsellor, which often renders counsel
unpalatable, is kept out of view, and the lesson comes with the
greater acceptance when the reader is led, unconsciously to
himself, to have his sympathies enlisted in behalf of what is
pure, honorable, and praiseworthy, and to have his indignation
excited against what is low, ignoble, and unworthy. The true
fabulist, therefore, discharges a most important function. He is
neither a narrator, nor an allegorist. He is a great teacher, a
corrector of morals, a censor of vice, and a commender of virtue.
In this consists the superiority of the Fable over the Tale or
the Parable. The fabulist is to create a laugh, but yet, under a
merry guise, to convey instruction. Phaedrus, the great imitator
of Aesop, plainly indicates this double purpose to be the true
office of the writer of fables.

Duplex libelli dos est: quod risum movet,
Et quod prudenti vitam consilio monet.

The continual observance of this twofold aim creates the charm,
and accounts for the universal favor, of the fables of Aesop.
"The fable," says Professor K. O. Mueller, "originated in Greece
in an intentional travestie of human affairs. The 'ainos,' as
its name denotes, is an admonition, or rather a reproof veiled,
either from fear of an excess of frankness, or from a love of fun
and jest, beneath the fiction of an occurrence happening among
beasts; and wherever we have any ancient and authentic account of
the Aesopian fables, we find it to be the same." l

The construction of a fable involves a minute attention to (1)
the narration itself; (2) the deduction of the moral; and (3) a
careful maintenance of the individual characteristics of the
fictitious personages introduced into it. The narration should
relate to one simple action, consistent with itself, and neither
be overladen with a multiplicity of details, nor distracted by a
variety of circumstances. The moral or lesson should be so
plain, and so intimately interwoven with, and so necessarily
dependent on, the narration, that every reader should be
compelled to give to it the same undeniable interpretation. The
introduction of the animals or fictitious characters should be
marked with an unexceptionable care and attention to their
natural attributes, and to the qualities attributed to them by
universal popular consent. The Fox should be always cunning, the
Hare timid, the Lion bold, the Wolf cruel, the Bull strong, the
Horse proud, and the Ass patient. Many of these fables are
characterized by the strictest observance of these rules. They
are occupied with one short narrative, from which the moral
naturally flows, and with which it is intimately associated.
"'Tis the simple manner," says Dodsley, 2 "in which the morals of
Aesop are interwoven with his fables that distinguishes him, and
gives him the preference over all other mythologists. His
'Mountain delivered of a Mouse,' produces the moral of his fable
in ridicule of pompous pretenders; and his Crow, when she drops
her cheese, lets fall, as it were by accident, the strongest
admonition against the power of flattery. There is no need of a
separate sentence to explain it; no possibility of impressing it
deeper, by that load we too often see of accumulated
reflections." 3 An equal amount of praise is due for the
consistency with which the characters of the animals,
fictitiously introduced, are marked. While they are made to
depict the motives and passions of men, they retain, in an
eminent degree, their own special features of craft or counsel,
of cowardice or courage, of generosity or rapacity.

These terms of praise, it must be confessed, cannot be bestowed
on all the fables in this collection. Many of them lack that
unity of design, that close connection of the moral with the
narrative, that wise choice in the introduction of the animals,
which constitute the charm and excellency of true Aesopian fable.
This inferiority of some to others is sufficiently accounted for
in the history of the origin and descent of these fables. The
great bulk of them are not the immediate work of Aesop. Many are
obtained from ancient authors prior to the time in which he
lived. Thus, the fable of the "Hawk and the Nightingale" is
related by Hesiod; 4 the "Eagle wounded by an Arrow, winged with
its own Feathers," by Aeschylus; 5 the "Fox avenging his wrongs
on the Eagle," by Archilochus. 6 Many of them again are of later
origin, and are to be traced to the monks of the middle ages: and
yet this collection, though thus made up of fables both earlier
and later than the era of Aesop, rightfully bears his name,
because he composed so large a number (all framed in the same
mould, and conformed to the same fashion, and stamped with the
same lineaments, image, and superscription) as to secure to
himself the right to be considered the father of Greek fables,
and the founder of this class of writing, which has ever since
borne his name, and has secured for him, through all succeeding
ages, the position of the first of moralists.7

The fables were in the first instance only narrated by Aesop, and
for a long time were handed down by the uncertain channel of oral
tradition. Socrates is mentioned by Plato 8 as having employed
his time while in prison, awaiting the return of the sacred ship
from Delphos which was to be the signal of his death, in turning
some of these fables into verse, but he thus versified only such
as he remembered. Demetrius Phalereus, a philosopher at Athens
about 300 B.C., is said to have made the first collection of
these fables. Phaedrus, a slave by birth or by subsequent
misfortunes, and admitted by Augustus to the honors of a
freedman, imitated many of these fables in Latin iambics about
the commencement of the Christian era. Aphthonius, a rhetorician
of Antioch, A.D. 315, wrote a treatise on, and converted into
Latin prose, some of these fables. This translation is the more
worthy of notice, as it illustrates a custom of common use, both
in these and in later times. The rhetoricians and philosophers
were accustomed to give the Fables of Aesop as an exercise to
their scholars, not only inviting them to discuss the moral of
the tale, but also to practice and to perfect themselves thereby
in style and rules of grammar, by making for themselves new and
various versions of the fables. Ausonius, 9 the friend of the
Emperor Valentinian, and the latest poet of eminence in the
Western Empire, has handed down some of these fables in verse,
which Julianus Titianus, a contemporary writer of no great name,
translated into prose. Avienus, also a contemporary of Ausonius,
put some of these fables into Latin elegiacs, which are given by
Nevelet (in a book we shall refer to hereafter), and are
occasionally incorporated with the editions of Phaedrus.

Seven centuries elapsed before the next notice is found of the
Fables of Aesop. During this long period these fables seem to
have suffered an eclipse, to have disappeared and to have been
forgotten; and it is at the commencement of the fourteenth
century, when the Byzantine emperors were the great patrons of
learning, and amidst the splendors of an Asiatic court, that we
next find honors paid to the name and memory of Aesop. Maximus
Planudes, a learned monk of Constantinople, made a collection of
about a hundred and fifty of these fables. Little is known of
his history. Planudes, however, was no mere recluse, shut up in
his monastery. He took an active part in public affairs. In
1327 A.D. he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Venice by the
Emperor Andronicus the Elder. This brought him into immediate
contact with the Western Patriarch, whose interests he henceforth
advocated with so much zeal as to bring on him suspicion and
persecution from the rulers of the Eastern Church. Planudes has
been exposed to a two-fold accusation. He is charged on the one
hand with having had before him a copy of Babrias (to whom we
shall have occasion to refer at greater length in the end of this
Preface), and to have had the bad taste "to transpose," or to
turn his poetical version into prose: and he is asserted, on the
other hand, never to have seen the Fables of Aesop at all, but to
have himself invented and made the fables which he palmed off
under the name of the famous Greek fabulist. The truth lies
between these two extremes. Planudes may have invented some few
fables, or have inserted some that were current in his day; but
there is an abundance of unanswerable internal evidence to prove
that he had an acquaintance with the veritable fables of Aesop,
although the versions he had access to were probably corrupt, as
contained in the various translations and disquisitional
exercises of the rhetoricians and philosophers. His collection
is interesting and important, not only as the parent source or
foundation of the earlier printed versions of Aesop, but as the
direct channel of attracting to these fables the attention of the

The eventual re-introduction, however, of these Fables of Aesop
to their high place in the general literature of Christendom, is
to be looked for in the West rather than in the East. The
calamities gradually thickening round the Eastern Empire, and the
fall of Constantinople, 1453 A.D. combined with other events to
promote the rapid restoration of learning in Italy; and with that
recovery of learning the revival of an interest in the Fables of
Aesop is closely identified. These fables, indeed, were among
the first writings of an earlier antiquity that attracted
attention. They took their place beside the Holy Scriptures and
the ancient classic authors, in the minds of the great students
of that day. Lorenzo Valla, one of the most famous promoters of
Italian learning, not only translated into Latin the Iliad of
Homer and the Histories of Herodotus and Thucydides, but also the
Fables of Aesop.

These fables, again, were among the books brought into an
extended circulation by the agency of the printing press. Bonus
Accursius, as early as 1475-1480, printed the collection of these
fables, made by Planudes, which, within five years afterwards,
Caxton translated into English, and printed at his press in West-
minster Abbey, 1485. 10 It must be mentioned also that the
learning of this age has left permanent traces of its influence
on these fables, ll by causing the interpolation with them of
some of those amusing stories which were so frequently introduced
into the public discourses of the great preachers of those days,
and of which specimens are yet to be found in the extant sermons
of Jean Raulin, Meffreth, and Gabriel Barlette. 12 The
publication of this era which most probably has influenced these
fables, is the "Liber Facetiarum," l3 a book consisting of a
hundred jests and stories, by the celebrated Poggio Bracciolini,
published A.D. 1471, from which the two fables of the "Miller,
his Son, and the Ass," and the "Fox and the Woodcutter," are
undoubtedly selected.

The knowledge of these fables rapidly spread from Italy into
Germany, and their popularity was increased by the favor and
sanction given to them by the great fathers of the Reformation,
who frequently used them as vehicles for satire and protest
against the tricks and abuses of the Romish ecclesiastics. The
zealous and renowned Camerarius, who took an active part in the
preparation of the Confession of Augsburgh, found time, amidst
his numerous avocations, to prepare a version for the students in
the university of Tubingen, in which he was a professor. Martin
Luther translated twenty of these fables, and was urged by
Melancthon to complete the whole; while Gottfried Arnold, the
celebrated Lutheran theologian, and librarian to Frederick I,
king of Prussia, mentions that the great Reformer valued the
Fables of Aesop next after the Holy Scriptures. In 1546 A.D.
the second printed edition of the collection of the Fables made
by Planudes, was issued from the printing-press of Robert
Stephens, in which were inserted some additional fables from a
MS. in the Bibliotheque du Roy at Paris.

The greatest advance, however, towards a re-introduction of the
Fables of Aesop to a place in the literature of the world, was
made in the early part of the seventeenth century. In the year
1610, a learned Swiss, Isaac Nicholas Nevelet, sent forth the
third printed edition of these fables, in a work entitled
"Mythologia Aesopica." This was a noble effort to do honor to
the great fabulist, and was the most perfect collection of
Aesopian fables ever yet published. It consisted, in addition to
the collection of fables given by Planudes and reprinted in the
various earlier editions, of one hundred and thirty-six new
fables (never before published) from MSS. in the Library of the
Vatican, of forty fables attributed to Aphthonius, and of
forty-three from Babrias. It also contained the Latin versions
of the same fables by Phaedrus, Avienus, and other authors. This
volume of Nevelet forms a complete "Corpus Fabularum
Aesopicarum;" and to his labors Aesop owes his restoration to
universal favor as one of the wise moralists and great teachers
of mankind. During the interval of three centuries which has
elapsed since the publication of this volume of Nevelet's, no
book, with the exception of the Holy Scriptures, has had a wider
circulation than Aesop's Fables. They have been translated into
the greater number of the languages both of Europe and of the
East, and have been read, and will be read, for generations,
alike by Jew, Heathen, Mohammedan, and Christian. They are, at
the present time, not only engrafted into the literature of the
civilized world, but are familiar as household words in the
common intercourse and daily conversation of the inhabitants of
all countries.

This collection of Nevelet's is the great culminating point in
the history of the revival of the fame and reputation of Aesopian
Fables. It is remarkable, also, as containing in its preface the
germ of an idea, which has been since proved to have been correct
by a strange chain of circumstances. Nevelet intimates an
opinion, that a writer named Babrias would be found to be the
veritable author of the existing form of Aesopian Fables. This
intimation has since given rise to a series of inquiries, the
knowledge of which is necessary, in the present day, to a full
understanding of the true position of Aesop in connection with
the writings that bear his name.

The history of Babrias is so strange and interesting, that it
might not unfitly be enumerated among the curiosities of
literature. He is generally supposed to have been a Greek of
Asia Minor, of one of the Ionic Colonies, but the exact period in
which he lived and wrote is yet unsettled. He is placed, by one
critic, l4 as far back as the institution of the Achaian League,
B.C. 250; by another as late as the Emperor Severus, who died
A.D. 235; while others make him a contemporary with Phaedrus in
the time of Augustus. At whatever time he wrote his version of
Aesop, by some strange accident it seems to have entirely
disappeared, and to have been lost sight of. His name is
mentioned by Avienus; by Suidas, a celebrated critic, at the
close of the eleventh century, who gives in his lexicon several
isolated verses of his version of the fables; and by John
Tzetzes, a grammarian and poet of Constantinople, who lived
during the latter half of the twelfth century. Nevelet, in the
preface to the volume which we have described, points out that
the Fables of Planudes could not be the work of Aesop, as they
contain a reference in two places to "Holy monks," and give a
verse from the Epistle of St. James as an "Epimith" to one of
the fables, and suggests Babrias as their author. Francis
Vavassor, 15 a learned French jesuit, entered at greater length
on this subject, and produced further proofs from internal
evidence, from the use of the word Piraeus in describing the
harbour of Athens, a name which was not given till two hundred
years after Aesop, and from the introduction of other modern
words, that many of these fables must have been at least
committed to writing posterior to the time of Aesop, and more
boldly suggests Babrias as their author or collector. 16 These
various references to Babrias induced Dr. Plichard Bentley, at
the close of the seventeenth century, to examine more minutely
the existing versions of Aesop's Fables, and he maintained that
many of them could, with a slight change of words, be resolved
into the Scazonic l7 iambics, in which Babrias is known to have
written: and, with a greater freedom than the evidence then
justified, he put forth, in behalf of Babrias, a claim to the
exclusive authorship of these fables. Such a seemingly
extravagant theory, thus roundly asserted, excited much
opposition. Dr. Bentley l8 met with an able antagonist in a
member of the University of Oxford, the Hon. Mr. Charles Boyle,
19 afterwards Earl of Orrery. Their letters and disputations on
this subject, enlivened on both sides with much wit and learning,
will ever bear a conspicuous place in the literary history of the
seventeenth century. The arguments of Dr. Bentley were yet
further defended a few years later by Mr. Thomas Tyrwhitt, a
well-read scholar, who gave up high civil distinctions that he
might devote himself the more unreservedly to literary pursuits.
Mr. Tyrwhitt published, A.D. 1776, a Dissertation on Babrias,
and a collection of his fables in choliambic meter found in a MS.
in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Francesco de Furia, a learned
Italian, contributed further testimony to the correctness of the
supposition that Babrias had made a veritable collection of
fables by printing from a MS. contained in the Vatican library
several fables never before published. In the year 1844,
however, new and unexpected light was thrown upon this subject.
A veritable copy of Babrias was found in a manner as singular as
were the MSS. of Quinctilian's Institutes, and of Cicero's
Orations by Poggio in the monastery of St. Gall A.D. 1416. M.
Menoides, at the suggestion of M. Villemain, Minister of Public
Instruction to King Louis Philippe, had been entrusted with a
commission to search for ancient MSS., and in carrying out his
instructions he found a MS. at the convent of St. Laura, on
Mount Athos, which proved to be a copy of the long suspected and
wished-for choliambic version of Babrias. This MS. was found to
be divided into two books, the one containing a hundred and
twenty-five, and the other ninety-five fables. This discovery
attracted very general attention, not only as confirming, in a
singular manner, the conjectures so boldly made by a long chain
of critics, but as bringing to light valuable literary treasures
tending to establish the reputation, and to confirm the antiquity
and authenticity of the great mass of Aesopian Fable. The Fables
thus recovered were soon published. They found a most worthy
editor in the late distinguished Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and
a translator equally qualified for his task, in the Reverend
James Davies, M.A., sometime a scholar of Lincoln College,
Oxford, and himself a relation of their English editor. Thus,
after an eclipse of many centuries, Babrias shines out as the
earliest, and most reliable collector of veritable Aesopian

The following are the sources from which the present translation
has been prepared: Babrii Fabulae Aesopeae. George Cornewall
Lewis. Oxford, 1846.
Babrii Fabulae Aesopeae. E codice manuscripto partem secundam
edidit. George Cornewall Lewis. London: Parker, 1857.
Mythologica Aesopica. Opera et studia Isaaci Nicholai Neveleti.
Frankfort, 1610.
Fabulae Aesopiacae, quales ante Planudem ferebantur cura et
studio Francisci de Furia. Lipsiae, 1810.
??????????????. Ex recognitione Caroli Halmii. Lipsiae, Phaedri
Fabulae Esopiae. Delphin Classics. 1822.



1 A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, by K. O.
Mueller. Vol. i, p. l9l. London, Parker, 1858.
2 Select Fables of Aesop, and other Fabulists. In three books,
translated by Robert Dodsley, accompanied with a selection of
notes, and an Essay on Fable. Birmingham, 1864. P. 60.
3 Some of these fables had, no doubt, in the first instance, a
primary and private interpretation. On the first occasion of
their being composed they were intended to refer to some passing
event, or to some individual acts of wrong-doing. Thus, the
fables of the "Eagle and the Fox" and of the "Fox and Monkey' are
supposed to have been written by Archilochus, to avenge the
injuries done him by Lycambes. So also the fables of the
"Swollen Fox" and of the "Frogs asking a King" were spoken by
Aesop for the immediate purpose of reconciling the inhabitants of
Samos and Athens to their respective rulers, Periander and
Pisistratus; while the fable of the "Horse and Stag" was composed
to caution the inhabitants of Himera against granting a bodyguard
to Phalaris. In a similar manner, the fable from Phaedrus, the
"Marriage of the Sun," is supposed to have reference to the
contemplated union of Livia, the daughter of Drusus, with Sejanus
the favourite, and minister of Trajan. These fables, however,
though thus originating in special events, and designed at first
to meet special circumstances, are so admirably constructed as to
be fraught with lessons of general utility, and of universal
4 Hesiod. Opera et Dies, verse 202.
5 Aeschylus. Fragment of the Myrmidons. Aeschylus speaks of
this fable as existing before his day. See Scholiast on the Aves
of Aristophanes, line 808.
6 Fragment. 38, ed. Gaisford. See also Mueller's History of
the Literature of Ancient Greece, vol. i. pp. 190-193.
7 M. Bayle has well put this in his account of Aesop. "Il n'y a
point d'apparence que les fables qui portent aujourd'hui son nom
soient les memes qu'il avait faites; elles viennent bien de lui
pour la plupart, quant a la matiere et la pensee; mais les
paroles sont d'un autre." And again, "C'est donc a Hesiode, que
j'aimerais mieux attribuer la gloire de l'invention; mais sans
doute il laissa la chose tres imparfaite. Esope la perfectionne
si heureusement, qu'on l'a regarde comme le vrai pere de cette
sorte de production." M. Bayle. Dictionnaire Historique.
8 Plato in Ph2done.
9 Apologos en! misit tibi
Ab usque Rheni limite
Ausonius nomen Italum
Praeceptor Augusti tui
Aesopiam trimetriam;
Quam vertit exili stylo
Pedestre concinnans opus
Fandi Titianus artifex.
Ausonii Epistola, xvi. 75-80.
10 Both these publications are in the British Museum, and are
placed in the library in cases under glass, for the inspection of
the curious.
ll Fables may possibly have been not entirely unknown to the
mediaeval scholars. There are two celebrated works which might
by some be classed amongst works of this description. The one is
the "Speculum Sapientiae," attributed to St. Cyril, Archbishop
of Jerusalem, but of a considerably later origin, and existing
only in Latin. It is divided into four books, and consists of
long conversations conducted by fictitious characters under the
figures the beasts of the field and forest, and aimed at the
rebuke of particular classes of men, the boastful, the proud, the
luxurious, the wrathful, &c. None of the stories are precisely
those of Aesop, and none have the concinnity, terseness, and
unmistakable deduction of the lesson intended to be taught by
the fable, so conspicuous in the great Greek fabulist. The exact
title of the book is this: "Speculum Sapientiae, B. Cyrilli
Episcopi: alias quadripartitus apologeticus vocatus, in cujus
quidem proverbiis omnis et totius sapientiae speculum claret et
feliciter incipit." The other is a larger work in two volumes,
published in the fourteenth century by Caesar Heisterbach, a
Cistercian monk, under the title of "Dialogus Miraculorum,"
reprinted in 1851. This work consists of conversations in which
many stories are interwoven on all kinds of subjects. It has no
correspondence with the pure Aesopian fable.
12 Post-medieval Preachers, by S. Baring-Gould. Rivingtons,
13 For an account of this work see the Life of Poggio
Bracciolini, by the Rev. William Shepherd. Liverpool. 1801.
14 Professor Theodore Bergh. See Classical Museum, No. viii.
July, 1849.
15 Vavassor's treatise, entitled "De Ludicra Dictione" was
written A.D. 1658, at the request of the celebrated M. Balzac
(though published after his death), for the purpose of showing
that the burlesque style of writing adopted by Scarron and
D'Assouci, and at that time so popular in France, had no sanction
from the ancient classic writers. Francisci Vavassoris opera
omnia. Amsterdam. 1709.
16 The claims of Babrias also found a warm advocate in the
learned Frenchman, M. Bayle, who, in his admirable dictionary,
(Dictionnaire Historique et Critique de Pierre Bayle. Paris,
1820,) gives additional arguments in confirmation of the opinions
of his learned predecessors, Nevelet and Vavassor.
17 Scazonic, or halting, iambics; a choliambic (a lame, halting
iambic) differs from the iambic Senarius in always having a
spondee or trichee for its last foot; the fifth foot, to avoid
shortness of meter, being generally an iambic. See Fables of
Babrias, translated by Rev. James Davies. Lockwood, 1860.
Preface, p. 27.
18 See Dr. Bentley's Dissertations upon the Epistles of
19 Dr. Bentley's Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris, and
Fables of Aesop examined. By the Honorable Charles Boyle.

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