Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
28. THE MONK AND THE ABBOTS
Perry (Odo 1e)
This fable can be applied to bad rulers and worse successors.
A certain abbot gave his monks three-course meals but the monks said,
'This abbot gives us too little to eat. Let us pray to God that he will
die soon.' Whether for this reason or for some other reason, the abbot
soon died. He was replaced by another abbot, and this new abbot gave them
two-course meals. The monks were angry and upset, so they said 'Now we
must pray even harder that God will deprive this man of his life, because
he has deprived us of one of our courses.' The abbot then died. He was
replaced by a third abbot, who took away yet another course. The angry
monks said, 'This one is the worst of all: he is starving us to death!
Let us pray to God that he will die soon.' Then one of the monks said,
'Meanwhile, I will pray to God that he give this abbot a long life and
keep him safe on our behalf.' The others were surprised and asked him
why he said this. The monk explained, 'I see that our first abbot was
bad, the second one worse, and this third abbot is the worst of all. I
am afraid that when this one dies, he will be replaced by one who is even
worse, and then we really will die of starvation!'
Hence the saying: Bad situations rarely get better.
Note: Odo also quotes this proverb in English, 'Seilde comed se betere.'
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.