The Dog and His Treasure: A Fable about Priorities

Phaedrus, 1.27

“This tale has something to say to the greedy
And those who want to be  rich, though born needy.

A dog was digging up human bones when he found
A treasure and, because he offended the gods in the ground,
He was struck by a love of riches he couldn’t forget
To pay sacred religion back this debt.

And so, the dog thought not of food as he guarded his gold
And he died from hunger, and as a vulture took hold
he reportedly said, “Dog, you deserve it—
To lie there when you wanted royal wealth
After you were born in a gutter and raised on shit!”

dog

I.27. Canis et Thesaurus

Haec res avaris esse conveniens potest,
et qui, humiles nati, dici locupletes student.
Humana effodiens ossa thesaurum canis
invenit, et, violarat quia Manes deos,
iniecta est illi divitiarum cupiditas,
poenas ut sanctae religioni penderet.
Itaque, aurum dum custodit oblitus cibi,
fame est consumptus. Quem stans vulturius super
fertur locutus “O canis, merito iaces,
qui concupisti subito regales opes,
trivio conceptus, educatus stercore”.

New Beatings in Death

“You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?”

Modest Mouse, “Ocean Breathes Salty”

Phaedrus, Fabulae 4. 2

“Whoever is born unlucky not only leads a sad life
But is stalked by fate’s harsh sorrow in death too.
Cybele’s priests, the Gallia, on their begging tour
Used to lead an ass to drag around their baggage.
When he died thanks to work and beatings
They made tambourines of his stripped skin.
When some people asked what they did
to their own pet they said,

“He believed that he’d rest with his last breath
But look, he attracts new beatings in death!”

Qui natus est infelix, non vitam modo
tristem decurrit, verum post obitum quoque
persequitur illum dura fati miseria.
Galli Cybebes circum in questus ducere
asinum solebant, baiulantem sarcinas.
is cum labore et plagis esset mortuus,
detracta pelle sibi fecerunt tympana,
rogati mox a quodam, delicio suo
quidnam fecissent, hoc locuti sunt modo:
“Putabat se post mortem securum fore:
ecce aliae plagae congeruntur mortuo!”

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 3630, Folio 84r [from bestiary.ca]

The Fat Dog and Its Collar: A Fable for Our times

Babrius, Fable 100

A super fat dog and a wolf once met
Who was asking him where he was fed
To become a dog so big and filled with grease.
“It is a rich man” he said, “who is feeding me”.
“But,” asked the wolf, “why is your neck so bare?”
“there’s an iron collar which wears my skin there,
A collar which my feeder forged and placed.”
The wolf laughed at him and said to his face:
“I say this kind of luxury can go to heck,
The kind of life where iron wears down my neck.”

Λύκῳ συνήντα πιμελὴς κύων λίην.
ὁ δ᾿ αὐτὸν ἐξήταζε, ποῦ τραφεὶς οὕτως
μέγας κύων ἐγένετο καὶ λίπους πλήρης.
“ἄνθρωπος” εἶπε “δαψιλής με σιτεύει.”
“ὁ δέ σοι τράχηλος” εἶπε “πῶς ἐλευκώθη;”
“κλοιῷ τέτριπται σάρκα τῷ σιδηρείῳ,
ὃν ὁ τροφεύς μοι περιτέθεικε χαλκεύσας.”
λύκος δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ καγχάσας “ἐγὼ τοίνυν
χαίρειν κελεύω” φησί “τῇ τρυφῇ ταύτῃ,
δι᾿ ἣν σίδηρος τὸν ἐμὸν αὐχένα τρίψει.”

Aesop's Fables: The Dog and the Wolf by xCailinMurre
Image from Deviant Art, xCailinMurre

Bad Planning and Disasters

Aesop: The Monkey and the Fisherman: ΑΛΙΕΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΘΗΞ

“Some fisherman was setting is net for fish along the seashore. A monkey was watching him and wanted to copy what he was doing. When the man went into some cave to take a nap and left his net on the beach, the monkey came down, and was trying to fish in the same way. Ignorant of the skill, he was using the net poorly and just wrapped it all around himself. He immediately fell into the sea and drowned. When the fisherman found him already drowning, he said, “fool, your ignorance and bad planning ruined you.”

The moral of the story is that people who try to imitate acts beyond their ability bring disaster upon themselves.”

ἀνήρ τις ἁλιεὺς παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν ἄγραν ἰχθύων ἐποίει. πίθηξ δέ τις αὐτὸν κατιδὼν ἐκμιμήσασθαι ἠβουλήθη. τοῦ δὲ ἀνδρὸς ἐν σπηλαίῳ τινὶ ἑαυτὸν εἰσελθόντος διαναπαῦσαι καὶ τὸ δίκτυον παρὰ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν καταλιπόντος ἐλθὼν

ὁ πίθηξ καὶ τοῦ δικτύου λαβόμενος ἀγρεῦσαι δῆθεν δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐπεχείρει. ἀγνώστως δὲ τῇ τέχνῃ καὶ ἀσυντάκτως χρώμενος καὶ τῷ δικτύῳ περισχεθεὶς ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης εὐθὺς πέπτωκε καὶ ἀπεπνίγη. ὁ δὲ ἁλιεὺς καταλαβὼν αὐτὸν ἤδη ἀποπνιγέντα ἔφη· „ὦ ἄθλιε, ὤλεσέ σε ἡ ἀφροσύνη καὶ ἡ ματαία ἐπίνοια.”

     ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ, ὡς οἱ τὰ ὑπὲρ αὐτοὺς μιμεῖσθαι πειρώμενοι ἑαυτοῖς ἐντεῦθεν ἐπάγουσι κινδύνους.

 

A Predator and His Council: A Fable for Our Times

Phaedrus 2.6: The Eagle and the Crow

“Against those in power, no one has enough defense
If a wicked adviser also enters the scene
His power and malice ruins their opposition.
An eagle carried a tortoise on high,
When he pulled his body in his armored home to hide,
And rested hidden untouched by any attack,
A crow came on a breeze flying near them:

“You have well seized a precious prize with your talons,
But, if I don’t show what you need to do,
It will pointlessly wear you out with its heavy weight.”

Promised a portion, the crow instructs the eagle to drop
The hard shell from the stars upon a cliff’s rock.
It would be easy to feed on the broken flesh!

The eagle followed up these wicked instructions
And also split the feast with her teacher.
Just so, the tortoise who was safe by nature’s gift.
Was ill-matched to those two and died a sad death.”

Contra potentes nemo est munitus satis;
si vero accessit consiliator maleficus,
vis et nequitia quicquid oppugnant, ruit.
Aquila in sublime sustulit testudinem:
quae cum abdidisset cornea corpus domo,
nec ullo pacto laedi posset condita,
venit per auras cornix, et propter volans
“Opimam sane praedam rapuisti unguibus;
sed, nisi monstraro quid sit faciendum tibi,
gravi nequiquam te lassabit pondere.”
promissa parte suadet ut scopulum super
altis ab astris duram inlidat corticem,
qua comminuta facile vescatur cibo.
inducta vafris aquila monitis paruit,
simul et magistrae large divisit dapem.
sic tuta quae naturae fuerat munere,
impar duabus, occidit tristi nece.

Image result for medieval manuscript eagle and crow and tortoise

The Sweetest Day and the Marriage of the Sun

Homer, Od. 6.181-185

“May the gods grant as much as you desire in your thoughts,
A husband and home, and may they give you fine likemindness,
For nothing is better and stronger than this
When two people who are likeminded in their thoughts share a home,
A man and a wife—this brings many pains for their enemies
And joys to their friends. And the gods listen to them especially”

σοὶ δὲ θεοὶ τόσα δοῖεν, ὅσα φρεσὶ σῇσι μενοινᾷς,
ἄνδρα τε καὶ οἶκον, καὶ ὁμοφροσύνην ὀπάσειαν
ἐσθλήν· οὐ μὲν γὰρ τοῦ γε κρεῖσσον καὶ ἄρειον,
ἢ ὅθ’ ὁμοφρονέοντε νοήμασιν οἶκον ἔχητον
ἀνὴρ ἠδὲ γυνή· πόλλ’ ἄλγεα δυσμενέεσσι,
χάρματα δ’ εὐμενέτῃσι· μάλιστα δέ τ’ ἔκλυον αὐτοί.

Hipponax, Fr. 68

“A woman has two days which are the sweetest:
When someone marries her and when someone carries her out dead.”

δύ᾿ ἡμέραι γυναικός εἰσιν ἥδισται,
ὅταν γαμῇ τις κἀκφέρῃ τεθνηκυῖαν.

Babrius, Fable 24: Frogs at the Sun’s Wedding

“It was the time of the wedding of the summer Sun
And the animals held charming revels for the god.
Even the frogs were putting on choruses in their pond.
But a toad stopped and said to them, “this is no time
For our hymns of praise! This is for worry and grief.
For the sun nearly dries up every pool when he is alone—
What kind of evils we will suffer if, once he’s married,
He fathers a child who is something like himself?

Many people, thanks to an excess of empty-headedness
Delight at things which in the future they will not love, to the extreme.”

Γάμοι μὲν ἦσαν Ἡλίου θέρους ὥρῃ,
τὰ ζῷα δ᾿ ἱλαροὺς ἦγε τῷ θεῷ κώμους.
καὶ βάτραχοι δὲ λιμνάδας χοροὺς ἦγον·
οὓς εἶπε παύσας φρῦνος “οὐχὶ παιάνων
τοῦτ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡμῖν, φροντίδων δὲ καὶ λύπης·
ὃς γὰρ μόνος νῦν λιβάδα πᾶσαν αὐαίνει,
τί μὴ πάθωμεν τῶν κακῶν ἐὰν γήμας
ὅμοιον αὑτῷ παιδίον τι γεννήσῃ;”
Χαίρουσι πολλοὶ τῶν ὑπερβολῇ κούφων
ἐφ᾿ οἷς ἄγαν μέλλουσιν οὐχὶ χαιρήσειν.

Euripides,  Fr. 464

“Get married already, get married, and then die
Either by poison or a trick from your wife.”

γαμεῖτε νῦν, γαμεῖτε, κᾆτα θνῄσκετε
ἢ φαρμάκοισιν ἐκ γυναικὸς ἢ δόλοις.

Hipponax Fr. 182

“The strongest marriage for a wise man
Is to take a woman of noble character—
This dowry alone safeguards a home.
[But whoever takes a fancy woman home…]

The wise man has a partner instead of a mistress
A woman with a good mind, reliable for a lifetime.”

γάμος κράτιστός ἐστιν ἀνδρὶ σώφρονι
τρόπον γυναικὸς χρηστὸν ἕδνον λαμβάνειν·
αὕτη γὰρ ἡ προὶξ οἰκίαν σώιζει μόνη.
ὅστις δὲ †τρυφῶς τὴν γυναῖκ’ ἄγει λαβών

<                                 >

συνεργὸν οὗτος ἀντὶ δεσποίνης ἔχει
εὔνουν, βεβαίαν εἰς ἅπαντα τὸν βίον.

Image result for Ancient Greek wedding vase
Wedding Procession on an oil flask

The Dog and His Treasure: A Fable about Priorities

Phaedrus, 1.27

“This tale has something to say to the greedy
And those who want to be  rich, though born needy.

A dog was digging up human bones when he found
A treasure and, because he offended the gods in the ground,
He was struck by a love of riches he couldn’t forget
To pay sacred religion back this debt.

And so, the dog thought not of food as he guarded his gold
And he died from hunger, and as a vulture took hold
he reportedly said, “Dog, you deserve it—
To lie there when you wanted royal wealth
After you were born in a gutter and raised on shit!”

dog

I.27. Canis et Thesaurus

Haec res avaris esse conveniens potest,
et qui, humiles nati, dici locupletes student.
Humana effodiens ossa thesaurum canis
invenit, et, violarat quia Manes deos,
iniecta est illi divitiarum cupiditas,
poenas ut sanctae religioni penderet.
Itaque, aurum dum custodit oblitus cibi,
fame est consumptus. Quem stans vulturius super
fertur locutus “O canis, merito iaces,
qui concupisti subito regales opes,
trivio conceptus, educatus stercore”.

The Exploding Frog, A Fable

Phaedrus 1.24 The Exploding Frog

“A poor man, when he tries to imitate the powerful, dies.
Once in a meadow a frog saw a bull
Whose great size exerted on her such a pull
That she inflated her wrinkled skin and asked
Her children whether she was bigger than that.
They denied it and she puffed herself out self again
But when she asked who was bigger, they said “him”.
Finally angry, she didn’t want to blow it,
She puffed again and her body exploded.”

frog

I.24. Rana Rupta

Inops, potentem dum vult imitari, perit.
In prato quondam rana conspexit bovem,
et tacta invidia tantae magnitudinis
rugosam inflavit pellem. Tum natos suos
interrogavit an bove esset latior.
Illi negarunt. Rursus intendit cutem
maiore nisu, et simili quaesivit modo,
quis maior esset. Illi dixerunt “bovem”.
Novissime indignata, dum vult validius
inflare sese, rupto iacuit corpore.

Four Years of the Best Greatness: Bragging About Fake Accomplishments, Another Fable for Our Times

Phaedrus I.22. Mustela et Homo

“A weasel was caught by a man and to avoid
Coming death, was begging him “Spare me, please
Since I rid your home of pestilent mice.”
And he responded, “if you did this for me
I would be grateful and do for you something nice.
But since you do these favors to enjoy the remains
Which the mice leave behind when you eat them too
Don’t ask me to do anything kind for you!”

He said this and sentenced the wicked weasel to die.

There are those who should know this tale is about them:
Their private business safeguards their own affairs
And they brag about accomplishments that are not there.”

A Weasel

Mustela ab homine prensa, cum instantem necem
effugere vellet, “Parce, quaeso”, inquit “mihi,
quae tibi molestis muribus purgo domum”.
Respondit ille “Faceres si causa mea,
gratum esset et dedissem veniam supplici.
Nunc quia laboras ut fruaris reliquiis,
quas sunt rosuri, simul et ipsos devores,
noli imputare vanum beneficium mihi”.
Atque ita locutus improbam leto dedit.
Hoc in se dictum debent illi agnoscere,
quorum privata servit utilitas sibi,
et meritum inane iactant imprudentibus.

Four Years of Presidential Memories: “The Criminal We Selected,” Another Fable for Our Time

Phaedrus 1.31 Kite and doves

“Whoever trusts a dishonest man to keep him safe,
Discovers ruin where he thought he would find aid.
When the doves were often fleeing from the kite
And were avoiding death by wings’ rapid flight
The kite turned his plans toward deceit
And tricked the silly race with this conceit:
“Why do you live a live with so much worrying,
When with a simple oath, you could make me king?
I would keep you safe from every harm?”
Believing him, they put their safety in his arms.
Once he gained the realm he ate them one by one
And exercised his power with the harshest talons.
Then one of the remaining doves reflected,
“We deserve this: we gave our life to a criminal we selected.”

kite

I.31 Milvus et Columbae

Qui se committit homini tutandum improbo,
auxilia dum requirit, exitium invenit.
Columbae saepe cum fugissent milvum,
et celeritate pinnae vitassent necem,
consilium raptor vertit ad fallaciam,
et genus inerme tali decepit dolo:
“Quare sollicitum potius aevum ducitis
quam regem me creatis icto foedere,
qui vos ab omni tutas praestem iniuria?”
Illae credentes tradunt sese milvo.
Qui regnum adeptus coepit vesci singulas,
et exercere imperium saevis unguibus.
Tunc de reliquis una “Merito plectimur,
huic spiritum praedoni quae commisimus”.