Aesop's Fables: Birds

More fables here from the Christopher Smart translation of Phaedrus; this time the fables are about birds, and I've again provided notes to clarify the plot.

[Notes by LKG]

These fables are part of the Aesop's Fables (English) unit. Story source: The Fables of Phaedrus, translated by Christopher Smart (1887).

Aesop's Fables: Birds

As you can guess, things don't turn out any better for this jackdaw in borrowed feathers than they did for the donkey in the lion's skin! 

The Vain Jackdaw

Lest any one himself should plume
And on his neighbour's worth presume,
But still let Nature's garb prevail
Esop has left this little tale:

A Daw, ambitious and absurd,
Pick'd up the quills of Juno's bird
And, with the gorgeous spoil adorn'd,
All his own sable brethren scorn'd,
And join'd the peacocks-who in scoff
Stripp'd the bold thief, and drove him off.

The Daw, thus roughly handled, went
To his own kind in discontent,
But they in turn contemn the spark
And brand with many a shameful mark.

Then one he formerly disdain'd,
"Had you," said he, "at home remain'd,
Content with Nature's ways and will,
You had not felt the peacock's bill,
Nor 'mongst the birds of your own dress
Had been deserted in distress."

The kite here is type of a hawk, called "milvus" in Latin: Kites (Wikipedia).

The Kite and the Doves

He that would have the wicked reign,
Instead of help, will find his bane.

The Doves had oft escaped the Kite,
By their celerity of flight;
The ruffian then to coz'nage stoop'd
And thus the tim'rous race he duped:
"Why do you lead a life of fear,
Rather than my proposals hear?
Elect me for your king, and I
Will all your race indemnify."

They foolishly the Kite believed,
Who, having now the pow'r received,
Began upon the Doves to prey
And exercise tyrannic sway.

"Justly," says one who yet remain'd,
"We die the death ourselves ordained."

The fable of the rooster and the pearl is one that is told and interpreted in different ways: is the rooster wise for scorning worldly wealth, or is he a fool for not recognizing the value of what is in front of him? 

The Cock and the Pearl

A Cock, while scratching all around,
A Pearl upon the dunghill found:
"O splendid thing in foul disgrace,
Had there been any in the place
That saw and knew thy worth when sold,
Ere this thou hadst been set in gold.
But I, who rather would have got
A corn of barley, heed thee not;
No service can there render'd be
From me to you, and you to me."
I write this tale to them alone
To whom in vain my pearls are thrown.

Next: More Birds

(300 words)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at