I will create a fiction which shall express great things! 

A certain man gave up associating with one of his friends because the latter had a habit of talking maliciously against all his friends. This friend whom he had left was once reproaching him, and after many complaints besought him to tell him the reason that had caused him to lose the recollection of so great a friendship as theirs; to which he made reply: I am not willing to be seen in your company any more because I like you, and I do not wish that by talking maliciously to others of me who am your friend, you may cause them to form a bad impression of you, as I have, through your talking maliciously to them of me who am your friend. Consequently as we have no more to do with each other it will appear that we have become enemies, and the fact that you talk of me maliciously, as is your habit, will not be so much worthy of rebuke as if we were constantly in each other's company. c.a. 306 v. b 

Dear Benedetto, — To give you the news of the things here from the east, you must know that in the month of June there appeared a giant who came from the Libyan desert. This giant was born on Mount Atlas, and was black, and he fought against Artaxerxes with the Egyptians and Arabs, the Medes and Persians; he lived in the sea upon the whales, the great leviathans and the ships. When the savage giant fell by reason of the ground being covered over with blood and mire, it seemed as though a mountain had fallen; whereat the country [shook] as though there were an earthquake, with terror to Pluto in Hell, and Mars fearing for his life fled for refuge under the side of Jove. 1 

1 MS., Marte temedo dela vita sera fugito sotto lato dj giove. These words in Leonardo's writing occur at the side and are not found in the ranscript of the Italian edition. I have ventured to insert them where they seemed to fit the sense best, and also to change the order of some of the sentences which are written in the margin. 

And from the violence of the shock he lay prostrate on the level ground as though stunned; until suddenly the people believing that he had been killed by some thunderbolt, began to turn about his great beard; and like a flock of ants that range about hither and thither furiously among the brambles beaten down by the axe of the sturdy peasant, so these are hurrying about over his huge limbs and piercing them with frequent wounds. 

At this the giant being roused and, perceiving himself to be almost covered by the crowd, suddenly on feeling himself smarting from their stabs, uttered a roar which seemed as though it were a terrific peal of thunder, and set his hands on the ground and lifted up his awe inspiring countenance; and then placing one of his hands upon his head, he perceived it to be covered with men sticking to the hairs after the fashion of tiny creatures which are sometimes harboured there, and who, as they clung to the hairs and strove to hide among them, were like sailors in a storm who mount the rigging in order to lower the sail and lessen the force of the wind; and at this point he shook his head and sent the men flying through the air after the manner of hail when it is driven by the fury of the winds, and many of these men were found to be killed by those who fell on them like a tempest. Then he stood erect, trampling upon them with his feet. c.a. 311 r. a 

Note. — This and the two pieces that follow seem parts of a fantastic tale written in the form of letters. 

The black visage at first sight is most horrible and terrifying to look upon, especially the swollen and bloodshot eyes set beneath the awful lowering eyebrows which cause the sky to be overcast and the earth to tremble. 

And believe me there is no man so brave but that, when the fiery eyes were turned upon him, he would willingly have put on wings in order to escape, for the face of infernal Lucifer would seem angelic by contrast with this. 

The nose was turned up in a snout with wide nostrils and sticking out of these were quantities of large bristles, beneath which was the arched mouth, with the thick lips, at whose extremities were hairs like those of cats, and the teeth were yellow; and from the top of his instep he towered above the heads of men on horseback. 

And as his cramped position had been irksome, and in order to rid himself of the importunity of the throng, his rage turned to frenzy, and he began to let his feet give vent to the frenzy which possessed his mighty limbs, and entering in among the crowd he began by his kicks to toss men up in the air, so that they fell down again upon the rest, as though there had been a thick storm of hail, and many were those who in dying dealt out death. And this barbarity continued until such time as the dust stirred up by his great feet, rising up in the air, compelled his infernal fury to abate, while we continued our flight. Alas, how many attacks were made upon this raging fiend to whom every onslaught was as nothing. O wretched folk, for you there avail not the impregnable fortresses, nor the lofty walls of your cities, nor the being together in great numbers, nor your houses or palaces! There remained not any place unless it were the tiny holes and subterranean caverns where after the manner of crabs and crickets and creatures like these you might find safety and a means of escape. Oh, how many wretched mothers and fathers were deprived of their children! How many unhappy women were deprived of their companions! In truth, my dear Benedetto, I do not believe that ever since the world was created there has been witnessed such lamentation and wailing of people, accompaned by so great terror. In truth, the human species in such a plight has need to envy every other race of creatures; for though the eagle has strength sufficient to subdue the other birds, they yet remain unconquered through the rapidity of their flight, and so the swallows through their speed escape becoming the prey of the falcon, and the dolphins also by their swift flight escape becoming the prey of the whales and of the mighty leviathans; but for us wretched mortals there avails not any flight, since this monster when advancing slowly far exceeds the speed of the swiftest courser. 

I know not what to say or do, for everywhere I seem to find myself swimming with bent head within the mighty throat and remaining indistinguishable in death, buried within the huge belly. c.a. 96 v. b 
[A fantasy {in Brobdingnag)] 

He was blacker than a hornet: his eyes were as red as a burning fire and he rode on a big stallion six spans across and more than twenty long; with six giants tied to his saddle bow and one in his hand which he gnawed with his teeth; and behind him came boars with tusks sticking out of their mouths, perhaps ten spans. i 139 [91] r. 

The gentle friar was charmed and delighted: he has already obliged the philosophers to search for our cause in order to feed the intellect. m 80 v. 

A workman who was in the habit of often going to wait upon a certain lord without having any petition to make to him, was asked by the lord what his purpose was in coming; he replied that he went there to have one of the pleasures that he could not have, for it gave him pleasure to look at people who were grander than himself, as is the way with common folk, whereas the lord could only look at people who were of less account than himself, and consequently lords were cut off from this pleasure. Forster in 34 v. 



'You should often amuse yourself when you take a wall for recreation, in watching and taking note of the attitudes and actions of men as they alJ^ and dispute, or laugh or come to blows one with another, both their actions and those of the bystanders who either intervene or stand loohjng on at these things! 


A priest while going the round of his parish on the Saturday before Easter in order to sprinkle the houses with holy water as was his custom, coming to the studio of a painter, and there beginning to sprinkle the water upon some of his pictures, the painter turning round with some annoyance asked him why he sprinkled his pictures in this manner. The priest replied that it was the custom and that it was his duty to act thus, that he was doing a good deed and that whoever did a good deed might expect a recompense as great or even greater; for so God had promised that for every good deed which we do on the earth we shall be rewarded a hundredfold from on high. Then the painter, having waited until the priest had made his exit, stepped to the window above and threw a large bucket of water down on to his back, calling out to him: — 'See there is the reward that comes to you a hundredfold from on high as you said it would, on account of the good deed you did me with your holy water with which you have half ruined my pictures'. c.a. 119 r. a 

The Franciscan friars at certain seasons have periods of fasting, during which no meat is eaten in their monasteries, but if they are on a journey, as they are then living on almsgiving, they are allowed to eat whatever is set before them. Now a couple of these friars travelling under these conditions chanced to alight at an inn at the same time as a certain merchant and sat down at the same table, and on account of the poverty of the inn nothing was served there except one roasted cockerel. At this the merchant as he saw that it would be scant fare for himself turned to the friars and said: — 'On days like these if I remember rightly you are not permitted in your monasteries to eat any kind of meat.' The friars on hearing these words were constrained by their rule to admit without any attempt at argument that this was indeed the case: so the merchant had his desire and devoured the chicken, and the friars fared as best they could. 

Now after having dined in this wise all three table-companions set 
out on their journey together, and having gone a certain distance they 
came to a river of considerable breadth and depth, and as they were 
all three on foot, the friars by reason of their poverty and the other 
from niggardliness, it was necessary according to the custom of the 
country that one of the friars who had no shoes and stockings should 
carry the merchant on his shoulders; and consequently the friar hav- 
ing given him his clogs to hold took the man on his back. But as it 
so happened the friar when he found himself in the middle of the 
stream bethought himself of another of his rules, and coming to a 
standstill after the manner of St. Christopher raised his head towards 
him who was weighing heavily upon him and said: — 'Just te ^ me > 
have you any money about you?' 'Why you know quite well that I 
have/ replied the other. 'How do you suppose a merchant like me 
could travel about otherwise?' 'Alas!' said the friar, 'our rule forbids 
us to carry any money on our backs'; and he instantly threw him into 
the water. 

As the merchant was conscious that this was done as a jest and out 
of revenge for the injury he had done them he smiled pleasantly and 
pacifically, and blushing considerably from shame he endured their 
revenge. c.a. 150 v. b 

If Petrarch loved the laurel so much it was because it is good with sausages and thrushes; I don't attach any value to their trifles. 

Tr. 1 a 

Frati santi spells Pharisees. 1 Tr. 63 a 1 MS. jarisei. 




On an old man openly reviling a young one and boldly proclaiming that he had no fear of him, the young one made answer that his advanced age served him better as a protection than either his tongue or his strength. Tr. 71 a 

Why the Hungarians keep the double cross. h 62 [14] v. 

A man wishing to prove on the authority of Pythagoras that he had 
been in the world on a former occasion, and another not allowing him 
to conclude his argument, the first man said to the second: — 'And this 
is a token that I was here on a former occasion, I remember that you 
were a miller.' The other who felt provoked by his words agreed that 
it was true, for he also remembered as a token that the speaker had 
been the ass which had carried the flour for him. 

A painter was asked why he had made his children so ugly, when 
his figures which were dead things he had made so beautiful. His reply 
was that he made his pictures by day and his children at night. 

M 58 V. 

A sick man who was at the point of death heard someone knocking 
at the door, and on his asking one of his servants who it was who was 
knocking at the door, this servant made answer that it was someone 
who called herself Madame Bona. 

Whereat the sick man raised his arms to heaven and praised God 
with a loud voice, and then told the servants to let her in immediately 
in order that he might see a good woman before he died, because in 
all his life he had never seen one. Forster 11 30 v. 

It was said to someone that he should rise from his bed because the 
sun had already risen; to which he made answer: — 'If I had to make as 
long a journey and to do as much as he I too should have already 
risen; but as I have such a short way to go I do not wish to get up 
yet awhile.' Forster 11 31 r. 


'The mirror bears itself proudly, holding the queen mirrored within it, and after she has departed the mirror remains abject.' 


The privet on feeling its tender branches, laden with new fruit, pricked by the sharp claws and beak of the troublesome blackbird, complained to her with pitiful reproaches, beseeching her that even if she plucked off her delicious fruit she would at any rate not deprive her of her leaves which protected her from the scorching rays of the sun, nor with her sharp claws rend away and strip bare her tender bark. 

But to this the blackbird replied with insolent rebuke: — 'Silence! rude bramble! Know you not that Nature has made you to produce these fruits for my sustenance ? Cannot you see that you came into the world in order to supply me with this very food? Know you not, vile thing that you are, that next winter you will serve as sustenance and food for the fire?' To which words the tree listened patiently and not without tears. 

But a short time afterwards the blackbird was caught in a net, and some boughs were cut to make a cage in order to imprison her, and among the rest were some cut from the tender privet to serve for the rods of the cage; and these on perceiving that they would be the cause of the blackbird being deprived of liberty rejoiced and uttered these words: — 'We are here, O blackbird, not yet consumed by the fire as you said; we shall see you in prison before you see us burnt.' 

The laurel and the myrtle, on seeing the pear-tree being cut down, cried out with a loud voice: — 'O pear-tree, where are you going? Where is the pride that you had when you were laden with ripe fruit ? Now you will no longer make shade for us with your thick foliage.' Then the pear-tree replied: — 'I am going with the husbandman who is cutting me down and who will take me to the workshop of a good sculptor, who by his art will cause me to assume the form of the god Jove, and I shall be dedicated in a temple and worshipped by men in place of Jove. While you are obliged to remain always maimed and stripped of your branches which men shall set around me in order to do me honour.' 

The chestnut seeing a man upon the fig-tree bending its branches clown towards himself and picking ofT their ripe fruit and putting it in his mouth, tearing it asunder and crushing it with his hard teeth, shook its boughs and said in a mournful whisper: — 'O fig-tree, how much less favoured by Nature are you than I. Look how with me my sweet children all are arranged in close order, clothed first with a fine jacket over which is set the hard rough husk; and not content with conferring such benefits on me she has given them a strong dwelling, and set about it sharp close prickles so that the hands of man may not be able to harm me.' At this the fig-tree and her children began to laugh, and when they had finished laughing she said : — 'Know that man is of such a disposition that, as you have found, by means of rods and stones and sticks thrown into your branches he will deprive you of your fruit, and after it has fallen will crush it with his feet or with stones, in such a way that your offspring will issue forth from their armoured house crushed and bruised. But I am touched carefully by his hands and not as you are with sticks and stones.' 

The idle fluttering moth, not contented with its power to fly wherever it pleased through the air, enthralled by the seductive flame of the candle, resolved to fly into it, and its joyous movement was the occasion of instant mourning. For in the said flame its delicate wings were consumed, and the wretched moth having fallen down at the foot of the candlestick, all burnt, after much weeping and contrition, wiped the tears from its streaming eyes, and lifting up its face exclaimed: — 'O false light, how many are there like me who have been miserably deceived by you in times past! Alas! If my one desire was to behold the light, ought I not to have distinguished the sun from the false glimmer of filthy tallow?' 

A nut which found itself carried by a crow to the top of a lofty campanile, having there fallen into a crevice and so escaped its deadly beak, besought the wall by that grace which God had bestowed upon it in causing it to be so exalted and great, and so rich in having bells of such beauty and of such mellow tone, that it would deign to give it succour; that insomuch as it had not been able to drop beneath its old father's green branches and lie in the fallow earth covered by his fallen leaves the wall would not abandon it, for when it found itself in the fierce crow's cruel beak it had vowed that if it escaped thence it would end its days in a small hole. At these words the wall, moved with compassion, was content to give it shelter in the spot where it had fallen. And within a short space of time the nut began to burst open and to put its roots in among the crevices of the stones, and push them farther apart and throw up shoots out of its hollow, and these soon rose above the top of the building; and as the twisted roots grew thicker they commenced to tear asunder the walls and force the ancient stones out if their old positions. Then the wall too late and in vain deplored the cause of its destruction, and in a short time it was torn asunder and a great part fell in ruin. 

The ape on finding a nest of small birds approached them with great joy, but as they were already able to fly he could only catch the small
est. Filled with joy he went with it in his hand to his hiding place; and having commenced to look at the tiny bird he began to kiss it; and in his uncontrollable affection he gave it so many kisses and turned it over and squeezed it, until he took away its life. This is said for those who 
by being too fond of * their children bring misfortune upon them. c.a. 67 r. a 

The unhappy willow, on finding herself unable to enjoy the pleasure of seeing her slender boughs attain to such a height as she desired, or even point towards the sky, because she was continually being maimed and lopped and spoiled for the sake of the vine or any other tree which happened to be near, summoned up all her faculties and by this means opened wide the portals of her imagination, remaining in continual meditation, and seeking in the world of plants for one where-with to ally herself which could not need the help of her branches. So continuing for a time with her imagination at work, the thought of the gourd suddenly presented itself to her mind, and all her branches quivered in her intense joy, for it seemed to her that she had found the 1 MS. per non gastigare. right companion for the purpose she desired, because the gourd is by 
nature more fitted to bind others than to be bound herself. After coming to this conclusion she lifted up her branches towards the sky and waited, on the look out for some friendly bird to serve as the intermediary of her desire. Among the rest she descried the magpie near to her and said to him: — 'O gentle bird, by the refuge you have lately found among my branches at dawn, when the hungry, cruel, and rapacious falcon has wished to devour you, — by that rest you have often found in me when your wings craved rest, — by those delights you have enjoyed among my branches in amorous dalliance with your companions, — I entreat you to go and seek out the gourd and obtain from her some of her seeds, telling her that I will care for whatever is born from them as though they were my own offspring, and in like manner use all such words as may incline her to the like purpose, though to you who are a master of language there is no need for me to give instruction. If you will do this I am content to let your nest be in the fork of my boughs together with all your family without payment of any rent.' 

So the magpie, after stipulating with the willow for certain further conditions, the most important being that she should never admit upon her boughs any snake or polecat, cocked his tail and lowered his head, and casting himself loose from the bough let himself float on his wings; and beating about with these in the fleeting air, seeking hither and thither, and guiding himself by using his tail as a rudder, he came to a gourd, and after courteously saluting her obtained by a few polite word the seeds for which he sought. On taking these back to the willow he was welcomed with joyful looks; and then scraping away with his foot some of the earth near the willow he planted the grains with his beak round about her in a circle. 

These soon began to grow, and as the branches increased and opened out they began to cover all the branches of the willow, and their great leaves shut away from it the beauty of the sun and the sky. And all this evil not sufficing, the gourds next began to drag down to the ground in their rude grip the tops of the slender boughs, twisting them and distorting them in strange shapes. Then the willow after shaking and tossing herself to no purpose to make the gourds loose their hold, and vainly for days cherishing such idle hopes, since the grasp of the gourds was so sure and firm as to forbid such thoughts, seeing the wind pass by, forthwith commended herself to it. And the wind blew hard; and it rent open the willow's old and hollow trunk, tearing it in two parts right down to its roots; and as they fell asunder she vainly bewailed her fate, confessing herself born to no good end. 

Some flames had already lived for a month in a glass-furnace when they saw a candle approaching in a beautiful and glittering candlestick. They strove with great longing to reach it; and one of their number left its natural course and wound itself into an unburnt brand upon which it fed, and then passed out at the other end by a small cleft to the candle which was near, and flung itself upon it, and devouring it with the utmost voracity and greed consumed it almost entirely; then desirous of prolonging its own life, it strove in vain to return to the furnace which it had left, but was forced to droop and die together with the candle. So at last in lamentation and regret it was changed to foul smoke, leaving all its sisters in glowing and abiding life and beauty. 

Wine, the divine liquor of the grape, finding itself in a golden richly chased cup upon Mahomet's table, after being transported with pride at such an honour, was suddenly assailed by a contrary feeling, and said to itself: — 'What am I doing? What is it that I am rejoicing at? Cannot I see that I am near to my death, in that I am about to leave my golden dwelling in this cup and enter into the foul and fetid caverns of the human body, to be there transformed from a sweet fragrant nectar to a foul and disgusting fluid? And such an evil not sufficing, I must needs lie for a long time in foul receptacles with other noisome and putrid matter evacuated from the human intestines.' It cried to heaven demanding vengeance for such injury and that an end might be put to such an insult, so that since that part of the country produced the most beautiful and finest grapes in the whole world these at least should not be turned into wine. Then Jove caused the wine which Mahomet drank to rise in spirit up to the brain, and to infect this to such a degree as to make him mad; and he committed so many follies that when he came to his senses he made a decree that no Asiatic should drink wine; and thus the vine and its fruits were left at liberty. 

As soon as the wine has entered into the stomach it commences to swell up and boil over; and then the spirit of that man commences to abandon his body, and rising as though towards the sky it reaches the brain, which causes it to become divided from the body; and so it begins to infect him and to cause him to rave like a madman; and so he perpetrates irreparable crimes, killing his own friends. c.a. 67 r. b 

The rat was being besieged in its tiny house by the weasel which with unceasing vigilance was awaiting its destruction, and through a tiny chink it was considering its great danger. Meanwhile the cat came and suddenly seized hold of the weasel and immediately devoured it. Thereupon the rat, profoundly grateful to its deity, having offered up some of its hazel-nuts as a sacrifice to Jove, issued forth from its hole in order to repossess itself of the liberty it had lost, and was instantly deprived of this and of life itself by the cruel claws and teeth of the cat. c.a. 67 v. a 

Fable of the tongue bitten by the teeth. 

The cedar, arrogant by reason of its beauty, despising the plants which were round about it, caused them to be all removed from its presence, and then the wind, not meeting with any obstacle, tore it up by the roots and threw it on to the ground. 

The ant having found a grain of millet, the grain as it felt itself seized by it cried out: — 'If you will do me the great favour of allowing me to fulfil my desire to germinate I will give you of myself a hundred- fold.' And so it was. 

The spider, having found a bunch of grapes, which because of its sweetness was much visited by bees and various sorts of flies, fancied that it had found a spot very suitable for its wiles. And after having lowered itself down by its fine thread and entered its new habitation, there day by day, having ensconced itself in the tiny holes made by the spaces between the various grapes in the bunch, like a robber it assaulted the wretched animals which were not on their guard against it. But after some days had passed the keeper of the vineyard cut this bunch of? and placed it with the others, and it was pressed with them. And the grapes therefore served as trap and snare for the deceiving spider as well as for the flies whom he had deceived. 


The traveller's joy, not remaining contented in its hedge, commenced to pass across the high road with its branches and to attach itself to the opposite hedge; whereupon it was broken by the passers-by. 

The ass having fallen asleep upon the ice of a deep lake, the heat of its body caused the ice to melt, and the ass being under water awoke to 
his great discomfort, and was speedily drowned. 

A certain patch of snow, finding itself clinging to the top of a rock which was perched on the extreme summit of a very high mountain, being left to its own imagination began to reflect and to say within itself: — 'Shall I not be thought haughty and proud for having placed myself in so exalted a spot, being indeed a mere morsel of snow ? And for allowing that such a vast quantity of snow as I see around me should take a lower place than mine? Truly my small dimensions do not deserve this eminence; and in proof of my insignificance I may readily acquaint myself with the fate which but yesterday befell my companions, who in a few hours were destroyed by the sun; and this came about from their having placed themselves in a loftier station than was required of them. I will flee from the wrath of the sun, and abase myself, and find a place that befits my modest size.' 

Then throwing itself down, it began to descend, rolling down from the lofty crags on to the other snow; and the more it sought a lowly place, the more it increased in bulk, until at last ending its course upon a hill, it found itself almost the equal in size of the hill on which it rested, and it was the last of the snow which was melted that summer by the sun. 

This is said for those who by humbling themselves are exalted. 

The hawk, being unable to endure with patience the way in which the duck was hidden from him when she fled before him and dived beneath the water, desired also to follow in pursuit beneath the water; and getting its wings wetted it remained in the water; and the duck raised herself in the air and mocked at the hawk as it drowned. 

The spider, wishing to capture the fly in its secret web, was cruelly slain above it by the hornet. 

The eagle, wishing to mock at the owl, got its wings smeared with bird-lime and was captured by man and killed. c.a. 67 v. b 



The cedar, having conceived the desire of bearing on its summit a large and beautiful fruit, set itself to carry it into effect with all the powers of its sap; which fruit after it had grown was the cause of making the tall and slender summit bend down. 


The peach-tree, being envious of the great quantity of fruit that it 
saw its neighbour the nut-tree bearing, decided to do the same, and 
loaded itself with its fruit to such an extent that the weight of this 
fruit threw it down, uprooted and broken, level with the ground. 


The nut-tree, displaying to the passers-by upon the road the richness 
of its fruit, every man stoned it. 

When the fig-tree stood without fruit no one looked at it. Wishing 
by producing this fruit to be praised by men, it was bent and broken 
by them. 

The fig-tree, standing near to the elm, and perceiving that her boughs 
bore no fruit themselves, yet had the hardihood to keep away the sun 
from her own, unripe figs, rebuked her, saying: — 'O Elm, are you not 
ashamed to stand in front of me? Only wait until my children are 
fully grown and you will see where you will find yourself.' But when 
her offspring were ripe a regiment of soldiers came to the place, and 
they tore off the branches of the fig-tree in order to take her figs, and 
left her all stripped and broken. 

And as she thus stood maimed in all her limbs the elm questioned 
her saying: — 'O Fig tree, how much better was it to be without chil- 
dren than to be brought by them to so wretched a pass?' c.a. 76 r. a 

The fire rejoicing in the dried wood which it had found in the fire- 
place, and having taken hold of it, perceiving itself to have grown 
enormously above the wood and to have made itself of considerable 


1068 FABLES 

size, commenced to exalt its gentle and tranquil soul in puffed-up and 
insupportable pride, making itself almost believe that it had drawn the 
whole of the superior element down into the few logs. And com- 
mencing to fume and fill all the fireplace round about it with explo- 
sions and showers of sparks, already the flames which had become 
big were all in conjunction making their way towards the air; then 
the highest flames striking upon the bottom of the saucepan above . . . 

A vestige of fire which had remained in a small lump of charcoal 
among the warm embers, was very scantily and poorly nourished by 
the small quantity of nutriment that was left there. When the superin- 
tendent of the kitchen arrived there in order to perform her usual work 
of preparing the food, having placed the logs on the hearth, and having 
succeeded by means of a sulphur-match in getting a small flame from 
the charcoal though it was almost extinct, she set it among the logs 
which she had arranged and took a saucepan and set it over it and 
without any misgivings went away from it. 

Then the fire, after rejoicing at the dried logs placed upon it, began 
to ascend and drive out the air from the spaces between the logs, twin- 
ing itself in among them in sportive and joyous progress, and having 
commenced to blow through the spaces between the logs out of which 
it had made delightful windows for itself, and to emit gleaming and 
shining flames, it suddenly dispels the murky darkness of the closed-in 
kitchen, and the flames having already increased began to play joy- 
fully with the air that surrounded them, and singing with gentle mur- 
mur they created a sweet sound. c.a. 116 v. b 

The thrushes rejoiced greatly on seeing a man catch the owl and 
take away her liberty by binding her feet with strong bonds. But then 
by means of. bird-lime the owl was the cause of the thrushes losing not 
only their liberty but even their life. This is said of those states which 
rejoice at seeing their rulers lose their liberty, in consequence of which 
they afterwards lose hope of succour and remain bound in the power 
of their enemy, losing their liberty and often life. c.a. 117 r. b 

While the dog was asleep on the coat of a sheep, one of its fleas, be- 
coming aware of the smell of the greasy wool, decided that this must 
be a place where the living was better and more safe from the teeth 


FABLES 1069 

and nails of the dog than getting his food on the dog as he did. With- 
out more reflection therefore it left the dog and entering into the thick 
wool began with great toil to try to pass to the roots of the hairs; which 
enterprise however after much sweat it found to be impossible, owing 
to these hairs being so thick as almost to touch each other, and there 
being no space there where the flea could taste the skin. Consequently 
after long labour and fatigue it began to wish to go back to its dog 
which however had already departed, so that after long repentance and 
bitter tears it was obliged to die of hunger. c.a. 119 r. a 

Once upon a time the razor emerging from the handle which served 
it as a sheath, and placing itself in the sun, saw the sun reflected on its 
surface, at which thing it took great pride, and turning it over in its 
thoughts it began to say to itself: — 'Am I to go back any more to that 
shop from which I have just now come away? No surely! It cannot 
be the pleasure of the gods that such radiant beauty should stoop to 
such vile uses! What madness would that be which should induce me 
to scrape the lathered chins of rustic peasants and to do such menial 
service? Is this body made for actions such as these? Certainly not! I 
will go and hide myself in some retired spot, and there pass my life in 
tranquil ease.' 

And so having hidden itself away for some months, returning one 
day to the light and coming out of its sheath it perceived that it had 
acquired the appearance of a rusty saw, and that its surface no longer 
reflected the sun's radiance. In vain with useless repentance it be- 
moaned its irreparable hurt, saying to itself: — 'Ah how much better 
would it have been to have let the barber use that lost edge of mine 
that had so rare a keenness! Where now is the glittering surface? In 
truth the foul insidious rust has consumed it away!' 

The same thing happens with minds which in lieu of exercise give 
themselves up to sloth; for these like the razor lose their keen edge, 
and the rust of ignorance destroys their form. 

A stone of considerable size, only recently left uncovered by the 
waters, stood in a certain spot perched up at the edge of a delightful 
copse, above a stony road, surrounded by plants bright with various 
flowers of different colours, and looked upon the great mass of stones 
which lay heaped together in the road beneath. And she became filled 


1070 FABLES 

with longing to let herself down there, saying within herself: — 'What 
am I doing here with these plants ? I would fain dwell in the company 
of my sisters yonder'; and so letting herself fall she ended her rapid 
course among her desired companions. But when she had been there 
for a short time she found herself in continual distress from the wheels 
of the carts, the iron hoofs of the horses and the feet of the passers-by. 
One rolled her over, another trampled upon her; and at times she 
raised herself up a little as she lay covered with mud or the dung of 
some animal, and vainly looked up at the place from whence she had 
departed as a place of solitude and quiet peace. 

So it happens to those who, leaving a life of solitude and contempla- 
tion, choose to come and dwell in cities among people full of infinite 
wickedness. c.a. 175 v. a 

As the painted butterfly was idly wandering and flitting about 
through the darkened air a light came within sight, and thither im- 
mediately it directed its course, and flew round about it in varying 
circles marvelling greatly at such radiant beauty. And not contented 
merely to behold, it began to treat it as was its custom with the fragrant 
flowers, and directing its flight it approached with bold resolve close 
to the light, which thereupon consumed the tips of its wings and legs 
and the other extremities; and then dropping down at the foot of it, 
it began to consider with astonishment how this accident had been 
brought about; for it could not so much as entertain a thought that 
any evil or hurt could possibly come to it from a thing so beautiful; 
and then having in part regained the strength which it had lost, it 
took another flight and passed right through the body of the flame, 
and in an instant fell down burned into the oil which fed the flame, 
preserving only so much life as sufficed it to reflect upon the cause of 
its destruction, saying to it: — 'O accursed light! I thought that in you 
I had found my happiness! Vainly do I lament my mad desire, and 
by my ruin I have come to know your rapacious and destructive 

To which the light replied: — 'Thus do I treat whoever does not 
know how to use me aright.' 

This is said for those who when they see before them these carnal 
and worldly delights, hasten towards them like the butterfly, without 


FABLES 1071 

ever taking thought as to their nature, which they know after long 
usage to their shame and loss. 

The flint on being struck by the steel marvelled greatly and said to 
it in a stern voice: — 'What arrogance prompts you to annoy me? 
Trouble me not, for you have chosen me by mistake; I have never 
done harm to anyone.' To which the steel made answer: — 'If you will 
be patient you will see what a marvellous result will issue forth from 

At these words the flint was pacified and patiently endured its mar- 
tyrdom, and it saw itself give birth to the marvellous element of fire 
which by its potency became a factor in innumerable things. 

This is said for those who are dismayed at the outset of their studies, 
and then set out to gain the mastery over themselves and in patience 
to apply themselves continuously to those studies, from which one sees 
result things marvellous to relate. c.a. 257 r. b 

The lily planted itself down upon the bank of the Ticino, and the 
stream carried away the bank and with it the lily. h 44 r. 

The oyster being thrown out with other fish near to the sea from 
the house of a fisherman, prayed to a rat to take him to the sea; the 
rat who was intending to devour him bade him open, but then as he 
bit him the oyster squeezed his head and held it; and the cat came 
and killed him. h 51 [3] v. 

The pen has necessary companionship with the penknife, and more- 
over useful companionship for the one without the other is ineffective. 

l cover v. 

When the crab had placed itself beneath the rock in order to catch 
the fish that entered underneath it, the wind came with ruinous down- 
fall of the rocks, and these by rolling themselves down destroyed the 

The spider had placed itself among the grapes to catch the flies that 
fed on them. The time of vintage came and the spider was trodden 
under foot together with the grapes. 


1072 FABLES 

The vine that has grown old upon the old tree falls together with 
the destruction of this tree. It was by reason of its bad company that it 
failed together with it. 

The torrent carried away so much earth and stones in its bed that it 
was then obliged to change its position. 

The net which was accustomed to catch fish was destroyed and 
carried away by the fury of the fish. 

The ball of snow the more it rolled as it descended from the moun- 
tains of the snow was continually more and more increasing its size. 

The willow which by reason of its long shoots and by growing so as 
to surpass every other plant had become the companion of the vine 
which is pruned every year, was also itself always mutilated. 

b.m. 42 v. 

The water on finding itself in the proud sea, its element, was seized 
with a desire to rise above the air; and aided by the element of fire 
having mounted up in thin vapour, it seemed almost as thin as the air 
itself; and after it had risen to a great height it came to where the air 
was more rarefied and colder, and there it was abandoned by the fire; 
and the small particles being pressed together were united and became 
heavy; and dropping from thence its pride was put to rout, and it fell 
from the sky, and was then drunk up by the parched earth, where for a 
long time it lay imprisoned and did penance for its sin. 

Forster in 2 r. 

The light above the candle is fire in a chain; consuming that it con- 
sumes itself. 

The wine consumed by the drunkard, this wine revenges itself upon 
the drinker. Forster in 21 r. 

The ink is arraigned for its blackness by the whiteness of the paper, 
which sees itself soiled by it. 

The paper on seeing itself all spotted by the murky blackness of the 
ink grieves over it; and this ink shows it that by the words which it 
composes upon it it becomes the cause of its preservation. 

Forster 1 1 1 27 r. 



The fire, when heating the water placed in the cooking-pot, says 
to the water that it does not deserve to stand above the fire, the king of 
the elements; and so it wishes by the violence with which it boils to 
drive away the water from the cooking-pot; this, therefore, in order to 
show it honour by obeying it, descends below and drowns the fire. 

Forster 11 1 30 r. 

The knife, an artificial weapon, deprives man of his nails — his natural weapon. 

The mirror bears itself proudly, holding the queen mirrored within 
it, and after she has departed the mirror remains abject. Forster in 44 v. 

The heavy iron is reduced to such a state of thinness by the file that 
a breath of wind suffices to carry it away. Forster in 47 r. 

The plant complains of the dry and old stick which was placed at 
its side and of the dry stakes that surround it; the one keeps it upright, 
the other protects it from bad companions. Forster in 47 v.