Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
284. THE SWAN AND HIS OWNER
Perry 233 (Chambry
They say that swans sing when they are about to die. A certain man chanced
upon a swan that was for sale and bought him, since he had heard that
swans sing very beautifully. At the man's next dinner party, he came and
got the swan, expecting that the bird would serenade his guests at dinner.
The swan, however, was completely silent. Later on, when the swan realized
that he was about to die, he began to sing his funeral dirge. When his
owner heard him, he said, 'Well, if you are going to sing this song only
at the moment of your death, then I was a fool for having commanded you
to do it. I should have ordered you to be butchered instead!'
Some people are the same way: they will agree to do things under compulsion
that they are not willing to do as a favour.
Note: The 'swan song' was a famous legend of ancient Greece and Rome
Phaedo 85a, contains a discussion of the reason why swans supposedly
sing at the moment of their death; Pliny,
Natural History 10.32, claims to have conducted certain 'experiments'
disproving this phenomenon). For another fable with the swan song motif,
see Fable 303.
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.