Aesop's Fables: Dogs

These fables about dogs also come from Christopher Smart's translation of the verse fables of the Roman poet Phaedrus, 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).

This fable about the dog and his reflection is one you probably have heard before, as it remains a well known story even today.

The Dog in the River

The churl that wants another's fare
Deserves at least to lose his share.

As through the stream a Dog convey'd
A piece of meat, he spied his shade
In the clear mirror of the flood
And, thinking it was flesh and blood,
Snapp'd to deprive him of the treat.

But mark the glutton's self-defeat,
Miss'd both another's and his own,
Both shade and substance, beef and bone.

These dogs likewise are undone by their own greed.

The Hungry Dogs

A stupid plan that fools project,
Not only will not take effect,
But proves destructive in the end
To those that bungle and pretend.

Some hungry Dogs beheld an hide
Deep sunk beneath the crystal tide,
Which, that they might extract for food,
They strove to drink up all the flood;
But bursten in the desp'rate deed,
They perish'd ere they could succeed.

This dog successfully what he thinks is a treasure, but instead it proves his own doom!

The Dog, Treasure, and Vulture

A Dog, while scratching up the ground,
'Mongst human bones a treasure found,
But as his sacrilege was great,
To covet riches was his fate
And punishment of his offence:
He therefore never stirr'd from thence,
But both in hunger and the cold,
With anxious care he watch'd the gold,
Till wholly negligent of food,
A ling'ring death at length ensued.

Upon his corse a Vulture stood,
And thus descanted: "It is good,
O Dog, that there thou liest bereaved
Who in the highway wast conceived,
And on a scurvy dunghill bred,
Hadst royal riches in thy head."

This fable is about two dogs: one good-hearted, and one not so.

The Bitch and Her Puppies

Bad men have speeches smooth and fair,
Of which, that we should be aware,
And such designing villains thwart,
The underwritten lines exhort.

A Bitch besought one of her kin
For room to put her Puppies in.

She, loth to say her neighbour nay,
Directly lent both hole and hay.

But asking to be repossessed,
For longer time the former press'd,
Until her Puppies gathered strength;
Which second lease expired at length
And when, abused at such a rate,
The lender grew importunate,
"The place," quoth she, " I will resign
When you 're a match for me and mine."

The dog in this fable is less trusting than the kind-hearted dog in the previous fable.

The Faithful House-dog

A Man that's gen'rous all at once
May dupe a novice or a dunce;
But to no purpose are the snares
He for the knowing ones prepares.

When late at night a felon tried
To bribe a Dog with food, he cried,
"What ho! Do you attempt to stop
The mouth of him that guards the shop?
You're mightily mistaken, sir,
For this strange kindness is a spur
To make me double all my din,
Lest such a scoundrel should come in."

You've probably heard the phrase "crocodile tears" about the hypocrisy of the crocodile. This fable features another dangerously deceptive crocodile but, again this dog, like the dog in the previous fable, is not fooled.

The Dog and the Crocodile

Who give bad precepts to the wise,
And cautious men with guile advise,
Not only lose their toil and time,
But slip into sarcastic rhyme.

The dogs that are about the Nile,
Through terror of the Crocodile,
Are therefore said to drink and run.

It happen'd on a day that one,
As scamp'ring by the river side
Was by the Crocodile espied.
"Sir, at your leisure drink, nor fear
The least design or treach'ry here."

"That," says the Dog, "ma'm, would I do
With all my heart, and thank you too,
But as you can on dog's flesh dine,
You shall not taste a bit of mine."

A dog may be wise and also faithful, but when he is old, his master may neglect him, or worse, as this fable shows.

The Old Dog and the Huntsman

A Dog that, time and often tried,
His master always satisfied
And whensoever he assail'd
Against the forest-beasts prevail'd
Both by activity and strength,
Through years began to flag at length.

One day, when hounded at a boar,
His ear he seized, as heretofore,
But with his teeth, decay'd and old,
Could not succeed to keep his hold.

At which the huntsman, much concern'd,
The vet'ran huff'd, who thus return'd:
"My resolution and my aim,
Though not my strength, are still the same;
For what I am if I am chid,
Praise what I was, and what I did."

Next: More Dogs

(600 words)

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