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Aesop's Fables: Phaedrus

Book IV - XXV. Formica et Musca (Perry 521)

[Nihil agere quod non prosit fabella indicat.]
Formica et musca contendebant acriter,
quae pluris esset. Musca sic coepit prior:
"Conferre nostris tu potes te laudibus?
Moror inter aras, templa perlustro deum;
ubi immolatur, exta praegusto omnia;
in capite regis sedeo cum uisum est mihi,
et matronarum casta delibo oscula;
laboro nihil atque optimis rebus fruor.
Quid horum simile tibi contingit, rustica?"
"Est gloriosus sane conuictus deum,
sed illi qui inuitatur, non qui inuisus est.
Aras frequentas? Nempe abigeris quom uenis.
Reges commemoras et matronarum oscula?
Super etiam iactas tegere quod debet pudor.
Nihil laboras? Ideo, cum opus est, nihil habes.
Ego grana in hiemem cum studiose congero,
te circa murum pasci uideo stercore;
mori contractam cum te cogunt frigora,
me copiosa recipit incolumem domus.
aestate me lacessis; cum bruma est siles.
Satis profecto rettudi superbiam."
Fabella talis hominum discernit notas,
eorum qui se falsis ornant laudibus,
et quorum uirtus exhibet solidum decus.

The Ant and the Fly (trans. C. Smart)

An Ant and Fly had sharp dispute
Which creature was of most repute;
When thus began the flaunting Fly:
"Are you so laudible as I ?
I, ere the sacrifice is carved,
Precede the gods; first come, first served--
Before the altar take my place,
And in all temples show my face,
Whene'er I please I set me down
Upon the head that wears a crown.
I with impunity can taste
The kiss of matrons fair and chaste,
And pleasure without labor claim-
Say, trollop, canst thou do the same ?"
"The feasts of gods are glorious fare,
No doubt, to those who're welcome there;
But not for such detested things.-
You talk of matron's lips and kings;
I, who with wakeful care and pains
Against the winter hoard my grains,
Thee feeding upon ordure view.-
The altars you frequent, 'tis true;
But still are driv'n away from thence,
And elsewhere, as of much offence.
A life of toil you will not lead,
And so have nothing when you need.
Besides all this, you talk with pride
Of things that modesty should hide.
You plague me here, while days increase,
But when the winter comes you cease.
Me, when the cold thy life bereaves,
A plenteous magazine receives.
I think I need no more advance
To cure you of your arrogance."
The tenor of this tale infers
Two very diff'rent characters;
Of men self-praised and falsely vain,
And men of real worth in grain.

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.