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Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

Perry 521 (Phaedrus 4.25)

The ant and the fly were bitterly arguing about who was more important. The fly presented her case first. 'Do you really mean to compare yourself to my exalted status? I pass my time among the altars, I wander through the temples of the gods; whenever there is a sacrifice, I am the first to taste all the entrails; I can sit on the head of the king if I want and I enjoy the forbidden kisses of all the married women; I do not work and yet I reap the very best of all the spoils. What has life given you that can compare with all that I have, you country bumpkin!' The ant replied, 'It is truly a wonderful thing to dine at the gods' table, but only for someone whom the gods have invited, not for someone whom they hate. You say that you frequent their altars? Agreed, but you are driven away as soon as you arrive. As for the kings you mention and the women's kisses, you are boasting about something that it is shameful to mention. Moreover, if you do no work then it is no surprise that you have nothing at hand when you need it. I, on the other hand, assiduously gather a store of grain for the winter, while I see you feeding on manure piled up against the walls. Later on, when the cold winds make you shrivel up and die, I am safe and at peace in my well furnished abode. Now that it is summer you try to provoke me, but in winter you have nothing to say. That should be enough to take the edge off your pride.'
This sort of fable shows how to recognize those people who extol themselves for empty deeds and those whose noble qualities are marked by solid accomplishments.

Note: There is a line at the beginning of this fable which most editors treat as spurious. It reads: 'This fable tells us not to engage in useless activities.' For another fable about the industrious ant, see Fable 126.

Source: Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura Gibbs. Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
NOTE: New cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.