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Aesop's Fables: Sir Roger L'Estrange (1692)

11. A LION AND AN ASS (Perry 484)

An Ass was so hardy once, as to fall a mopping and braying at a Lion. The Lion began at first to shew his Teeth, and to stomach the Affront; but upon second thoughts: Well! (says he) jeer on, and be an Ass still. Take notice only by the way, that 'tis the Baseness of your Character that has saved your Carcass.
THE MORAL. It is below the Dignity of a great Mind to entertain Contests with People that have neither Quality nor Courage; Beside the Folly of contending with a miserable Wretch, where the very Competition is a Scandal.

L'Estrange originally published his version of the fables in 1692. There is a very nice illustrated edition in the Children's Classics series by Knopf: Sir Roger L'Estrange. Aesop - Fables which is available at amazon.com.