“’Twas the Golden Age when
Had voice articulate, in speech was skilled,
And the mid-forests with its synods filled.
The tongues of rock and pine-leaf then were free;
To ship and sailor then would speak the sea;
Sparrows with farmers would shrewd talk maintain;
Earth gave all fruits, nor asked for toil again.
Mortals and gods were wont to mix as friends—
To which conclusion all the teaching tends
Of sage old Aesop.”
THE FABLES OF AESOP
The Power of Fables
Demades, a famous Greek orator, was once addressing an assembly at Athens on a subject of great importance, and in vain tried to fix the attention of his hearers. They laughed among themselves, watched the sports of the children, and in twenty other ways showed their want of interest in the subject of the discourse.
Demades, after a short pause, spoke as follows:
“Ceres one day journeyed in company with a Swallow and an Eel.” At this there was marked attention and every ear strained now to catch the words of the orator. “The party came to a river,” continued he; “the Eel swam across, and the Swallow flew over.” He then resumed the subject of his harangue.
A great cry, however, arose from the people, “And Ceres? and Ceres?” cried they. “What did Ceres do?”
“Why, the goddess was, as she is now,” replied he, “mightily offended that people should have their ears open to any sort of foolery, and shut to words of truth and wisdom.”
A hungry Wolf one day saw a Lamb drinking at a stream, and wished to frame some plausible excuse for making him his prey.
“What do you mean by muddling the water I am going to drink?” fiercely said he to the Lamb.
“Pray forgive me,” meekly answered the Lamb; “I should be sorry in any way to displease you, but as the stream runs from you toward me, you will see that such cannot be the case.”
“That’s all very well,” said the Wolf; “but you know you spoke ill of me behind my back a year ago.”
“Nay, believe me,” replied the Lamb, “I was not then born.”
“It must have been your brother, then,” growled the Wolf.
“It cannot have been, for I never had any,” answered the Lamb.
“I know it was one of your lot,” rejoined the Wolf, “so make no more such idle excuses.” He then seized the poor Lamb, carried him off to the woods, and ate him, but before the poor creature died he gasped out, feebly, “Any excuse will serve a tyrant.”
A merchant, who was at one time Aesop’s master, on a certain occasion ordered all things to be made ready for an intended journey. When the burdens were divided among the Servants, Aesop asked that he might have the lightest. He was told to choose for himself, and he took up the basket of bread. The other Servants laughed, for that was the largest and heaviest of all the burdens.