Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
198. THE ANT AND THE FLY
Perry 521 (Phaedrus
The ant and the fly were bitterly arguing about who was more important.
The fly presented her case first. 'Do you really mean to compare yourself
to my exalted status? I pass my time among the altars, I wander through
the temples of the gods; whenever there is a sacrifice, I am the first
to taste all the entrails; I can sit on the head of the king if I want
and I enjoy the forbidden kisses of all the married women; I do not work
and yet I reap the very best of all the spoils. What has life given you
that can compare with all that I have, you country bumpkin!' The ant replied,
'It is truly a wonderful thing to dine at the gods' table, but only for
someone whom the gods have invited, not for someone whom they hate. You
say that you frequent their altars? Agreed, but you are driven away as
soon as you arrive. As for the kings you mention and the women's kisses,
you are boasting about something that it is shameful to mention. Moreover,
if you do no work then it is no surprise that you have nothing at hand
when you need it. I, on the other hand, assiduously gather a store of
grain for the winter, while I see you feeding on manure piled up against
the walls. Later on, when the cold winds make you shrivel up and die,
I am safe and at peace in my well furnished abode. Now that it is summer
you try to provoke me, but in winter you have nothing to say. That should
be enough to take the edge off your pride.'
This sort of fable shows how to recognize those people who extol themselves
for empty deeds and those whose noble qualities are marked by solid accomplishments.
Note: There is a line at the beginning of this fable which most editors
treat as spurious. It reads: 'This fable tells us not to engage in useless
activities.' For another fable about the industrious ant, see Fable
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.