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

Perry 505 (Phaedrus 3.14)

When a certain man of Athens saw Aesop playing with marbles amidst a crowd of boys, he stood there and laughed at Aesop as if Aesop were crazy. As soon as he realized what was going on, Aesop -- who was an old man far more inclined to laugh at others than to be laughed at himself -- took an unstrung bow and placed it in the middle of the road. 'Okay, you know-it-all,' he said, 'explain the meaning of what I just did.' All the people gathered round. The man wracked his brains for a long time but he could not manage to answer Aesop's question. Eventually he gave up. Having won this battle of wits, Aesop then explained, 'If you keep your bow tightly strung at all times, it will quickly break, but if you let it rest, it will be ready to use whenever you need it.'
In the same way the mind must be given some amusement from time to time, so that you will find yourself able to think more clearly afterwards.

Note: The motif of the bow resting and tensed was a Roman cliche (e.g., Horace, Carmina 2.10: 'Apollo does not always stretch the bow'). There is a similar story in the Life of Saint Anthony (Golden Legend 21): an archer is angry when he sees Saint Anthony resting, so Saint Anthony then tells the man to shoot an arrow, then another arrow, then another, until finally the man says 'If I keep on like this, my bow will break!' Saint Anthony concludes that it is the same way with people: they will break if they are never allowed to take a rest.

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.