<< Home Page | Phaedrus Index

Aesop's Fables: Phaedrus

Book V - I. Demetrius Rex et Menander Poeta (Perry 523)

Demetrius rex, qui Phalereus dictus est,
Athenas occupauit imperio improbo.
Vt mos est uulgi, passim et certatim ruit;
"Feliciter!" succlamant. Ipsi principes
illam osculantur qua sunt oppressi manum,
tacite gementes tristem fortunae uicem.
Quin etiam resides et sequentes otium,
ne defuisse noceat, repunt ultimi;
in quis Menander, nobilis comoediis,
quas ipsum ignorans legerat Demetrius
et admiratus fuerat ingenium uiri,
unguento delibutus, uestitu fluens,
ueniebat gressu delicato et languido.
Hunc ubi tyrannus uidit extremo agmine:
"Quisnam cinaedus ille in conspectu meo
audet ceuere?" Responderunt proximi:
"Hic est Menander scriptor." Mutatus statim
"Homo" inquit "fieri non potest formosior."

Demetrius and Menander (trans. C. Smart)

If Esop's name at any time
I bring into this measured rhyme,
To whom I've paid whate'er I owe,
Let all men by these presents know.
I with th' old fabulist make free,
To strengthen my authority.
As certain sculptors of the age,
The more attention to engage,
And raise their price, the curious please,
By forging of Praxiteles;
And in like manner they purloin
A Myro to their silver coin.
'Tis thus our fables we can smoke,
As pictures for their age bespoke:
For biting envy, in disgust
To new improvements, favors rust;
But now a tale comes in of course,
Which these assertions will enforce.
Demetrius, who was justly call'd
The tyrant, got himself install'd,
And held o'er Athens impious sway.
The crowd, as ever is the way,
Came, eager rushing far and wide,
And, "Fortunate event!" they cried.
The nobles came, the throne address'd'
The hand by which they were oppress'd
They meekly kiss'd, with inward stings
Of anguish for the face of things.
The idlers also, with the tribe
Of those who to themselves prescribe
Their ease and pleasure, in the end
Came sneaking, lest they should offend.
Amongst this troop hies,
So famous for his comedies
(Him, though he was not known by sight,
The tyrant read with great delight,
Struck with the genius of the bard.)
In flowing robes bedaub'd with nard,
And saunt'ring tread he came along,
Whom, at the bottom of the throng,
When Phalereus beheld, he said:
" How dares that fribble show his head
In this our presence ?" he was told-
" It is you behold."
Then, changed at once from fierce to bland,
He call'd, and took him by the hand.

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.