« السابقةمتابعة »
3. THE GNAT AND THE Ox. A gnat seated himself on the horn of an ox, and commenced buzzing. He said, however, to the ox, “If I weigh heavily on your neck, I will go away.” The ox said, “Neither did I know it when you came, nor if you stay shall I care."
4. The Fox AND THE GRAPES. A fox, seeing some ripe grapes hanging above him, tried to get them to eat. But having tried long in vain, he said, assuaging his vexation, They are still sour."
5. THE KID AND THE WOLF. A kid standing on the top of a house, as he saw a wolf passing by, began to revile and deride him. But the wolf said, “You silly creature, it is not you that revile me, but the place.”
6. THE WOMAN AND THE HEN. A certain widow had a hen that every day laid her an egg. But thinking that if she should give the hen more barley she would lay twice a day, she took this course. The hen, however, becoming fat, could not lay even once a day.
The anecdotes are culled from various sources, Plutarch, the biographer, furnishing his full share. There are, however, some few extant ancient collections of ana, upon which compilers can draw to eke out their variety of such interesting material. We supply a number of characteristic specimens.
Di-og'[oj]en-es, the famous cynic philosopher of the time of Alexander the Great, is credited with several very bright sayings, generally caustic, sometimes perhaps affectedly so, in their humor.
To one remarking that to live was an evil, “Not to live, but to live evilly,” Diogenes responded.
Pessimism, our readers may see, is by no means a modern whim. Perhaps the refutation of Diogenes need hardly be improved upon.
Carrying about a lighted lamp in broad noon, “I am looking,” he said, “ for a man."
Plato having defined man to be a biped without wings, and he being in great repute as a philosopher, Diogenes plucked a rooster and carried him to Plato's school with the remark, “Here is Plato's man.”
A worthless fellow having put the inscription over his door, “ Let nothing base enter here,” The master of the house, then,” said Diogenes, “where will he enter?"
Plato was broadly contrasted with Diogenes, as in his philosophy, so also in his habits and character. Diogenes lived barefooted, half naked, and filthy, in a tub, while Plato loved sumptuous clothing and fare. It is told of the two that Diogenes once set his broad dirty sole on the folds of Plato's rich outer garment, saying, “Thus I trample on the pride of Plato." And with greater pride,” instantly retorted the latter. Of Plato we give only the following additional anecdote. There is hardly any thing related of Plato that presents him to us in a nobler or more striking light :
Plato, being angry once with a slave, said to Xen-oc'ra-tes standing by, “Do you take this fellow and him ; for I am angry.”
We do not know what the occasion was. Perhaps Plato had no right to be angry at all. But next to having self-control enough not to be angry, is having self-control enough not to punish in anger. We are not to understand that Plato actually wanted Xenocrates to inflict a flogging, but only that he took that way. of restraining and explaining himself.
Human slavery was an omnipresent circumstance in ancient society. It appears again, with its odious barbarism of the lash, in the following anecdote of Zeno, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, or philosophy of the porch, so called from the place in which the philosophy was originally taught. To get the point of the poor slave's witty plea, as well as of Zeno's instantaneous rejoinder, you must remember that one of the great Stoic doctrines was that of fate, or necessity.
Zeno was flogging a slave for stealing. “It was foreordained,” whimpered the slave, “that I should steal.” “And that you should have your hide taken off you,” added the philosopher.
To a chatterbox, Zeno said: “We have two ears and one mouth, that we may hear much and talk little.”
Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, and one of the seven sostyled wise men of Greece, condensed, with Attic wit, the. whole pathos of irreparable bereavement into his answer to the commonplace consoler of his grief:
Solon, having lost a son, was weeping. One saying to him that weeping would do no good, “For that very reason,” he replied, “I weep.”
There survives a striking tradition of an interview between Alexander the Great and Diogenes, in which the king asked the philosopher what favor he could do him. “Get out of my sunshine," growled the surly cynic with admirably sustained character. This passage between the two men gives point to the following anecdote :
Alexander having had a conversation with Diogenes, was so struck with the man's way of life and his personal character, that he used often afterward, recalling him, to remark : “If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.”
With that class of people who aped Alexander's wry neck, to be in the fashion, this egotistic praise bestowed by Alexander on Diogenes should have given the tub philosopher a good lift.
Philip of Macedon, Alexander's father, either really had the wit to say good things, or else the luck to have some one able and willing to impute good things to him as the author.
Philip used to say that an army of deers with a lion commanding, was better than an army of lions with a deer commanding.
Philip congratulated the Athenians on being able to find ten generals every year to put in command ; as for himself, he in many years had never been able to find more than one general, Par-me'ni-o.
Philip being asked whom he loved most and whom he hated most, “Those who are about to betray me I love most, and those who have already betrayed me I hate most," was the reply.
The misanthropic reply, this, of a tyrant, reminding one of the saying of Louis XIV.—was it not ?-of France, who, on occasion of giving some coveted office to a single applicant out of a hundred, remarked : “ There, I have made ninetynine men hostile to me, and one man-ungrateful.”
With a few laconisms, so good that they are already familiar, but likewise, so good that, though familiar, they will bear repetition, let us close this tempting collection of anecdotes; for there is much to follow after the present chapter, from which it would be wrong to detain our readers.
Some one remarking that the arrows of the barbarians flew so thick as to darken the sun, So much the better,” said Le-on'idas, we shall fight them, then, in the shade."
Wishing immediately to attack the enemy, he sent word to his soldiers to make their breakfast, as about to make their supper in Hades.
Gor'go, a Lacedæmonian (or Spartan]woman, wife of Leonidas, presenting to her son, about to engage in a military expedition, a shield, said : · Either [bring] this, or [be brought] on this."
A Spartan woman to her son lamed in battle, and chagrined about it, said: “Do not grieve, my child, for with every step you take you will be reminded of your own valor.”
Remember that the Ce-phis'sus was the river associated with Athens, as the Eu-ro'tas was with Sparta, and enjoy the grim advantage that the Spartan got over the boasting Athenian, in the following encounter:
A certain Athenian saying to An-talci-das, “Well, we have many a time driven you Spartans back from the Cephissus.” “ But we Spartans never,” retorted Antalcidas, “drove you Athenians back from the Eurotas.”
Lucian (not to be confounded with Lucan, a very different genius, and a Roman) belongs to a late age of Greek litera
ture, being of the second century after Christ. He was a Syrian by birth, but he acquired a singular mastery of pure Attic, in which dialect he wrote voluminously. His “Dialogues of the Dead” furnish some of the most lively matter that goes into the ordinary Greek Reader. These famous dialogues have been the original of several justly admired imitations. Or, if Lord Lyttleton's, Fénelon's, and Walter Savage Landor's similar productions are not to be called imitations, it may at least be said that the idea of them was suggested to their respective authors by Lucian's ingenious and audacious initiative.
Lucian was nothing if not lively. He had a merry, if not a mocking, vein in his character, and this appears very strongly in what he wrote. He lived in a time when the idolatries of the Roman Empire were in somewhat the same effete and moribund condition to which in Luther's time her abuses and corruptions had apparently reduced the Roman Catholic Church. Lucian exercised his wit in ridiculing paganism, as Erasmus exercised his wit in ridiculing monkery. Or, again, Lucian was to Greek and Roman polytheism what Voltaire was to the Christian Church; the Christian Church, that is to say, as, very naturally from his circumstances, Voltaire misunderstood the Christian Church. No system of faith and worship open to be so laughed at could possibly long stand to be so laughed at, as Lucian made the whole world laugh at the religion of Olympus. There is not now enough of respectable absurdity left to that obsolete idolatry to make Lucian's raillery at its expense as richly enjoyable to us as the deathless wit of the raillery entitles it to be.
The following extract, which we take from the volume devoted to Lucian, in Lippincott's reprint of the “Ancient Classics for English Readers,” belongs in a piece entitled, " Jupiter in Heroics." The falcon flew at the highest quarry. The ostensible motive of the piece is Jupiter's concern at the decay of reverence among men for the Olympian divinities.