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Aesop's Fables: Phaedrus

Book III - XIV. De Lusu et Seueritate (Perry 505)

Puerorum in turba quidam ludentem Atticus
Aesopum nucibus cum uidisset, restitit,
et quasi delirum risit. Quod sensit simul
derisor potius quam deridendus senex,
arcum retensum posuit in media uia:
"Heus" inquit "sapiens, expedi quid fecerim."
Concurrit populus. Ille se torquet diu,
nec quaestiones positae causam intellegit.
Nouissime succumbit. Tum uictor sophus:
"Cito rumpes arcum, semper se tensum habueris;
at si laxaris, cum uoles erit utilis."
Sic lusus animo debent aliquando dari,
ad cogitandum melior ut redeat tibi.

Esop Playing (trans. C. Smart)

As Esop was with boys at play,
And had his nuts as well as they,
A grave Athenian, passing by,
Cast on the sage a scornful eye,
As on a dotard quite bereaved:
Which, when the moralist perceived,
(Rather himself a wit profess'd
Than the poor subject of a jest)
Into the public way he flung
A bow that he had just unstrung:
There solve, thou conjurer," he cries,
"The problem, that before thee lies."
The people throng; he racks his brain,
Nor can the thing enjoin'd explain.
At last he gives it up-the seer
Thus then in triumph made it clear:
" As the tough bow exerts its spring,
A constant tension breaks the string;
But if 'tis let at seasons loose,
You may depend upon its use."
Thus recreative sports and play
Are good upon a holiday,
And with more spirit they'll pursue
The studies which they shall renew.

Latin text from Phaedrus at The Latin Library (Ad Fontes), English translations from The Fables of Phaedrus Translated into English Verse by Christopher Smart (London: 1913). Ben Perry, Babrius and Phaedrus (Loeb), contains the Latin texts of Phaedrus, with a facing English translation, along with a valuable appendix listing all the Aesop's fables attested in Greek and/or in Latin. Invaluable.