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- Aesop's Fables - 25/25 -

this subject, enlivened on both sides with much wit and learning, will ever bear a conspicuous place in the literary history of the seventeenth century. The arguments of Dr. Bentley were yet further defended a few years later by Mr. Thomas Tyrwhitt, a well-read scholar, who gave up high civil distinctions that he might devote himself the more unreservedly to literary pursuits. Mr. Tyrwhitt published, A.D. 1776, a Dissertation on Babrias, and a collection of his fables in choliambic meter found in a MS. in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Francesco de Furia, a learned Italian, contributed further testimony to the correctness of the supposition that Babrias had made a veritable collection of fables by printing from a MS. contained in the Vatican library several fables never before published. In the year 1844, however, new and unexpected light was thrown upon this subject. A veritable copy of Babrias was found in a manner as singular as were the MSS. of Quinctilian's Institutes, and of Cicero's Orations by Poggio in the monastery of St. Gall A.D. 1416. M. Menoides, at the suggestion of M. Villemain, Minister of Public Instruction to King Louis Philippe, had been entrusted with a commission to search for ancient MSS., and in carrying out his instructions he found a MS. at the convent of St. Laura, on Mount Athos, which proved to be a copy of the long suspected and wished-for choliambic version of Babrias. This MS. was found to be divided into two books, the one containing a hundred and twenty-five, and the other ninety-five fables. This discovery attracted very general attention, not only as confirming, in a singular manner, the conjectures so boldly made by a long chain of critics, but as bringing to light valuable literary treasures tending to establish the reputation, and to confirm the antiquity and authenticity of the great mass of Aesopian Fable. The Fables thus recovered were soon published. They found a most worthy editor in the late distinguished Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and a translator equally qualified for his task, in the Reverend James Davies, M.A., sometime a scholar of Lincoln College, Oxford, and himself a relation of their English editor. Thus, after an eclipse of many centuries, Babrias shines out as the earliest, and most reliable collector of veritable Aesopian Fables.

The following are the sources from which the present translation has been prepared: Babrii Fabulae Aesopeae. George Cornewall Lewis. Oxford, 1846. Babrii Fabulae Aesopeae. E codice manuscripto partem secundam edidit. George Cornewall Lewis. London: Parker, 1857. Mythologica Aesopica. Opera et studia Isaaci Nicholai Neveleti. Frankfort, 1610. Fabulae Aesopiacae, quales ante Planudem ferebantur cura et studio Francisci de Furia. Lipsiae, 1810. ??????????????. Ex recognitione Caroli Halmii. Lipsiae, Phaedri Fabulae Esopiae. Delphin Classics. 1822.



[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.

[11] 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.

Aesop's Fables - 25/25

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