A FOWLER, taking his bird-lime and his twigs, went out to catch birds. Seeing a thrush sitting upon a tree, he wished to take it, and fitting his twigs to a proper length, watched intently, having his whole thoughts directed towards the sky. While thus looking upwards, he unknowingly trod upon a Viper asleep just before his feet. The Viper, turning about, stung him, and falling into a swoon, the man said to himself, "Woe is me! that while I purposed to hunt another, I am myself fallen unawares into the snares of death."
A HORSE, proud of his fine trappings, met an Ass on the highway. The Ass, being heavily laden, moved slowly out of the way. "Hardly," said the Horse, "can I resist kicking you with my heels." The Ass held his peace, and made only a silent appeal to the justice of the gods. Not long afterwards the Horse, having become broken-winded, was sent by his owner to the farm. The Ass, seeing him drawing a dungcart, thus derided him: "Where, O boaster, are now all thy gay trappings, thou who are thyself reduced to the condition you so lately treated with contempt?"
A FOX entered the house of an actor and, rummaging through all his properties, came upon a Mask, an admirable imitation of a human head. He placed his paws on it and said, "What a beautiful head! Yet it is of no value, as it entirely lacks brains."
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.
A BLIND MAN was accustomed 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 do not 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.
SOME DOGS, finding the skin of a lion, began to tear it in pieces with their teeth. A Fox, seeing them, said, "If this lion were alive, you would soon find out that his claws were stronger than your teeth."
It is easy to kick a man that is down.
A COBBLER unable to make a living by his trade and made desperate by poverty, began to practice medicine in a town in which he was not known. He sold a drug, pretending that it was an antidote to all poisons, and obtained a great name for himself by long-winded puffs and advertisements. When the Cobbler happened to fall sick himself of a serious illness, the Governor of the town determined to test his skill. For this purpose he called for a cup, and while filling it with water, pretended to mix poison with the Cobbler's antidote, commanding him to drink it on the promise of a reward. The Cobbler, under the fear of death, confessed that he had no knowledge of medicine, and was only made famous by the stupid clamors of the crowd. The Governor then called a public assembly and addressed the citizens: "Of what folly have you been guilty? You have not hesitated to entrust your heads to a man, whom no one could employ to make even the shoes for their feet."
A WOLF coming out of a field of oats met a Horse and thus addressed him: "I would advise you to go into that field. It is full of fine oats, which I have left untouched for you, as you are a friend whom I would love to hear enjoying good eating." The Horse replied, "If oats had been the food of wolves, you would never have indulged your ears at the cost of your belly."
Men of evil reputation, when they perform a good deed, fail to get credit for it.
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."
THE WASPS and the Partridges, overcome with thirst, came to a Farmer and besought him to give them some water to drink. They promised amply to repay him the favor which they asked. The Partridges declared that they would dig around his vines and make them produce finer grapes. The Wasps said that they would keep guard and drive off thieves with their stings. But the Farmer interrupted them, saying: "I have already two oxen, who, without making any promises, do all these things. It is surely better for me to give the water to them than to you."
A CROW caught in a snare prayed to Apollo to release him, making a vow to offer some frankincense at his shrine. But when rescued from his danger, he forgot his promise. Shortly afterwards, again caught in a snare, he passed by Apollo and made the same promise to offer frankincense to Mercury. Mercury soon appeared and said to him, "O thou most base fellow? how can I believe thee, who hast disowned and wronged thy former patron?"
THE NORTH WIND and the Sun disputed as to which was the most powerful, and agreed that he should be declared the victor who could first strip a wayfaring man of his clothes. The North Wind first tried his power and blew with all his might, but the keener his blasts, the closer the Traveler wrapped his cloak around him, until at last, resigning all hope of victory, the Wind called upon the Sun to see what he could do. The Sun suddenly shone out with all his warmth. The Traveler no sooner felt his genial rays than he took off one garment after another, and at last, fairly overcome with heat, undressed and bathed in a stream that lay in his path.
Persuasion is better than Force.
TWO MEN, deadly enemies to each other, were sailing in the same vessel. Determined to keep as far apart as possible, the one seated himself in the stem, and the other in the prow of the ship. A violent storm arose, and with the vessel in great danger of sinking, the one in the stern inquired of the pilot which of the two ends of the ship would go down first. On his replying that he supposed it would be the prow, the Man said, "Death would not be grievous to me, if I could only see my Enemy die before me."
A MAN had two Gamecocks in his poultry-yard. One day by chance he found a tame Partridge for sale. He purchased it and brought it home to be reared with his Gamecocks. When the Partridge was put into the poultry-yard, they struck at it and followed it about, so that the Partridge became grievously troubled and supposed that he was thus evilly treated because he was a stranger. Not long afterwards he saw the Cocks fighting together and not separating before one had well beaten the other. He then said to himself, "I shall no longer distress myself at being struck at by these Gamecocks, when I see that they cannot even refrain from quarreling with each other."
A FROG once upon a time came forth from his home in the marsh and proclaimed to all the beasts that he was a learned physician, skilled in the use of drugs and able to heal all diseases. A Fox asked him, "How can you pretend to prescribe for others, when you are unable to heal your own lame gait and wrinkled skin?"
A LION, growing old, lay sick in his cave. All the beasts came to visit their king, except the Fox. The Wolf therefore, thinking that he had a capital opportunity, accused the Fox to the Lion of not paying any respect to him who had the rule over them all and of not coming to visit him. At that very moment the Fox came in and heard these last words of the Wolf. The Lion roaring out in a rage against him, the Fox sought an opportunity to defend himself and said, "And who of all those who have come to you have benefited you so much as I, who have traveled from place to place in every direction, and have sought and learnt from the physicians the means of healing you?" The Lion commanded him immediately to tell him the cure, when he replied, "You must flay a wolf alive and wrap his skin yet warm around you." The Wolf was at once taken and flayed; whereon the Fox, turning to him, said with a smile, "You should have moved your master not to ill, but to good, will."
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.
ROAMING BY the mountainside at sundown, a Wolf saw his own shadow become greatly extended and magnified, and he said to himself, "Why should I, being of such an immense size and extending nearly an acre in length, be afraid of the Lion? Ought I not to be acknowledged as King of all the collected beasts?" While he was indulging in these proud thoughts, a Lion fell upon him and killed him. He exclaimed with a too late repentance, "Wretched me! this overestimation of myself is the cause of my destruction."
THE BIRDS waged war with the Beasts, and each were by turns the conquerors. A Bat, fearing the uncertain issues of the fight, always fought on the side which he felt was the strongest. When peace was proclaimed, his deceitful conduct was apparent to both combatants. Therefore being condemned by each for his treachery, he was driven forth from the light of day, and henceforth concealed himself in dark hiding-places, flying always alone and at night.
A YOUNG MAN, a great spendthrift, had run through all his patrimony and had but one good cloak left. One day he happened to see a Swallow, which had appeared before its season, skimming along a pool and twittering gaily. He supposed that summer had come, and went and sold his cloak. Not many days later, winter set in again with renewed frost and cold. When he found the unfortunate Swallow lifeless on the ground, he said, "Unhappy bird! what have you done? By thus appearing before the springtime you have not only killed yourself, but you have wrought my destruction also."