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We marvel that å mortal hand could raise,
As when we gaze upon a gorgeous scene,
Immortal SHAKSPERE! never can we find
" While these huge piles," &c. The Pyramids are in a wonderful state
of preservation. şi. We hear the plaint of love-lorn Montague.” Romeo was of the House
of Montague #t" And pace the haughty Capel's marble halls.” Capels-Capulets : the
í sworn foes of the Montagues. “Stern Cassius,"? &c.—Julius Caesar. Act I. Scene I. ** “We see the face of Egypt's syren queen,” i.e., Cleopatra. '
To fill with glowing images the mind,
FABLES AND PROVERBS, AND THE LESSONS THEY TEACH.
MR. WILLIAM BRIDGES,
Master of St. Paul's School, Cambridge.
XXE have met this evening to spend an hour in the region
of FABLE and PROVERB. What an air of antiquity hangs about the familiar Fables and Proverbs of our early days ! how quickly, fond memory flies back to the days of yore, when we sat and listened to the story of “ The Dog in the Manger," or "The Wolf and the Lamb;" and were taught to abhor selfishness and tyranny as despicable and unworthy dispositions, unfit for a place in the human breast : :-or the repetition of those short, crisp, pithy say, ings of our ancestors, that contain so much poetry and richness--are so easy to be remembered, and put to present
use that always seem to fit into so many points and turns of conversation. It is not my province to-night to enter into a disquisition upon Fables and Proverbs, but to see what practical lessons may be drawn from them.
Proverbs show the morals and thoughts of a people: all nations delight in them. They have their origin from various causes, and become the legends of past generations. We are frequently hearing them from the pulpit, the platform, the judicial bench-in the markets, and on 'Change -in chance meetings in the street, and by the family hearth. They breathe a thrilling poetry that charms the intellect and strikes the mind. They pass from mouth to mouth, down the stream of time, on and on, for ever. They are gems, worthy of the greatest care.
So much, by way of introduction about the Proverbs. Now I must have a few words about the Fables. And when we speak of them, the mind naturally enough turns to old Æsop, who was once a slave, and lived about 550 B.C. He found his way to the court of Cræsus, a very rich king of Lydia ; and although he was a slave, he has a fame more universal and lasting than the Seven Wise Men of Greece. This may lead us to value intellectual gifts, and not allow ourselves to be carried away by the mere externals of anyone. We must learn to discriminate, and keep constantly in mind that he who lives to learn, will learn to live. Æsop forced his way into the courts of princes by his own natural wit, working his way to fame by an honourable road : he seems, we are told, a stepping stone between the poetry which had gone before, and the prose that followed, clothing his lectures in the garb of imagination and fancy. He grew quickly into favour with Crasus, a king whose name has passed into a proverb “As rich as Crosus,” being often heard when speaking of a man of unbounded wealth. He grew, we are told, quickly into his favour, by the mode in which he imparted his knowledge: he went to amuse, but he remained to instruct. He was sent by Cræsus as a commissioner bo Delphi, to distribute some payment which was due to the Delphians; and in the discharge of this duty he incurred the displeasure of the citizens, who, from fear of his wit, raised a cry against him of impiety and sacrilege. They hurled him from one of the Phædrian precipices, when he was dashed to pieces, and this gave rise to the proverb of “ Æsop's blood;" for the Delphians were punished for the deed, and paid a compensation to Iadmun, the grandson of his old master.
About 200 years after his death, a statue was erected at Athens, and placed in front of the statues of the Seven Sages of Greece. His personal deformity and swarthy complexion have not the slightest testimony from ancient authority. He was not the inventor of Fable, for the oldest on record is that of “The Trees and the Bramble," which is to be found in the Bible, in the 9th chapter of Judges, and 7th verse. The Book of Fables forms a moral and political class-book, more than 2,000 years old; and you may look upon each fable and proverb that will be introduced to you this evening, as a good text whereon to found moral and religious truths. The minds of men should be cleansed by the moralist before they can be fitted for religion. We do not learn morality from the brute creation, it is true; but we view the great family of nature, and observe that she has connected the happiness of all living creatures with the unchangeable and eternal law of effort; and we take example by the lower orders of God's creation, and do as Solomon has told us, for we “go to the ant, and learn her ways to be wise.”
A Fable consists properly of two parts, viz. :-the symbolical representation which you see before you; and the application or the instruction that is intended to be deduced from it, and which is called the moral of the tale. The consideration of fables and proverbs has afforded pleasure to the mind from time immemorial; and mirth, you know, is to be encouraged at times : everybody ought to bathe in it now and then ; for an old writer says—“The rust of life ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth : it is medicine to the mind.” Another says, that—“A man without mirth is like a waggon without springs, in which one is caused to jolt disagreeably, by every pebble over which it runs ; but a man with mirth is like a chariot with springs, in which one can ride over the roughest road, and scarcely feel anything but a pleasant rocking motion.” I do not believe, my friends, that a man or woman need always wear a frown on the brow ; the truth can be told in a pleasant way, as many of the works of great men show us : and this proves to a demonstration that lofty intellects need not be like some of the high mountains that we read of, covered with perpetual
ice. So much by way of preface. I shall now introduce you to No. I., but before I do so, I may perhaps just be permitted to say, once for all, that whatever may be advanced by me to-night, by way of illustration of my subject, nothing personal will be intended, as you are nearly all strangers to me, and your habits of life unknown by me: but, speaking in proverbs, I must say that “whenever the cap fits, you may wear it,” so as to profit thereby.
The first, then, that I shall introduce to your notice is THE FOX AND THE CROW :- A crow had snatched a goodly piece of cheese out of a window, and flew into a high tree, intent on enjoying her prize. A fox spied the dainty morsel, and thus he planned his approaches,“O, crow, said he, “how beautiful are thy wings, how bright thine eye ! how graceful thy neck ! thy breast is the breast of an eagle ! thy claws-I beg pardon-thy talons are a match for all the beasts of the field. O, that such a bird should be dumb, and want only a voice !” The crow, pleased with the flattery, and chuckling to think how she would surprise the fox with her caw, opened her mouth;-down dropped the cheese! which the fox snapped up and walked away with, observing that whatever he had remarked of her beauty, he had said nothing yet of her brains! Now, we learn three things at least by the foregoing, viz. :-I. Flattery; II. Obtaining goods by false pretences; and III. Trap. Flattery is used by some men when they have some private end in view ; they seldom flatter without it, and some deal in it from very early life. A new scholar was introduced the other day into a play-ground among the school-boys, before school commenced; when one of the bigger boys went up to him, and perceiving the breast pocket of his jacket was rather bulky, and fancying that it contained something good, commenced his operations like the fox :-Well, what's your name-you seem a nice lad ; you will be a credit to us, I can see - very respectable ----good head- rather shy--never mind the fellows 'here, they shan't meddle with ye-you keep near me-got an apple or two in your pocket?—there's a brick-give us one -jolly fellow_bring some more another day!! Now this youngster began early to play his cards. 0° how few can stand against flattery! Diogenes being asked what beasts are apt to bite the worst, said—“Of all wild beasts the slanderer, and of all tame ones the flatterer.” King Solo