IN THE OLD days both the kites and the swans could sing. But one day the kites heard the neigh of the horse and were so enchanted with the sound that they tried to imitate it. In trying to neigh, they forgot how to sing.
❋ The desire for imaginary benefits often involves the loss of present blessings.
A RAVEN saw a swan and desired to secure for himself the same beautiful feathers. Supposing that the swan's splendid white colour arose from his washing in the water in which he swam, the raven left the neighbourhood where he picked up his living and started to live in the lakes and pools. But cleansing his feathers as often as he would, he could not change their colour, and in the end he perished through want of food.
❋ Change of habit cannot alter Nature.
❋ Make one wrong step and down you go. (Canadian)
A CERTAIN rich man bought a goose and a swan in the market. He fed the one for his table and kept the other for the sake of its song. When the time came for killing the goose, the cook went to get him at night when it was dark, and he was not able to distinguish one bird from the other. By mistake he caught the swan instead of the goose.
The swan, threatened with death, burst into song and thus made himself known by his voice, and saved his life by his melody.
❋ He that conquers himself conquers an enemy: Be kind to animals (US proverbs).
THE GEESE and the cranes were feeding in the same meadow, when a birdcatcher came to ensnare them in his nets. The cranes, being light of wing, fled away at his approach; while the geese, being slower of flight and heavier in their bodies, were captured.
❋ Much overweight surely is harsh at times.
WHEN MAN first saw the camel, he was so frightened at his large size that he ran away. After a time, perceiving that the beast was really meek and quite gentle, he summoned courage enough to approach him. Soon afterwards he found out he could domesticate the animal, and felt bold enough to put a bridle in his mouth, and to let a child drive him.
❋ Use serves to overcome dread, for good or bad.
THE CAMEL, when he saw the bull adorned with horns, envied him and wished that he himself could win the same honours. He went to the protecting Jove, and besought him to give him horns. Jove, 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.
❋ Don't ask for too much; your well-wisher may or may not get annoyed. ¤
AN ARAB camel-driver, after completing the loading of his camel, asked him which he would like best, to go up hill or down. The poor beast replied, not without a touch of reason:
"Why do you ask me? Is it that the level way through the desert is closed?"
❋ Many good ideas are born in idle minds. *
THE BEASTS of the forest gave a splendid entertainment at which the monkey stood up and danced. Having vastly delighted the assembly, he sat down amidst universal applause. The camel, envious of the praises bestowed on the monkey and desiring to divert to himself the favour of the guests, proposed to stand up in his turn and dance for their amusement. He moved about in so utterly ridiculous a manner that the beasts, in a fit of indignation, set on him with clubs and drove him out of the assembly.
❋ It is absurd to ape our betters.
ONE WINTER a farmer found a snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound.
"Oh," cried the farmer with his last breath, "I deserved that . . . for pitying a scoundrel."
❋ The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.
❋ When you see a snake, think twice before getting close to it.
❋ Standing and walking on your own two feet with long and thick woolen socks on, is hardly a nasty mistake in a European snake terrain.
A SNAKE, having made his hole close to the porch of a cottage, inflicted a mortal bite on the cottager's infant son. Grieving over his loss, the father decided to kill the snake. The next day, when it came out of its hole for food, he took up his axe, but by swinging too hastily, missed its head and cut off only the end of its tail.
After some time the cottager, afraid that the snake would bite him also, endeavored to make peace, and placed some bread and salt in the hole. The snake, slightly hissing, said:
"From now on there can be no peace between us; for whenever I see you I shall remember the loss of my tail, and whenever you see me you will be thinking of the death of your son."
❋ No one truly forgets injuries in the presence of him who caused the injury.
A WASP seated himself on the head of a snake and, striking him unceasingly with his stings, wounded him to death. The snake, being in great torment and not knowing how to rid himself of his enemy, saw a wagon heavily laden with wood, and went and purposely placed his head under the wheels, saying,
"At least my enemy and I shall perish together."
And so they did.
❋ Some deep wounds are inflicted by praise (American).
❋ Good wits commonly figure out what's best to do.
THE MEMBERS of the body rebelled against the belly, and said,
"Why should we be always engaged in administering to your wants, while you do nothing but rest and enjoy yourself in luxury?"
The members carried out their resolve and refused to assist the belly. The whole body quickly became debilitated, and the hands, feet, mouth, and eyes, when too late, repented of their folly.
❋ When the fox preaches, beware of your geese (American).
A BULL, escaping from a lion, hid in a cave which some shepherds had recently occupied. As soon as he entered, a he-goat left in the cave sharply attacked him with his horns. The bull quietly addressed him:
"Butt away as much as you will. I have no fear of you, but of the lion. Let that monster go away and I will soon let you know what is the strength of a goat to that of a bull."
❋ It shows an evil disposition to take advantage of a friend in distress.
A CHARCOAL-BURNER carried on his trade in his own house. One day he met a friend, a fuller, and begged him to come and live with him, saying that they should be far better neighbours and that their housekeeping expenses would be lessened.
The fuller replied,
"The arrangement is impossible as far as I am concerned, for whatever I should whiten, you would at once blacken again with your charcoal."
❋ Like will draw like.
IN THE WINTERTIME, a dog curled up in as small a space as possible on account of the cold, determined to make himself a house. However when the summer returned again, he lay asleep stretched at his full length and appeared to himself to be of a great size. Now he considered that it would be neither an easy nor a necessary work to make himself such a house as would accommodate him.
❋ Laziness travels so slowly that poverty overtakes him (American).
Jove had it proclaimed to all the animals of the forest that the one with the prettiest offspring would get a royal reward. The monkey came with the rest to the beauty contest and presented with all a mother's tenderness a flat-nosed, hairless, ill-featured young monkey as a candidate. When she presented her son, those present laughed. She frankly said,
"I don't know whether Jove will give the prize to my son or not. But this I know, that in the eyes of me his mother he is the dearest, handsomest, and most beautiful of all."
❋ Where the dearest one is flat-nosed, expect a majority to be that as well.
AN EAGLE made her nest at the top of a lofty oak; a cat, having found a convenient hole, moved into the middle of the trunk; and a wild sow, with her young, took shelter in a hollow at its foot.
The cat cunningly resolved to destroy this chance-made colony. To carry out her design, she climbed to the nest of the eagle, and said,
"Destruction is preparing for you, and for me too, unfortunately. The wild sow, whom you see daily digging up the earth, wishes to uproot the oak, so she may on its fall seize our families as food for her young."
Having thus frightened the eagle out of her senses, she crept down to the cave of the sow, and said,
"Your children are in great danger; for as soon as you go out with your litter to find food, the eagle is prepared to pounce on one of your little pigs."
Having instilled these fears into the sow, she went and pretended to hide herself in the hollow of the tree. When night came she went forth with silent foot and got food for herself and her kittens, but feigning to be afraid, she kept a lookout all through the day. Meanwhile, the eagle, full of fear of the sow, sat still on the branches, and the sow, terrified by the eagle, did not dare to go out from her cave. And thus they both, along with their families, perished from hunger, and afforded ample provision for the cat and her kittens.
❋ Twin fools: one doubts nothing, the other, everything (American).
THE BUYER of a black servant was persuaded that the colour of his skin stemmed from dirt had through the neglect of his former masters. On bringing him home he washed and scrubbed and cleaned him a long time. As a result the servant caught a severe cold, but he never changed his colour or complexion.
❋ What runs in the family, will not come off easily.
A FISHERMAN, engaged in his calling, made a very successful cast and captured a great haul of fish. He managed by a skilful handling of his net to retain all the large fish and to draw them to the shore; but he could not prevent the smaller fish from falling back through the meshes of the net into the sea.
❋ Take each day as it comes, and each haul also (Partial American).
A FISHERMAN skilled in music, took his flute and his nets to the seashore. Standing on a projecting rock, he played several tunes. By that he hoped that the fish would be attracted by his melody and of their own accord dance into his net where he had placed it below somewhere.
At last, after waiting long in vain, he laid aside his flute, and cast his net into the sea. Then he made an excellent haul of fish. When he saw them leaping about in the net on the rock he said:
"You funny creatures. When I piped you would not dance. But now that I have ceased, you do it merrily."
❋ Caught fishes are not merry: Not everyone that dances needs a happy tune.
❋ The problem is one of faulty method. To blame one's faulty ways on others can reveal stubborn stupidity as well.