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


As a Lion was Blustering in the Forrest, up comes a Gnat to his very Beard, and enters into an Expostulation with him upon the Points of Honour and Courage. What do I Value your Teeth or your Claws, says the Gnat, that are but the Arms of every Bedlam Slut? As to the Matter of Resolution; I defy ye to put that Point immediately to an Issue. So the Trumpet Sounded, and the Combatants enter’d the Lists. The Gnat charg’d into the Nostrils of the Lion, and there Twing’d him, till he made him Tear himself with his own Paws, and in the Conclusion he Master’d the Lion. Upon this, a Retreat was Sounded, and the Gnat flew his way: but by Ill-hap afterward, in his Flight, he struck into a Cobweb, where the Victor fell Prey to a Spider. This Disgrace went to the Heart of him, after he had got the Better of a Lion, to be Worsted by an Insect.
THE MORAL. ‘Tis the Power of Fortune to Humble the Pride of the Mighty, even by the most Despicable Means, and to make a Gnat Triumph over a Lion: Wherefore let no Creature, how Great or Little soever, Presume on the One side, or Despair on the Other.

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.