A dog was lying in the sun before a farmyard gate when a wolf pounced on him and was just going to eat him up; but he begged for his life and said, "You see how thin I am and what a wretched meal I should make you now: but if you will only wait a few days my master is going to give a feast. All the rich scraps and pickings will fall to me and I shall get nice and fat: then will be the time for you to eat me."
The wolf thought this was a very good plan and went away. Some time afterwards he came to the farmyard again, and found the dog lying out of reach on the stable roof.
"Come down," he called, "and be eaten: you remember our agreement?"
But the dog said coolly, "My friend, if ever you catch me lying down by the gate there again, don't you wait for any feast."
❋ Once bitten, twice shy.
A wasp settled on the head of a snake, and not only stung him several times, but clung obstinately to the head of his victim. Maddened with pain the snake tried every means he could think of to get rid of the creature, but without success.
At last he became desperate, and crying, "Kill you I will, even at the cost of my own life," he laid his head with the wasp on it under the wheel of a passing wagon, and they both perished together.
An eagle was chasing a hare, which was running for dear life and was at her wits' end to know where to turn for help. Before long she espied a beetle, and begged it to aid her. So when the eagle came up the beetle warned her not to touch the hare, which was under its protection. But the eagle never noticed the beetle because it was so small, seized the hare and ate her up.
The beetle never forgot this, and used to keep an eye on the eagle's nest, and whenever the eagle laid an egg it climbed up and rolled it out of the nest and broke it.
At last the eagle got so worried over the loss of her eggs that she went up to Jupiter, who is the special protector of eagles, and begged him to give her a safe place to nest in: so he let her lay her eggs in his lap. But the beetle noticed this and made a ball of dirt the size of an eagle's egg, and flew up and deposited it in Jupiter's lap.
When Jupiter saw the dirt, he stood up to shake it out of his robe, and, forgetting about the eggs, he shook them out too, and they were broken just as before.
Ever since then, they say, eagles never lay their eggs at the season when beetles are about.
❋ The weak will sometimes find ways to avenge an insult, even upon the strong.
A fowler was setting his nets for little birds when a lark came up to him and asked him what he was doing.
"I am engaged in founding a city," said he, and with that he withdrew to a short distance and hid himself.
The lark examined the nets with great curiosity, and presently, catching sight of the bait, hopped on to them in order to secure it, and became entangled in the meshes. The fowler then ran up quickly and captured her.
"What a fool I was!" said she: "but at any rate, if that's the kind of city you are founding, it'll be a long time before you find fools enough to fill it."
A fisherman who could play the flute went down one day to the sea-shore with his nets and his flute; and, taking his stand on a projecting rock, began to play a tune, thinking that the music would bring the fish jumping out of the sea. He went on playing for some time, but not a fish appeared: so at last he threw down his flute and cast his net into the sea, and made a great haul of fish.
When they were landed and he saw them leaping about on the shore, he cried, "You rascals! you wouldn't dance when I piped: but now I've stopped, you can do nothing else!"
A man once caught a weasel, which was always sneaking about the house, and was just going to drown it in a tub of water, when it begged hard for its life, and said to him, "Surely you haven't the heart to put me to death? Think how useful I have been in clearing your house of the mice and lizards which used to infest it, and show your gratitude by sparing my life."
"You have not been altogether useless, I grant you," said the man: "but who killed the fowls? Who stole the meat? No, no! You do much more harm than good, and die you shall."
A ploughman yoked his ox and his donkey together, and set to work to plough his field. It was a poor makeshift of a team, but it was the best he could do, as he had but a single ox.
At the end of the day, when the beasts were loosed from the yoke, the donkey said to the ox, "Well, we've had a hard day: which of us is to carry the master home?"
The ox looked surprised at the question.
"Why," said he, "you, to be sure, as usual."
Demades the orator was once speaking in the Assembly at Athens; but the people were very inattentive to what he was saying, so he stopped and said, "Gentlemen, I should like to tell you one of Ęsop's fables."
This made everyone listen intently. Then Demades began: "Demeter, a swallow, and an eel were once travelling together, and came to a river without a bridge: the swallow flew over it, and the eel swam across"; and then he stopped.
"What happened to Demeter?" cried several people in the audience.
"Demeter," he replied, "is very angry with you for listening to fables when you ought to be minding public business."
When people go on a voyage they often take with them lapdogs or monkeys as pets to while away the time. Thus it fell out that a man returning to Athens from the East had a pet monkey on board with him. As they neared the coast of Attica a great storm burst on them, and the ship capsized. All on board were thrown into the water, and tried to save themselves by swimming, the monkey among the rest. A dolphin saw him, and, supposing him to be a man, took him on his back and began swimming towards the shore. When they got near the Piræus, which is the port of Athens, the dolphin asked the monkey if he was an Athenian. The monkey replied that he was, and added that he came of a very distinguished family.
"Then, of course, you know the Piræus," continued the dolphin. The monkey thought he was referring to some high official or other, and replied, "Oh, yes, he's a very old friend of mine."
At that, detecting his hypocrisy, the dolphin was so disgusted that he dived below the surface, and the unfortunate monkey was quickly drowned.
A hungry crow spied a snake lying asleep in a sunny spot, and, picking it up in his claws, he was carrying it off to a place where he could make a meal of it without being disturbed, when the snake reared its head and bit him.
It was a poisonous snake, and the bite was fatal, and the dying crow said, "What a cruel fate is mine! I thought I had made a lucky find, and it has cost me my life!"
Some dogs once found a lion's skin, and were worrying it with their teeth. Just then a fox came by, and said, "You think yourselves very brave, no doubt; but if that were a live lion you'd find his claws a good deal sharper than your teeth."
A nightingale was sitting on a bough of an oak and singing, as her custom was. A hungry hawk presently spied her, and darting to the spot seized her in his talons. He was just about to tear her in pieces when she begged him to spare her life: "I'm not big enough," she pleaded, "to make you a good meal: you ought to seek your prey among the bigger birds."
The hawk eyed her with some contempt. "You must think me very simple," said he, "if you suppose I am going to give up a certain prize on the chance of a better of which I see at present no signs."
A rose and an amaranth blossomed side by side in a garden, and the amaranth said to her neighbour, "How I envy you your beauty and your sweet scent! No wonder you are such a universal favourite."
But the rose replied with a shade of sadness in her voice, "Ah, my dear friend, I bloom but for a time: my petals soon wither and fall, and then I die. But your flowers never fade, even if they are cut; for they are everlasting."
Most of the Amaranthus species are plants that live for more than two years. Many of them grow and bloom over the spring and summer, die back in the autumn and winter, and then return in the spring from their rootstock. - TK
One winter's day, during a severe storm, a horse, an ox, and a dog came and begged for shelter in the house of a man. He readily admitted them, and, as they were cold and wet, he lit a fire for their comfort: and he put oats before the horse, and hay before the ox, while he fed the dog with the remains of his own dinner.
When the storm abated, and they were about to depart, they determined to show their gratitude in the following way: They divided the life of man among them, and each endowed one part of it with the qualities which were peculiarly his own. The horse took youth, and hence young men are high-mettled and impatient of restraint; the ox took middle age, and accordingly men in middle life are steady and hard-working; while the dog took old age, which is the reason why old men are so often peevish and ill-tempered, and, like dogs, attached chiefly to those who look to their comfort, while they are disposed to snap at those who are unfamiliar or distasteful to them.
The wolves sent a deputation to the sheep with proposals for a lasting peace between them, on condition of their giving up the sheep-dogs to instant death. The foolish sheep agreed to the terms; but an old ram, whose years had brought him wisdom, interfered and said, "How can we expect to live at peace with you? Why, even with the dogs at hand to protect us, we are never secure from your murderous attacks!"
The swan is said to sing but once in its life – when it knows that it is about to die. A certain man, who had heard of the song of the swan, one day saw one of these birds for sale in the market, and bought it and took it home with him. A few days later he had some friends to dinner, and produced the swan, and bade it sing for their entertainment: but the swan remained silent.
In course of time, when it was growing old, it became aware of its approaching end and broke into a sweet, sad song. When its owner heard it, he said angrily, "If the creature only sings when it is about to die, what a fool I was that day I wanted to hear its song! I ought to have wrung its neck instead of merely inviting it to sing."
A snake suffered a good deal from being constantly trodden on by man and beast, owing partly to the length of his body and partly to his being unable to raise himself above the surface of the ground: so he went and complained to Jupiter about the risks to which he was exposed.
But Jupiter had little sympathy for him. "I dare say," said he, "that if you had bitten the first that trod on you, the others would have taken more trouble to look where they put their feet."
A wolf, who was roaming about on the plain when the sun was getting low in the sky, was much impressed by the size of his shadow, and said to himself, "I had no idea I was so big. Fancy my being afraid of a lion! Why, I, not he, ought to be king of the beasts"; and, heedless of danger, he strutted about as if there could be no doubt at all about it. Just then a lion sprang on him and began to devour him.
"Alas," he cried, "had I not lost sight of the facts, I shouldn't have been ruined by my fancies."
A ploughman loosed his oxen from the plough, and led them away to the water to drink. While he was absent a half-starved wolf appeared on the scene, and went up to the plough and began chewing the leather straps attached to the yoke. As he gnawed away desperately in the hope of satisfying his craving for food, he somehow got entangled in the harness, and, taking fright, struggled to get free, tugging at the traces as if he would drag the plough along with him.
Just then the ploughman came back, and seeing what was happening, he cried, "Ah, you old rascal, I wish you would give up thieving for good and take to honest work instead."
A man once saw a ship go down with all its crew, and commented severely on the injustice of the gods.
"They care nothing for a man's character," said he, "but let the good and the bad go to their deaths together."
There was an ant-heap close by where he was standing, and, just as he spoke, he was bitten in the foot by an ant. Turning in a temper to the ant-heap he stamped on it and crushed hundreds of unoffending ants.
Suddenly Mercury appeared, and hit him with his staff, saying as he did so, "You villain, where's your nice sense of justice now?"