[Notes by LKG]
These fables are part of the Aesop's Fables (English) unit. Story source: Fables and Satires by Sir Brooke Boothby (1809).
Aesop's Fables: Insects, Fishes, and FrogsThe Ant and the Grasshopper
This is one of Aesop's most famous fables; note the use of the archaic "emmet," an old name for the "ant" in English. Notice how in Boothby's moral for the story, both the grasshopper and the ant are criticized.
From a wise Emmet, well sustain'd
On what her industry had gain'd,
A Grasshopper some aid desir'd.
What was his trade, the Ant inquir'd.
"I've none," the Grasshopper replied;
I range the country far and wide,
Singing all day from door to door,
And have no time to form a store."
Shutting her granaries, says the Ant,
"No wonder, friend, you are in want.
He who all summer sings may chance
In winter to be forc'd to dance."
To spend his time in idle song
The thoughtless Grasshopper was wrong;
And not to give a small supply,
The Emmet mean and niggardly.
Here you have two very similar fables about tiny insects who feel very high and mighty!
The Gnat and the Ox
Cries to an Ox a little Gnat,
As perch'd upon his horn she sat,
"My weight fatigues you, Sir, I fear."
Says Ox, ''I knew not thou wert there.''
A Fly upon a chariot pole
Sees sandy clouds about him roll
And, puft with self-importance, cries,
"The dust I raise obscures the skies!''
The pike is a fierce creature, but no matter how big a fish might be, there's always some fish who is bigger!
The Pike and the Herring
A Pike, of ancient pedigree,
Came from his rivulet to the sea
And, with no title to be vain,
Treated the Sea-fish with disdain.
A Herring then indignant said,
"What folly has thee hither led?
Thou might'st be something in thy stream.
But here thou'lt meet with no esteem.''
Good Landlords, in your counties known.
There rest; ye're of no note in town.
Meanwhile, the next fable shows that even the littlest fish might have some value, depending on how hungry the fisherman is.
The Angler and the Little Fish
An Angler a small Salmon caught,
Who with much earnestness besought
That he would let her go; says she,
"What can you do with such as me!
Next year when grown a little bigger,
I in your bag might make a figure."
The prudent man replied, "No, no;
Into my pouch, though small, you go.
A bird in hand is better far
Than two that in the bushes are."
One of Aesop's favorite themes is hypocrisy, and he finds a perfect example in the crab teaching her daughter to walk straight.
The Crab and her Daughter
Not what they hear but what they see,
Will children and domestics be.
A Crab one day her Daughter chid;
"You never do as you are bid!
Have I not told you o'er and o'er
That awkward gait to use no more?
Learn, ninny, once for all, to know,
Folks forward and not backward go."
"Mama," says Miss, "how strange you talk!
Have I not learnt from you to walk?
Were I to move the other way,
How could I follow you, I pray?"
The next fable creates a contrast by pairing two creatures of the same species: one frog who is reckless, and another frog who is more cautious.
The Two Frogs
Their marsh dried up, two Frogs set out
For some fresh spring to look about.
They come to a deep draw-well's side.
"We here," says one, "may safe abide,
From boys and cranes and fishes free,
In plentiful security."
"Halt," cries the other, "if you please;
'Tis true we can descend with ease,
But if this spring the sun should drain,
Pray how shall we get up again?"
And for the final fable on this page, here is another tale of hypocrisy — this time of a sickly-looking frog who seeks to be physician to the other animals. Reynard the fox, however, is not easily fooled.
The Frog and the Fox
Let us our own defects amend,
Ere to guide others we pretend.
A sallow, wrinkl'd, spotted Frog,
To turn physician left the bog.
He every malady could cure,
He said, that animals endure.
"First on yourself your science shew,"
Says Reynard. "That the world may know
Your skill and knowledge, pray begin
Of those foul spots to clear your skin,
For while you look so sick and pale,
To vend your drugs you'll ne'er prevail."
Next: More Frogs