<< Home Page | Oxford (Gibbs) Index

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

Perry 542 (Phaedrus App. 14)

A donkey saw a lyre lying in a field. He approached the instrument and as he tried to strum it with his hoof, the strings resounded at his touch. 'What a beautiful thing,' said the donkey, 'but completely inappropriate, since I don't know anything about music. If only someone better equipped than myself had found it, my ears would have been delighted by heavenly melodies!'
So it is that talents often go to waste because of some misfortune.

Note: It seems likely that Phaedrus invented this fable based on the widely known Greek proverb: onos luras, 'the donkey, the lyre.' The abbreviated proverb has the donkey as the subject of the verb and the lyre as the object, and it is usually assumed that the donkey is 'listening' to the lyre (for example, Lucian, Against the Unlearned 4: 'you listen to the lyre like a donkey, moving your ears'). In this case, however, Phaedrus's donkey wants to play the lyre (compare Lucian, Dialogues of the Courtesans 14: onos autolurizon, 'a donkey playing the lyre').

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.