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Aesop's Fables in Rhyme for Little Philosophers
By John Martin, George L. Carlson, W. Fletcher White
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The STAG at the SPRING
A Fable from Aesop
THERE was a stag (so Aesop says)
That wandered through the woodland ways.
He ate the forage of the wood
And found it plenty, sweet and good.
At times he drowsed where shadows creep
'Mid tangled brushes, green and deep;
He seemed content; well might he be,
So sleek and stalwart, safe and free.
Now with all things well satisfied,
A little meadow spot he spied;
Among its shadows, still and cool,
There was a clear and pretty pool.
"Ah," said the stag, "ere sleeping, first
I'll seek to quench my growing thirst."
Across the meadow green he went,
And o'er the silent pool he bent
To take a long, refreshing drink,
Cool from the water's mossy brink.
But no! He started up instead
With widened eyes and lofty head.
Reflected in the waters bright
He saw himself — a pleasant sight.
He did not drink, but stood quite still
In foolish pride to get his fill
Of looking at his form, for he
Was somewhat spoiled by vanity.
"Ah," said the stag, "to say the least
I am a very handsome beast.
No creature has such horns as min,
So beautiful, and strong, and fine.
How well they balance, wide they spread
From tip to tip above my head.
If only all the rest of me
Were half so splendid, I should be
The envy of the forest wide,
And mayhap all the world beside.
But oh, alas, those legs of mine!
Behold their thin and shapeless line.
I am ashamed to look and see
Such graceless things a part of me."
Scarce had he spoken his last word
Than he in stricken panic heard
The very worst of forest sounds —
The bay of swift pursuing hounds.
Quick as the light, off sped the stag
O'er open places, moor and crag.
The legs he so despised bore him
Beyond the reach of danger grim.
But, at the moment when he thought
Himself quite safe his antlers caught
In some thick brushes, holding him
Fast as if tethered limb by limb.
Alas, alack, the horns which he
Had so admired proved to be
The very parts of him to lend
The means to his unhappy end.
For, bound and helpless in his shame
The pack of baying hunters came
And bore him down. Thus, dears, you see
The danger of such vanity.
* * *
Yes, let us in our very hearts
Do honor to our humbler parts,
For beauty too much glorified
Is sure to trouble and misguide.
The OLD MAN and his SONS
A Fable from Aesop
There was a man, respected, old, and kind,
With six big sons who quarreled constantly.
This grieved him sorely, and he sought to find
A way to peace at home — where peace should be.
He tried commands and kindlier appeal;
He pled respect for age and home and name,
But still they quarreled on and did not feel
The least regret, nor see the growing shame.
At last the father found a goodly way
To show their folly and at once to prove
That discord breeds a host of sins that prey
Upon the works of peace and deeds of love,
At once our good man called his wrangling brood,
And taking up a bundle of short sticks
Well bound together and of stalwart wood,
Straight, smooth, and clean, and numbering just six,
"My sons," said he, "I want you each to try
To break those sticks in any way you please.
You have not strength enough, and I defy
Your brawn to shatter or to splinter these."
Each son in turn tried with his burly might
To break the bundle, but no jerk nor strain
Could even bend the fagots bound so tight;
No strength availed, all struggle was in vain.
Then our old man without a word unbound
The wood and gave a stick to every son.
Of course, those boys without an effort found
It easy to break fagots one by one.
"There, sons of mine," the wise old father said,
"You see the strength, of all, united things!
By quarreling you're weakened and misled,
And think of all the needless pain it brings!
Stay bound together by the bonds of love,
And naught in life can hurt you and no power
Can meet such might as yours. I pray you, prove
The truth of this each passing day and hour.
But, sons of mine, divided as you are,
Unloving and unloved in bitter pique,
You wreck your peace, and is it singular
That you who should be strong are dull and weak?
Oh, sons, let not dissension's spell disarm
Your manhood lest great evil come to you;
For easy it would be to do you harm
As breaking unbound, single sticks in two."
There is no good in quarreling;
There is no use in it.
A quarrel only hurts our Hearts,
And doesn't help a bit.
A quarrel is a lot of words
And angry sounds that start
The very worst of feelings in
The middle of the Heart,
Nobody quarrels if he wants
To wisely use his wits,
For quarrels muddle up our brains
In useless little bits.
A quarrel only weakens us
And wastes good energy
That should be used to make our lives
More what they ought to be.
Let's throw all quarrel feeling out.
You see, it really pays,
Because our POWER can be used
In lots of better ways.
IT SEEMS TO ME
It seems to me not only wise
But always really well
Just to forget what we have heard
That isn't right to tell.
It seems to me it's wise to be
Quite careful what we teach,
Unless we're very sure that we
Can practice what we preach.
It seems to me, pie up too high
Looks very great and grand;
But I'll not be ambitious with
Two cookies well in hand.
The fox may howl, "Sour grapes!"
When they are out of reach,
But my bread spread with gratitude
Is better than a peach.
THE FOX and the GRAPES
A Fable from Aesop
There was a fox — a sly old fox;
A most ill-tempered beast was he,
He had not had a meal for days,
And he was hungry as could be.
An empty stomach calling out.
For filling made his manners grim.
And, being cross and impolite.
Nobody symphatized with him.
He hunted here and groveled there
In search of food, but none he spied.
The more he sought, more noisily
His very empty stomach cried.
At last his staggering footsteps led into a trellised garden where
Grapes hung above his very head in purple clusters ripe and fair.
But they hung high, where sun and air contrived with evening's gentle dew
To give them flavor and sweet bloom. Yes, thus those juicy clusters grew.
"Good food!" cried fox, as up he leaped
With smothered growlings, rude and gruff.
His two jaws snapped, but never could
That hungry fox jump high enough.
He leaped again, this way and that,
In far more ways than I can tell,
And all he got of those fair grapes
Was but a most far-distant smell,
Oh, yes, he was a stalwart fox, with muscles very hard and stout,
But so much jumping, all in vain, soon wore the snapping beastie out,
At last, convinced that juicy meal could not be captured to devour,
He walked away and said,–
Ah, foolish fox, we children see
Into your mean, begrudging speech.
You can't say good words of the things.
You are not big enough to reach.
March on, old fox, perhaps in time
You'll learn the lesson good taste teaches.
Don't let your own shortcomings force
You into harsh, unpleasant speeches.
A gentle word, dropped here and there,
Is very like a little seed
That grows into a flower fair,
For troubled hearts that bleed.
A gentle, thoughtful little word,
May slip into some Heart and bring
The help that heals, and like a bird
That aching Heart may sing.
Oh, what a garden life might be
If every day such seeds were sown.
And oh, the happiness when we
May claim then as our own!
THE FOX WHO LOST HIS TAIL
A Fable from Aesop
There was a fox; though sly as sly could be
This did not save him from the sad mishap
Of losing his fine tail most carelessly
When sitting down too near a thoughtless trap.
When he was well enough to be around,
He sallied forth to make a little call
Upon some neighbor foxes, and he found
They didn't sympathize with him at all.
What's more, the neighbors, without mercy, chaffed
And ridiculed and impolitely teased.
A fox without a tail! Oh, how they laughed!
Of course, that injured fox was much displeased.
He didn't like such treatment in the least
But hid his shame beneath a foxy smile,
And then he thought (the silly, scheming beast),
"I'll fix the teasers by a little guile.
Watch me persuade these animals to let
Their tails be cut off, too; this cannot fail
To make us all alike, then they'll forget
To notice that I've lost my precious tail."
So pleased was he with this most clever plan
Concocted in his selfish, scheming head,
That off he ran and gathered all the clan
Of foxy beasts, to whom he slyly said:
"I am surprised to see you wearing tails!
They're not in style, are always in the way.
They weigh enough to make you run like snails.
Come, cut them off. What earthly use are
they? I wouldn't wear a nuisance that depends
Upon mywits to keep it out of traps.
Cut off your tails! Be comfortable, my friends;
Discard such trash with other worthless scraps.
Without a tail, joys follow by the score!
My figure? Oh, such gracefulness of line!
I never half enjoyed my life before
I lost my tail. Good luck is surely mine,"
"Hear, hear!" exclaimed the foxes gathered round,
Who waved their tails and tittered all in chorus,
"Hear, hear! When was such wisdom ever found?
A tailless prophet surely stands before us."
But wait — for then a sly old fox arose.
That he was wise 'twas very plain to see.
Yes, he was stiff of joint, but his sharp nose
Was long and gray with guile and dignity.
"See here, young fox," said he, "it seems to me
You offer us too many bobtailed lures.
Concern about our tails much less would be
If you were not so much deprived of yours.
"We doubt so much your real and true concern
That we will keep our tails where tails should be,
For it is said that selfish foxes yearn
For company to share their misery."
That word sympathy; a good word to hear;
When honest and tender, how blessed and dear!
And what does it mean? Not just what is heard.
And what is its value? Not merely a word.
True sympathy glows with love from the heart;
With things cold and selfish it carries no part,
It asks no reward; in serving it lives;
In loving concern it ungrudgingly gives,
Not pitiful words, nor quick-falling tears,
Not thoughtless expressions of evil and fears.
No — true sympathy goes not by the road
Of keeping the trouble or bearing the load;
But from its own faith it asks us to share
The knowledge that we are in God's constant care.
It sees as we see, and feels as we feel,
But thinking as love it hastens to heal.
True sympathy is a balm to the soul
Its love, ever living, makes perfect and whole.
THE CAT AND THE BIRDS
AN AESOP FABLE IN RHYME
One morning in May,
Or maybe in June,
The old rascal Tom —
Old Thomas, the cat,
Dressed up to look like
A doctor and he
Just fitted the part
With pills and high hat.
With great dignity and whiskers profound,
He licked off his smile, and winked out a tear,
And went forth to call on birds in a cage —
Such nice little birds who chanced to live near.
"Good morning," said he,
"I heard you were ill.
My heart aches for you;
I've hurried to see
If I could help you
Or serve you and yours.
Command me, I pray.
(Don't mention the fee.)
To hear Doctor Tom
Would soften the heart
Of a stone, good and quick,
To look at his eye,
His tearful old eye,
Would make any one
Quite glad to be sick.
But the birdies just winked, and then winked again
And said, "Many thanks, but you've come in vain.
We're perfectly well. See how we can wink.
We can't rake or scrape an ache or a pain,
"We're quite well, indeed,
And so shall remain.
The door's locked
The key's on the shelf.
Good-bye, Doctor Tom,
Go look in the glass
And wink all the winks
You can wink at yourself."
When things don't go quite right,
Like washing dirty faces;
When toys and books and dolls
Are never in their places;
When all goes wrong with everything,
We SING — SING — SING.
When rainy weather comes
And many duties press us;
When being good is hard
And likely to distress us;
When little disappointments sting,
We SING — SING — SING,
There's nothing in the world
Like pretty music stealing
Into our little hearts
For happy, wholesome healing.
We clear up all that's going wrong
With SONG — SONG — SONG.
Excerpted from Aesop's Fables in Rhyme for Little Philosophers by John Martin, George L. Carlson, W. Fletcher White. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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