Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
404. THE DONKEY AND THE LYRE
Perry 542 (Phaedrus
A donkey saw a lyre lying in a field. He approached the instrument and
as he tried to strum it with his hoof, the strings resounded at his touch.
'What a beautiful thing,' said the donkey, 'but completely inappropriate,
since I don't know anything about music. If only someone better equipped
than myself had found it, my ears would have been delighted by heavenly
So it is that talents often go to waste because of some misfortune.
Note: It seems likely that Phaedrus invented this fable based on the
widely known Greek proverb: onos luras, 'the donkey, the lyre.'
The abbreviated proverb has the donkey as the subject of the verb and
the lyre as the object, and it is usually assumed that the donkey is
'listening' to the lyre (for example, Lucian, Against the Unlearned
4: 'you listen to the lyre like a donkey, moving your ears'). In this
case, however, Phaedrus's donkey wants to play the lyre (compare Lucian,
Dialogues of the Courtesans 14: onos autolurizon, 'a donkey
playing the lyre').
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.