Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
360. THE MAGPIE AND HER TAIL
Perry 590 (Alexander
No matter how often the magpie settled down on a perch and folded her
wings, her tailfeathers still kept on twitching. Hoping to rid herself
of this habit by changing her homeland, she flew across no small stretch
of the sea, but in vain. As soon as the magpie alighted on the distant
shore, her tailfeathers started shaking as usual. The magpie then concluded,
'By changing my country I thought my habits would change, but I'm just
as bad off as before, even though I have come to the other side of the
Changing your location does not change your state of mind, and the
person who wants to modify his character sails the seas in vain.
Note: Nequam's epimythium is based on the proverb made famous by Horace,
Epistles 1.11.27: 'people who sail across the ocean change the sky
overhead, but not their state of mind.' Alexander Nequam (or Neckam)
was a late twelfth-century scholar and writer who wrote a collection
of Aesopic fables in verse.
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.