Son, to this second book thine ear incline.
Should it embitter thee far more than brine,
Yet afterward a sweeter taste I leave
Than honey. Yet not me, I pray, receive
As him that spake these fables. The belong
To Sardian Æsop, whom most grievous wrong,
And god-abhorr’d, at Delphian hands befell,
So ill they treated one who sang so well.
Fools that they were, they forced him down a steep,
And left their sons a hateful name to keep.
Among old saws this also Æsop said:
’Ere other birds, ’ere e’en the earth was made,
A first existence had the tufted lark;
Whose darling child reach’d life’s allotted mark,
And death, it chanced, by some disorder met.
Now, as the earth was not in being yet,
She knew not were, (how should she?) to inter
Her dead. Five days ’twas left expos’d by her:
Then, sore perplex’t, for grave she lent her head.
’Tis holy, gather hence, t’ entomb the dead:
And filial love is a time-honour’d thing,
Of laws the best; and nature’s ordering.
At leisure to indulge in seeing sights,
The gaze of Æsop on a dockyard lights.
He chanced on shipwrights there, with nought to do,
Who at the sage their gibes full rudely threw,
And by their mocking challenged his reply.
His words in this not pointless fable lie.
“Chaos and Water from the first had been;
But Jove desired that Earth, till then unseen,
Above the mass of waters should arise:
Then did he her ‘to swallow thrice’ advise
‘The waterfloods.’ At the first draught she made,
Behold the mountains in their height display’d.
When now the earth her second gulp had ta’en,
Naked to view stood many a grassy plain.
And should she soon to take a third see fit
Your craft, methinks, will straight her craftsmen quit.”
Who use to betters silly words and light,
Alway against themselves the laugh invite.
An eagle once was netted by a hind;
Who, having clipp’d its wings, no more confined
Its freedom midst the birds about his cot.
A fowler soon this bird by purchase got,
Let its wings grow, that late had been cut short,
And kept it thus for purposes of sport.
Soon it essay’d a flight, and seized a hare,
A gift ’twas glad to its new lord to bear.
A fox looked on, and to the eagle said:
“To thy first lord, not this, be honour paid,
Lest he again should catch thee in his toil,
And thee, by clipping, of thy wings despoil.”
These words the sacred eagle’s answer are:
“Good men I must respect, from bad keep far.”
A vine with foliage and ripe clusters bloom’d.
Its shoots a goat with nibbling tooth consumed,
Whom thus the vine addrest: “Why injure me?
And browse my leaves? Is there no grass for thee?
Yet thou ere long thy just deserts shalt meet.
Though now my shoots thou to the quick dost eat,
To me no less shall satisfaction rise,
When juice o’er thee I pour in sacrifice.”
A lion and a man, together thrown,
Held conversation each in boastful tone.
Their gaze, in walking, on a statue lit,
A man astride a lion, strangling it.
This man this sculpture bade the lion see,
And said, “O’er lions note our mastery.”
“Nay,” said the beast, “if lions only knew
The sculptor’s art, on mortals not a few
By lions rush’d and strangled you might gaze.”
Each doth himself in his own talk be-praise.
To feed a swan, one purchase[d] with a goose,
A different reason did a man induce.
One for the table, one for song was fed.
So when he came the goose’s blood to shed,
(It had been fatted for its master’s board,)
Night, drawing on, her film o’er all things pour’d.
Best of all times for catching birds is night;
Yet fail’d the owner to distinguish right
Which was the swan, and which the goose might be —
Hence for the goose, by accident left free,
Away to doom the tuneful swan was led;
But when his song his species heralded,
That song was able to postpone his end.
Speech used in season many doth befriend.
In marshy swamp two frogs were wont to bide.
When in the summer season this was dried,
They left, it, for another home to look,
And in their road a well of water took.
Beholding this, thus spake the first of these:
“Into this well descend we, if you please,
Since both for food and dwelling it bids fair.”
The other said, with blame-suggestive air,
“Nay, but suppose this too should chance to fail,
How from a depth so great could we avail
Hence learn a moral true,
Without forethought ’tis useless aught to do.
The curse of anarchy the frogs annoy’d;
Who to Heaven’s throne an embassy employ’d,
To ask, if Jove would furnish them a king.
He knew the frog was but a silly thing;
So order’d Hermes right into the bog
To throw, for king of croakers, a mute log.
As the log fell, the waters felt the blow,
And the frogs hasten’d to the depths below,
In terror for the moment at the sound.
But a short space, after these things, went round;
And when they saw their sov’reign motionless,
They cast off fear, scorn only to profess;
So much so, that on it the boldly stept,
And mounted there, seats undisputed kept.
Such king to own, occasion’d high disdain;
And up they went to the Gods’ courts again,
Where they the chief of rulers much besought
To send them such a monarch as they ought
To have. “That beam was quite unfit to sway
Mute logs, far more such living beings as they.
That stump was grown but to be food for fire.”
Next Jove sent down an eel for their desire.
They saw that this was also a mere fool,
And would not have it over them to rule.
A third legation then they sent of Jove,
With earnest pray’r their second king to move.
And give them one with better sense supplied,
Fitly o’er them with justice to preside.
Their message, heard, led Jove offence to take,
And send them for their king a water-snake;
Who, getting all in turn within his power,
Did each poor frog with ruthless maw devour;
No more to cry “coäx,” no more to croak!
Such fate too many of mankind provoke,
When from old rulers they their love revoke.
An archer at an eagle took his aim.
The shaft he sent, true to the eagle came.
To whom when, as he turn’d his head, ’twas known,
The shaft was wing’d with feathers of his own;
“With mine own feather I have made my bed.”
“Ah! luckless me!” his dying accents said:
“With mine own feathers I have made my bed.”
Most from their own, much loss have sufferèd.
Their wain some oxen to a village drew.
And at its creaking axle wrathful grew.
Turning to it, they said, “Why creak you thus?
When all the burden has been laid on us.”
When others work, some call the toil their own,
And, over what they had no hand in, moan.
Two frogs were dwelling each to other near;
Now one abode in a deep marshy mere,
Which at no distance from the highroad lay;
One in a puddle on the carriage-way.
He of the mere the other recommends
To change his quarters, come, and live as friends,
And thus a safer dwelling to obtain.
The other said, declining, “’Twould be pain
Too great for him accustom’d haunts to quit,”
And held his way, till passing over it
A wagon came by; by which the frog was crushed,
And thus on fate, by not complying, rush’d.
For common use to Rhea’s vagrant priests
Was sold an ass, most luckless among beasts,
That it might carry for these begging knaves
Rites, food, whate’er from thirst or hunger saves.
These roam’d, as is their wont, the country through,
And craved provisions, asking, “Who but knew,
Among the swains, how Attis fair was maim’d?
To Rhea’s drum who would not be ashamed
To fail in gifts of first-rate pulse and bread?”
At length the ass, o’erburden’d, fell down dead,
Poor wretch, and said good-bye to all his toil.
Him the rogues hasten’d of his hide to spoil,
And stretch’d it, closely-fitted, o’er a drum:
On other roguish priests they chanced to come,
As they were roaming through the villages,
Furnished with drums. And they were asked by these,
How fared their ass. “It died long time ago,”
They answered, “yet it now receives a blow
So often, that, had it been still alive,
’Neath these it could by no means long survive.”
A rustic saw an eagle in the snare,
And, as he much admired its beauty rare,
He loosed it from its fetters forth to roam:
Thence did the eagle a warm friend become
To its preserver. For, t’avoid the heat
And catch the breeze, it saw him take his seat
Beneath a wall. It snatch’d, as o’er it flew,
A burden from his head, and this it threw
Far off. The rustic, eager to pursue
His pack, made for it. Down the walling fell:
And thus the rustic was requited well.
Kind acts, if birds in grateful memory set,
Can any, save the worst of men, forget?
Gold, as the earth he dug, a labourer found,
And every day with garlands wreath’d the ground,
Seeing that thence he reap’d undoubted good:
But with this speech dame Fortune o’er him stood:
“Why ever, man, dost thou my gifts mistake
For earth’s? ’Twas I that did thy riches make,
I, by whose help ’tis said that some are blest,
Who chance to find me kinder than the rest;
And those unblest, to whom bad luck I bring.
Now I enrich thee thus, as purposing
To try thy judgment, while this wealth I send,
Whether thou wilt it well or ill expend.
’Twere meet, thou shouldst feel gratitude to me;
For if thy nature changed with times should be,
And thou unworthily shouldst squander all,
On me, and not on earth, the blame would fall.”
If any to thee do an office kind,
See that they never thee unmindful find.