Friday, May 2, 2014

Aesop's Fables: Fables about People

These poems are from yet another source: Sir Brooke Boothby. You can read more about his life and work at Wikipedia. In his two volumes of Aesopic poetry, he draws on a wide range of Greek and Latin sources for the stories, along with more modern sources too (like the story about the Quaker below). Again, I've provided a brief note for each poem to help make sure the plot of the story comes through!

[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: People




This is the famous story of "the boy who cried wolf."

The Wolf and the Shepherd's Boy

In wantonness a Shepherd's boy
Alarm'd the neighbours with his cry
"The Wolf! the Wolf!" and, when they came,
Of their lost labour made his game.

At last the Wolf, when there indeed,
His real cries they did not heed;
He and his flock a prey were made,
And for his lies he dearly paid.

Those who are known to have deceived,
When they speak truth, are not believ'd.


This is the famous story of "the goose that laid the golden eggs."

The Man and the Goose

He who on sordid gain is bent,
Oft disappoints his own intent.

A man possess'd a wond'rous Goose
That of pure gold did eggs produce.

At once in riches to abound,
He cut her up and nothing found.


This is a story similar to that of the goose that laid the golden eggs, but without any supernatural element. Instead, the woman just wants her hen to lay more regular eggs!

The Housewife and her Hen

A Housewife once a Hen possessed
That every morning in her nest
Left a fine egg. Twice in the day
The beldame wanted her to lay,
And so her nourishment increas'd.
Grown fat, to lay at all she ceas'd.


This is an anecdote about the Greek philosopher Socrates. The fate referred to is the infamous execution of Socrates by the state; you can read about that at Wikipedia.

Socrates and his Friends

The name of friend we often hear;
But the reality is rare.

Good Socrates (O name rever'd
Whose fame and fate I would have shar'd)
A house was building. Says a man,
"Why build you on so small a plan?"

The Sage replies: "Though small, I fear
There's more than room for friends sincere."


This is a fable about Aesop himself! Notice how both Aesop and Socrates rebuke the foolish questions people ask them. Aesop uses a relaxed bow as a symbol for the need that humans likewise have to spend some time in relaxation. The "taw" referred to here is a marble "shooter." You can read more about taws at Wikipedia.

Esop at Play

When an Athenian Esop saw,
Playing with school-boys once at taw,
The man with laughter shook his sides.

Esop the laugher thus derides:
"Of this slack bow before you laid,
The meaning, sprightly Sir," he said,
"Explain!" (A crowd had gather'd round.)

Surpris'd, the man no answer found.
He puzzled long, but all his wit
Could on no explanation hit.

The laugh on Esop's side, says he,
"Why you this bow unbended see,
It is because it needs must break,
If always bent; so we must take
Due relaxation, that the mind
Its vigour may when wanted find."

He who in harmless sport employs
A vacant hour, is not unwise.


In this paradoxical fable a man goes bald thanks to the opposite attentions of his two mistresses.

The Man and his Mistresses

Loving or lov'd, from their good man,
Women take every thing they can.

One somewhat more than middle ag'd,
At once two mistresses engag'd:
One an experienc'd coquette
Who knew with art to spread her net
And seem much younger than she was;
T'other a blooming, buxom lass.

Each, wishing to assimilate
Her man, began to pluck his pate,
As to be comb'd he doting sat;
The young the grey, the old the brown,
Till bald they left his addled crown.


In this fable, the wolf rebukes the shepherds for their hypocrisy.

The Wolf and the Shepherds

The powerful too oft abuse
Rights which to others they refuse.

A prowling Wolf one evening put
His muzzle in a Shepherd's hut
And there at table saw them seated,
To a young lamb's fat quarter treated.

"Aye, aye, 'tis very well," said he,
"Did you at such a feast find me,
The country up in arms would be."


This fable also exposes the hypocrisy of a human being, in this case a Quaker. For the non-violence of the Quaker religion, see Wikipedia.

The Dog and the Quaker

Quakers forbidd'n are by their teachers,
To lift their hand against God's creatures,
But, injur'd, their revenge to take,
Their instruments of others make.

A Dog had stol'n from one of these
His evening mess of bread and cheese.
He struck him not, but calling out
"Mad Dog! Mad Dog!" the rabble rout
Seizing on bludgeons, bricks, and stones,
Pursu'd the Dog, and broke his bones.


This fable exposes the hypocrisy of a trumpeter who claims to be a non-combatant in the war.

The Trumpeter Taken Prisoner

A Trumpeter, in battle ta'en,
Pleading for quarter, urg'd in vain
That none he ever kill'd or wounded.

His plea by all was judg'd unfounded:
"That he who to the war excites
Is more to blame than he who fights;
That like the rest must be his lot,"
And the poor Trumpeter was shot.


In this fable, the satyr interprets the traveler "blowing hot and cold" as a symbol of hypocrisy. For more about Satyrs (also known as Fauns), mythological creatures who are half-man half-goat, see Wikipedia.

The Satyr and the Traveller

Satyrs and Fauns the poets feign'd
In woods and forests that remain'd,
Of rustic manners, plain and true,
The wiles of men who little knew.

A Traveller, having lost his way,
Met one of those one winter's day;
A hearty welcome to his cave
The hospitable Satyr gave.

The Traveller, half froze to death,
Blew on his fingers with his breath.

"Why do you so?" the Sylvan cried;

"To warm my hands," the man replied.

Then near a fire his guest he seated,
And soon some rustic porridge heated.
In haste, and not to scald his mouth,
The hungry Traveller blew the broth.

"Why blow you now?" the Satyr cries;

"To cool the soup," the man replies.

"How!" says the Sylvan, "cold and hot?
Why what a knave we here have got!
Begone! No intercourse I hold
With him that blows both hot and cold."







(700 words)




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