1. Education

Aesop's Fables


Translated by George Fyler Townsend

Preface | Life of Aesop | Aesop's Fables Contents

FOOTNOTES

1 A History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, by K. O. Mueller. Vol. i, p. l9l. London, Parker, 1858. 2 Select Fables of Aesop, and other Fabulists. In three books, translated by Robert Dodsley, accompanied with a selection of notes, and an Essay on Fable. Birmingham, 1864. P. 60. 3 Some of these fables had, no doubt, in the first instance, a primary and private interpretation. On the first occasion of their being composed they were intended to refer to some passing event, or to some individual acts of wrong-doing. Thus, the fables of the "Eagle and the Fox" and of the "Fox and Monkey' are supposed to have been written by Archilochus, to avenge the injuries done him by Lycambes. So also the fables of the "Swollen Fox" and of the "Frogs asking a King" were spoken by Aesop for the immediate purpose of reconciling the inhabitants of Samos and Athens to their respective rulers, Periander and Pisistratus; while the fable of the "Horse and Stag" was composed to caution the inhabitants of Himera against granting a bodyguard to Phalaris. In a similar manner, the fable from Phaedrus, the "Marriage of the Sun," is supposed to have reference to the contemplated union of Livia, the daughter of Drusus, with Sejanus the favourite, and minister of Trajan. These fables, however, though thus originating in special events, and designed at first to meet special circumstances, are so admirably constructed as to be fraught with lessons of general utility, and of universal application. 4 Hesiod. Opera et Dies, verse 202. 5 Aeschylus. Fragment of the Myrmidons. Aeschylus speaks of this fable as existing before his day. See Scholiast on the Aves of Aristophanes, line 808. 6 Fragment. 38, ed. Gaisford. See also Mueller's History of the Literature of Ancient Greece, vol. i. pp. 190-193. 7 M. Bayle has well put this in his account of Aesop. "Il n'y a point d'apparence que les fables qui portent aujourd'hui son nom soient les memes qu'il avait faites; elles viennent bien de lui pour la plupart, quant a la matiere et la pensee; mais les paroles sont d'un autre." And again, "C'est donc a Hesiode, que j'aimerais mieux attribuer la gloire de l'invention; mais sans doute il laissa la chose tres imparfaite. Esope la perfectionne si heureusement, qu'on l'a regarde comme le vrai pere de cette sorte de production." M. Bayle. Dictionnaire Historique. 8 Plato in Ph2done. 9 Apologos en! misit tibi Ab usque Rheni limite Ausonius nomen Italum Praeceptor Augusti tui Aesopiam trimetriam; Quam vertit exili stylo Pedestre concinnans opus Fandi Titianus artifex. Ausonii Epistola, xvi. 75-80. 10 Both these publications are in the British Museum, and are placed in the library in cases under glass, for the inspection of the curious. ll Fables may possibly have been not entirely unknown to the mediaeval scholars. There are two celebrated works which might by some be classed amongst works of this description. The one is the "Speculum Sapientiae," attributed to St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem, but of a considerably later origin, and existing only in Latin. It is divided into four books, and consists of long conversations conducted by fictitious characters under the figures the beasts of the field and forest, and aimed at the rebuke of particular classes of men, the boastful, the proud, the luxurious, the wrathful, &c. None of the stories are precisely those of Aesop, and none have the concinnity, terseness, and unmistakable deduction of the lesson intended to be taught by the fable, so conspicuous in the great Greek fabulist. The exact title of the book is this: "Speculum Sapientiae, B. Cyrilli Episcopi: alias quadripartitus apologeticus vocatus, in cujus quidem proverbiis omnis et totius sapientiae speculum claret et feliciter incipit." The other is a larger work in two volumes, published in the fourteenth century by Caesar Heisterbach, a Cistercian monk, under the title of "Dialogus Miraculorum," reprinted in 1851. This work consists of conversations in which many stories are interwoven on all kinds of subjects. It has no correspondence with the pure Aesopian fable. 12 Post-medieval Preachers, by S. Baring-Gould. Rivingtons, 1865. 13 For an account of this work see the Life of Poggio Bracciolini, by the Rev. William Shepherd. Liverpool. 1801. 14 Professor Theodore Bergh. See Classical Museum, No. viii. July, 1849. 15 Vavassor's treatise, entitled "De Ludicra Dictione" was written A.D. 1658, at the request of the celebrated M. Balzac (though published after his death), for the purpose of showing that the burlesque style of writing adopted by Scarron and D'Assouci, and at that time so popular in France, had no sanction from the ancient classic writers. Francisci Vavassoris opera omnia. Amsterdam. 1709. 16 The claims of Babrias also found a warm advocate in the learned Frenchman, M. Bayle, who, in his admirable dictionary, (Dictionnaire Historique et Critique de Pierre Bayle. Paris, 1820,) gives additional arguments in confirmation of the opinions of his learned predecessors, Nevelet and Vavassor. 17 Scazonic, or halting, iambics; a choliambic (a lame, halting iambic) differs from the iambic Senarius in always having a spondee or trichee for its last foot; the fifth foot, to avoid shortness of meter, being generally an iambic. See Fables of Babrias, translated by Rev. James Davies. Lockwood, 1860. Preface, p. 27. 18 See Dr. Bentley's Dissertations upon the Epistles of Phalaris. 19 Dr. Bentley's Dissertations on the Epistles of Phalaris, and Fables of Aesop examined. By the Honorable Charles Boyle.

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