Aesop's Fables: More Gods

The poems on this page are English verse renderings of another ancient poet: the Roman Phaedrus whose Aesopic fables are the oldest collection of Aesop's fables that has survived. You can read more about Phaedrus at Wikipedia.

Again, since poems are not always the most clear at explaining the events of a story, I have provided a brief note for each one.

[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: More Gods

This fable is based on the special association between each tree and its god: Jupiter/Jove (Zeus) and the oak, Venus (Aphrodite) and the myrtle, Apollo and the bay laurel, Cybele and the pine, Hercules and the poplar, and Minerva (Athena) and the olive.

The Trees Protected

The gods took certain trees (th' affair
Was some time since) into their care.
The oak was best approved by Jove,
The myrtle by the queen of love;
The god of music and the day
Vouchsafed to patronise the bay;
The pine Cybele chanced to please,
And the tall poplar Hercules.

Minerva upon this inquired
Why they all barren trees admired.

"The cause," says Jupiter, "is plain:
Lest we give honour up for gain."

"Let every one their fancy suit,
I choose the olive for its fruit."

The sire of gods and men replies,
"Daughter, thou shalt be reckon'd wise
By all the world, and justly too;
For whatsover things we do,
If not a life of useful days,
How vain is all pretence to praise!"

Whate'er experiments you try,
Have some advantage in your eye.

This is an allegory that explains why we are so quick to see the faults of others and so slow to see our own!

The Two Bags

Great Jove, in his paternal care,
Has giv'n a man two Bags to bear;
That which his own default contains
Behind his back unseen remains,
But that which others' vice attests
Swags full in view before our breasts.

Hence we're inevitably blind,
Relating to the Bag behind;
But when our neighbours misdemean,
Our censures are exceeding keen.

Each of the gods has their own special animal, and the peacock is the bird of Juno (Hera), which is why the peacock takes its complaint to the goddess. The peacock in this fable is jealous of the song of Philomela, which is the mythological name of the nightingale.

Juno and the Peacock

Her favorite bird to Juno came,
And was in dudgeon at the dame
That she had not attuned her throat
With Philomela's matchless note;
"She is the wonder of all ears,
But when I speak the audience sneers."

The goddess to the bird replied,
Willing to have him pacified,
"You are above the rest endued
With beauty and with magnitude;
Your neck the emerald's gloss outvies,
And what a blaze of gemmeous dyes
Shines from the plumage of your tail!"

"All this dumb show will not avail,"
Cries he, "if I'm surpass'd in voice."

"The fates entirely have the choice
Of all the lots; fair form is yours.
The eagle's strength his prey secures;
The nightingale can sing an ode;
The crow and raven may forebode:
All these in sheer contentment crave
No other voice than Nature gave."

By affectation be not sway'd
Where Nature has not lent her aid,
Nor to that flattering hope attend
Which must in disappointment end.

(300 words)

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