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Reservations Contents  

  1. The Partridge and the Fowler
  2. The Rose and the Amaranth
  3. The Swallow, the Serpent, and the Court of Justice
  4. The Vain Jackdaw
  5. The Two Pots
  6. Sir Success, Sir Voyager, Lady Minerva, and Momus
  7. The Blind Man and the Whelp
  8. The Brother and the Sister
  9. The Walnut-Tree
  10. The Olive-Tree and the Fig-Tree
  11. The Vine and the Goat
  12. The Trees and the Axe
  13. The Trees Under the Protection of the Good Men
  14. The Flea and the Ox
  15. The Flea and the Man
  16. The Flea and the Wrestler
  17. The Prophet
  18. The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea
  19. The Widow and Her Little Maidens
  20. The Widow and the Sheep

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,

"Sir, 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 relations."

When the will is good, sharing in natural values and interactions follows.

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 favourite with men and women. 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 you are immortal and never fade, but bloom for ever in renewed youth."

Don't think too well of others and their conditions.

One is to rise above superficial appearances and immediate issues.

The Swallow, the Serpent, and the Court of Justice

A SWALLOW, returning from abroad and especially fond of dwelling with men, built herself a nest in the wall of a court of Justice and there hatched seven young birds. A serpent gliding past the nest from its hole in the wall ate up the young unfledged nestlings. The swallow, finding her nest empty, lamented greatly and exclaimed:

"Woe to me a stranger! that in this place where all others' rights are protected, I alone should suffer wrong."

Many overlook what is safe living within the first and misty measures.

Indulging in work seldom makes the home fit.

The Vain Jackdaw

SIR SUCCESS once determined to have a sovereign over the birds, and made proclamation that on a certain day they should all present themselves before him, when he would himself choose the most beautiful among them to be king. The jackdaw, knowing his own ugliness, searched through the woods and fields, and collected the feathers which had fallen from the wings of his companions, and stuck them in all parts of his body, hoping thereby to make himself the most beautiful of all.

When the appointed day arrived, and the birds had assembled before Sir Success, the jackdaw also appeared in his many-feathered finery. But when Sir Success proposed to make him king because of the beauty of his plumage, the birds indignantly protested, and each plucked from him his own feathers, leaving the jackdaw nothing but a jackdaw.

A bird never flies so far its "tale" doesn't follow it. [American proverb, Ap 51]

Every bird is known by its feathers. [American proverb, Ap 52, 205]

The Two Pots

A RIVER carried down in its stream two pots, one made of earthenware and the other of brass. The earthen pot said to the brass pot,

"Do keep at a distance and do not come near me, for if you touch me ever so slightly, I shall be broken in pieces, and besides, I by no means wish to come near you."

Look inside for clues if you need a deeper understanding of a situation. Scientists try to.

Equals make the best friends.

Sir Success, Sir Voyager, Lady Minerva, and Momus

ACCORDING to an ancient legend, the first man was made by Sir Success, the first bull by his brother, Sir Voyager, and the first house by the musical Lady Minerva. After completed their labours, a dispute arose among them as to which had made the most perfect work. They agreed to appoint a certain man, Momus, as judge, and to abide by his decision. Momus, however, was very envious of the handicraft of each, and found fault with all.

First he blamed the work of Sir Voyager because he had not made the horns of the bull below his eyes, so he might better see where to strike.

He then condemned the work of Sir Success, because he had not placed the heart of man on the outside so that everyone might read the thoughts of the evil disposed and take precautions against the intended mischief.

And, lastly, he protested against Lady Minerva because she had not contrived iron wheels in the foundation of her house, so its inhabitants might more easily remove if a neighbour proved to be unpleasant.

Sir Success became indignant at such inveterate faultfinding, drove him from his office of judge, and expelled him from the mansions of the lords where he was settled.

Judge well yourself before you criticize. [American proverb, Ap 341]

One should neither judge beings nor works of art by invented defects. [Ap 341]

Gently to hear, kindly to judge. [American proverb, Ap 290]

The Blind Man and the Whelp

A BLIND MAN was used to distinguishing different animals by touching them with his hands. The whelp of a wolf was brought him, with a request that he would feel it, and say what it was. He felt it, and being in doubt, said:

"I don't quite know whether it is the cub of a fox, or the whelp of a wolf, but this I know full well: It would not be safe to admit him to the sheepfold."

Evil tendencies are shown in early life.

The Brother and the Sister

A FATHER had one son and one daughter, the former remarkable for his good looks, the latter for her extraordinary ugliness. While they were playing one day as children, they happened by chance to look together into a mirror that was placed on their mother's chair. The boy congratulated himself on his good looks; the girl grew angry, and could not bear the self-praises of her brother, interpreting all he said (and how could she do otherwise?) into reflection on herself.

She ran off to her father to be avenged on her brother, and spitefully accused him of having, as a boy, made use of that which belonged only to girls. The father embraced them both, and bestowing his kisses and affection impartially on each, said,

"I wish you both would look into the mirror every day: you, my son, that you may not spoil your beauty by evil conduct; and you, my daughter, that you may make up for your lack of beauty by your virtues."

An ugly woman dreads the mirror. [American proverb, Ap 623]

The Walnut-Tree

A WALNUT TREE standing by the roadside bore an abundant crop of fruit. For the sake of the nuts, the passers-by broke its branches with stones and sticks. The walnut-tree piteously exclaimed,

"Wretched me! that those whom I cheer with my fruit should repay me with these painful blows!"

Try to perform according to the depth of situations and those involved.

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 on them, and, finding the olive full of foliage, it settled on 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.

Reorientation offers the hope of a better way of life.

The Vine and the Goat

A VINE was luxuriant in the time of vintage with leaves and grapes. A goat, passing by, nibbled its young tendrils and its leaves. The vine addressed him and said:

"Why do you thus injure me without a cause, and crop my leaves? Is there no young grass left? But I shall not have to wait long for my just revenge; for if you now should crop my leaves, and cut me down to my root, I shall provide the wine to pour over you when you are led as a victim to the sacrifice."

It is consciousness that brings about actualisations: karma is not mechanical.

The Trees and the Axe

A MAN came into a forest and asked the trees to provide him a handle for his axe. The trees agreed to his request and gave him a young ash-tree. No sooner had the man fitted a new handle to his axe from it, than he began to use it and quickly felled with his strokes the noblest giants of the forest.

An old oak, lamenting when too late the destruction of his companions, said to a neighbouring cedar,

"The first step has lost us all. If we had not given up the rights of the ash, we might yet have retained our own privileges and have stood for ages."

Show enough concern in the seemingly innocent little things.

Give some people an inch and they will take a mile. [American proverb, Ap 328]

Nourishing of others needs to be seen in a wide perspective.

The Trees Under the Protection of the Good Men

THE LORS AND PEERS, according to an ancient legend, made choice of certain trees to be under their special protection. Sir Success chose the oak, Lady Love the myrtle, Sir Apollo the laurel, Lady Cybele the pine, and Sir Herakles the poplar. Lady Minerva, wondering why they had preferred trees not yielding fruit, asked the reason for their choice. Sir Success replied,

"It is lest we should seem to covet the honour for the fruit."

But said Lady Minerva, "Let anyone say what he will; the olive is more dear to me on account of its fruit."

Then said Sir Success, "My daughter, you are rightly called wise; for unless what we do is useful, the glory of it is vain."

Even the shadows of trees help - on arduous journeys and against sunstrokes.

The Flea and the Ox

A FLEA thus questioned an ox:

"What ails you, that being so huge and strong, you submit to the wrongs you receive from men and slave for them day by day, while I, being so small a creature, mercilessly feed on their flesh and drink their blood without stint?"

The ox replied:

"I don't wish to be ungrateful, for I am loved and well cared for by men, and they often pat my head and shoulders."

"Woe's me!" said the flea; "this very patting which you like, whenever it happens to me, brings with it my inevitable destruction."

In politics one whines over rising above principles. [Cf. American proverb, Ap 484]

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, "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 my own hands, for no evil, whether it be small or large, ought to be tolerated."

Traditional ways of approaching things (and flies) should lead to the best solutions.

Energetic resolves depend on ensuing activity.

The Flea and the Wrestler

A FLEA settled on the bare foot of a wrestler and bit him, causing the man to call loudly on Sir Herakles for help. When the flea a second time hopped on his foot, he groaned and said,

"Sir Herakles! if you will not help me against a flea, how can I hope for your assistance against greater antagonists?"

Flattery is a resort of fools. [Cf. American proverb, Ap 506]

The Prophet

A WIZARD, sitting in the marketplace, was telling the fortunes of the passers-by when a person ran up in great haste, and announced to him that the doors of his house had been broken open and that all his goods were being stolen. He sighed heavily and hastened away as fast as he could run. A neighbour saw him running and said,

"Oh! you fellow there! you say you can foretell the fortunes of others; how is it you did not foresee your own?"

To ignore sham suggests ignoring the old wisdom of studying things deeply enough for mastery.

The Shipwrecked Man and the Sea

A SHIPWRECKED MAN, having been cast on a certain shore, slept after his buffetings with the deep. After a while he awoke, and looking on 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 fury."

A true message makes us benefit as we learn to relax.

The Widow and Her Little Maidens

A WIDOW who was fond of cleaning had two little maidens to wait on her. She was in the habit of waking them early in the morning, at cockcrow. The maidens, aggravated by such excessive labour, resolved to kill the cock who roused their mistress so early. When they had done this, they found that they had only prepared for themselves greater troubles, for their mistress, no longer hearing the hour from the cock, woke them up to their work in the middle of the night.

Foresight is better than hindsight. [American proverb, Ap 228]

Shortsightedness becomes quite a problem when it sides with faults instead of redressing them.

The Widow and the Sheep

A CERTAIN poor widow had one single sheep. At shearing time, wishing to take his fleece and to avoid expense, she sheared him herself, but used the shears so unskilfully that with the fleece she sheared the flesh.

The sheep, writhing with pain, said,

"Why do you hurt me so, mistress? What weight can my blood add to the wool? If you want my flesh, there is the butcher, who will kill me in an instant; but if you want my fleece and wool, there is the shearer, who will shear and not hurt me."

Lack of skill causes lots of difficulties.


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