You are on page 1of 1

19 Unpublished Fables

by Eliphas Levi (1862)


P asiphae kept saying to her beloved bull: How white your chest is! How beautiful your
horns are! Come, I want to show you a flowery meadow; I shall crown you with the
freshest flowers. Look at me with those eyes of yours; they are so powerful and sweet - as
brilliant and touching as the new moon. I love your deep voice tenderly lowing. I am the
queen and I have come to serve you on my knees. Bow down your strong neck for my kisses.
Come, I am as beautiful as Europa the fair, the virgin carried on the foaming depths by a
bull like you - but an easier lover. Love me. Your beautiful form is the one Jupiter assumed
when he was in love with mortals. Do I have to implore the underworld to help me to
seduce you? Do you want me to fill the air with my cries? Where can I find a voice or a song
that would move you?
Woman, said the bull without looking at her, You are not bad at bellowing, but I would
much prefer the mooing of a heifer.

At the risk of annoying the dreamers, not all love is good:

Love makes us similar to the thing we love.
When you love a cow, you have to be a bull;
When you love a bull, you must be a cow.


O ne day, when Homer was an old man, he was wandering without a guide, walking sadly
as he groped for the path, when his keen ears caught the sound of a dogs long howl.
He hoped the gods had given him some new help, and his feet struck a gravestone.
There the dog was whining lying on a stone, his pointless cries repeatedly begging heaven
for his master, an old shepherd, who no longer heard him.
Homer understood the whole story; his darkened eyes could still weep, though they could
not see. He wanted to calm the animals grief; he gave him a loaf of bread, his last provisions.
He wanted to tear him away from such places: Come, I need you, come and save my life!
Come on, you see that the light has gone from my eyes; you were sent to me by the gods.
Poor dog, do not die guarding an empty shell; your master can no longer hear you.
But the dog, despite these words, stuck to the rock and kept on whining. He refused the
bread and the friendship of this great man. We can forget love and good turns, but only
the dog never fails to live up to his well-deserved reputation as a faithful friend. He died
without moving from the tomb of the old shepherd.

He could undoubtedly have done better for himself; he could have helped and loved the
great Homer; But few tender friends, other than dogs, have understood better or behaved
so well.


T he river flowed with beautiful fresh water; the radiant sun lit up the air and made the
clear, peaceful water sparkle as if with thousands of raindrops of liquid gold. The vast
sky rejoiced; the sap was rising and the earth shone with greenery and flowers. It was one
of those days which seem like a sweet dream, where everything that breathes is love and
But meanwhile, underneath the water, a man plunged deep in the mud was struggling for
his life, and for him, whose unseeing eyes were dilating, the waves were cloudy and the
sky was black. He cursed the deadly slope of the bank; as he writhed, he blamed heavens
And when he had perished, sunk in the gloomy depths with his fists clenched,
the river rolled on still taking no notice, and eventually brought him peacefully to the bank,
his arms and legs green with weeds.
As calm as the sky on the fields of battle, its clear waves playfully lapped the bank,
and its voice murmured to the pitying crowd: I was refreshing him... it was his own fault
he drowned.

Life is harsh, and human suffering does not change the serene majesty of heaven one bit;
therefore since fate might plunge you to the bottom of the water, if you are afraid of the
steep bank, learn to swim.


A cross the thick partition-wall of a park where rich-fleeced ewes grazed on fresh and
flowery grass, a certain wolf, who roamed the prarie, having assured himself that the
sheepdog was asleep and would hear nothing, addressed the bleating flock, saying: Dont
be afraid of me, you who are kept by man for his hideous meals; you who he already branded
with his bloody mark; you who think yourselves safe, when the butchers knife is already
threatening you! Trust me, fate rewards courage. Push down the wall of this hateful park,
or, this evening if you have to be taken back to the fold,
run away, scatter into the woods, onto the plain; this is how to seize your freedom!
Yes, said an old ram, Your speech is wonderful; I like liberty, its a word I have a great
respect for. But far from the dogs and the shepherd, do you think that we will live without
trouble and without danger? Free, we will still find a prarie
of clear streams and golden sunsets, but tell me, Mr. Wolf, who will defend us from the
assaults of such as you? In submitting to the rule of men we avoid worse evils. Go away,
friend wolf, we know you well. Go back to your forests, or I shall wake the sheepdog.

This allegory is more relevant than you might think. And between ourselves I advise you,
sheep, poor sheep, do not trust wolves who preach independence to you!


A n ant was watching a joyful honeybee happily plunging into the flowers, drunk with her
honeyed treasure, shining with the golden powder from her cups.
Look here, you stupid creature! said the ant. You are a living machine for human beings!
They build houses for you, they take care of their servant. I dont expect anything but bad
from them myself; they crush me underfoot, they knock down my barns. They have nothing
but mistrust for me, whilst their best poet has sung your praises. But how am I less busy
than you?
Not at all, replied the bee. But I gave honey to the lips of Aristaius, whilst as for you, what
would you do for the sons of Apollo - bite them on the heel?

Selfishness takes revenge on selfishness. We must let nature take its course. All life is an
exchange: if you want to receive, you must give.


O ne day some fools said to the philosopher Pythagoras : Why are some people more
attractive than us; more loved, more famous and even more rich, and why are they
called wiser or less foolish? Yet nature, the mother of us all, must have created beauty and
fortune and even intelligence for everyone! We must seize these people, make them less
attractive; take from them what they have that the rest of us dont have, and hang them if
they object!
My friends, put that idea out of your heads said the philosopher, and learn how to keep
silent! I shall... (But you must not tell anyone!) I shall reveal to you a great mystery. We
must live several times, and everything goes on a seesaw; the most beggarly will become
kings; the whitest will have black skins. Idiots must one day rule the human race by their
sublime intelligence. For this you just need a bit of patience, to wait for death, which comes
much sooner than you think - perhaps tomorrow.
All my fools eagerly lent their ears to this entertaining theory, and were all delighted by
their ugliness and poverty. It was an excellent thing for the future, and the good people
were on to a winner.

All is lost if one day the world forgets this important lesson: Ordinary people will never listen
to reason; to cure them of one foolishness, you have to make them foolish in a different


I t is said that Hercules, the mighty conqueror of the Hydra with the regenerating heads,
held up the sky on his powerful shoulders in place of old Atlas, whilst the latter laid his
eager hands on the apples of the Hesperides.
The hero was a bit fed up - as anyone would have been - when his accomplice, faithless
carrier of the inaccessible treasure, ran off with the golden apples.
So the great avenger of men felt his blood boil with a rage that was only too justified,
and to run after his apples let the sky fall and shake the underworld.

We are assured that a most holy father nearly did the same one day. But happily one hand
holds up the heavenly vault. And if the leader of the human race were to stray from the
quest for golden treasure, the sky would take its course.


A master conman with flashy clothes, and laden with twenty gold chains in twenty different
places, sleek and comfortable in velvet decorated with lace, drummed up the gullible
people with a long, noisy and magnificent show, and said to them :
Good sirs, would your ladies like beautiful dresses and jewels; would your children like
nice toys; and you yourselves, would you like some new things, some gear maybe? Pay me
for my secret, it is a great treasure : I know of a gold mine; anyone can draw from it, fools
as well as the wise. It belongs to everyone, to subjects as well as to the king. Anyone can
take it with them, you only need to know it; take from it, spend it without counting, you
will always see it renewed! To hear my secret costs twenty francs, and I also demand your
promise that you will say nothing about it.
So the crowd gathered round; people of all ages and all classes of society came to ask him
for this lucky charm.
So our fly dog would take them by the hand and lead them behind a curtain. Then, after a
drumroll on the big bass drum, he would whisper in their ear : This buried treasure trove
which people dig in every day without leaving a hole; this fertile country for the opulent lie;
this land where the streets are paved with gold - I am working there right now! Cant you
guess what it is?... Well then - it is human stupidity!


T he fable before this was for the sheep; they need to be shown that their most sensible
course lies in obedience. Find me people like Brutus or Cato, and I will tell them whether
or not I like slavery.
A captured eagle, in a cage before having known the flight of his forefathers, had grown up in
the aviary of a lord, and his haughty head rose from a rich golden collar. From the collar led
a chain attached to the branch of an oak tree. Close to this, his majesty enjoyed his liberty.
One day he saw a swallow and wanted to have a chat with her. But the swallow disdainfully
flew off and went on her way. The eagle was surprised at this contempt. Another day he saw
the swallow pass and said to her: My good maid, know that your sort pay court to mine.
Who are you, then? the swallow answered him.
I am an eagle.
Oh no, said she, youre only a farmyard bird. An eagle would have shaken off servitude
to humans, even if it meant leaving its flesh and its blood on the chain. I am nothing but a
fledgling, and I have no fear that I shall ever be enslaved myself; I die if I am caged. And you
whose wing droops like a noble in tatters, you allow yourself to be corrupted by laziness or
fear, when you can overcome to reign, or die in the attempt!

You do not have to resign yourself to your chains, if you can break them.


I am a bit surly, that is part of my character said the bear, but I am a good father; I lick
and defend my young. I moderate my appetites, and would certainly not eat people if I
could find enough apples; fruits are my best and favourite food. If I live alone, it is because
nobody understands me.
Oh, I understand you, said a dog; you may talk of your tender and sensitive soul, of all the
virtues which make the honourable wolves jealous; but I know where to take you to make
you soften up.
Having said this, the big dog leaped on the bear and had him by the throat.

The big dog was right, some people are so set in their ways that they can only be civilized by
brute force, as flaws of character all come from faults of mind and heart.


W hen the god Jupiter disguised as a bull abducted Europa and carried her off across the
sea, it is said that she dropped her basket of flowers on the waves, which rocked it for
a long time, and two turtledoves who passed by, seeing the brilliant colours of the floating
nest, said to one another : How would it be, my love, if we were to go and sleep together
on the bed gently caressed by the waters, which the gods have placed for us far from the
vultures and the shore? On this floating island let us set forth on our pleasures, abandon
ourselves to the will of the gentle breezes to be carried along like the clouds; if our vessel is
shipwrecked, what is there to alarm us? Do we not still have wings like cupids?
And now our birds are quivering on the nest. Their entwined beaks and fluttering wings
seem to charm the waves and make the flowers tremble.
But now suddenly a storm breaks; they want to fly away - they are far from the shore - they
fall; and Thetis the sea-nymph bathes them with her tears.

When heaven smiles on us, when the sea is without a ripple, let us fear the sweet breeze of
seductive advice. Let us not set off without a compass and without a guide, not even on a
nest of flowers.


A flock of sheep had strayed into a narrow mountain pass ; wolves chased far away from
the meadows roamed this remote place.
They surrounded the sheep without a shepherd, who were crammed together and pressing
against each other in a single cluster.
At once all the members of the timid crowd began to bleat so pathetically that the noise of
their whimpering drowned the sound of the howling.
The sound scared all the culprits. In the echoes of so many voices, the wolves thought they
could pick out the barking of dogs. Startled, at first they stopped, then, as the cries grew
louder and louder, fearing that help was coming, one after the other they gave up and went
Those sheep were Polish, if I believe the recent history of that country. An entire people on
their knees are weeping for their countrys honour at the foot of its altars which they will
never forget.

Now, nobody slaughters a whole people who prays and begs for a country. Nobody, not
Russians nor Mongols, not cowards nor wicked men. If anyone did, the news of such
butchery would shake the whole world!


H orribly covered in the blood of the Hydra, Hercules stood, tired, but the victor.
A little myrmidon said to him : You must really hate that tyrant of yours, that fortunate
Eurystheus. What a lot you have suffered since fate put you under his authority.
But: Be silent! Hercules said to the dwarf, who would have poisoned his life with a spirit
of envy. Be silent! Eurystheus has forged my iron courage; in commanding my labours,
he has commanded my fame; he has increased my struggle and created my victory; I owe
more to him than to Jupiter.
But all the same, he hates you.
What does his hate matter to me? He is the only one who will suffer from it.
But you are wearing his chain.
Yes, I use it to strangle lions without blanching. Besides, a sacred duty is by no means
But he wants to dishonour your famous courage.
That which makes us famous cannot be dishonoured.

Censors will find my fable ridiculous, and will think that they are right to be outraged
to see Hercules chatting with an insignificant myrmidon. But the greatest are made to
impart learning, the lowest to ask questions, and condescension could never alter sublime

Didnt Christ give us an unfair command when he ordered us to love our enemies?
No, because our enemies are our greatest benefactors, they correct us, whilst our friends
are only too ready to flatter us. The work of our enemies moves us forward, and we owe
them the price of our efforts.


I am a daughter of Heaven, said the ostrich one day. I have never known a mothers love.
As for the eggs which Heaven gives me, I abandon them to Heavens care. Sometimes
I can eat things that would kill other birds. I use my wings not to fly, but to run; my life is
the life of an athlete.
You are nothing but a nasty beast the hen replied angrily. What! You are ignorant of the
sweetest duties, and you think I should honour you! Get lost, you cuckoo! But you, my dear
little ones, come and gather under my wings!

The worship of imposters dreams; loveless and heartless mad feats of self-denial; unnatural
vices or virtues; these are monstrosities.


T hree different men, a priest, a poet and a Jewish ragman, were sitting under an old
beech tree on a very hot day. Near to them was a dwarf apple tree which had only one
apple, but at hand-height; ripe, red and altogether like the one that you might imagine in
paradise, the seductive fruit which tempted the first man in days gone by.
All three saw it at the same time; it would have been a pity to share it.
Lets play for it said the wisest.
Lets go to sleep for a little while, and then tell each other without lying what each one of
us dreams while we are asleep, and the one who has the most beautiful dream will get the
lovely apple.
And so it was; all three of them shut their eyes. One alone did not go to sleep.
The other fools re-opened their eyes to the light:
I dreamed that I was God said the poet to the Jew, who was laughing up his sleeve.
I dreamed that I was the Pope said the priest, and both of you were falling into the fire.
Well now, said the Jewish ragman hypocritically, I did not go to sleep. I was hungry and
the lovely fruit was within my reach. I thought to myself that I was only human, and well!
I munched the apple.

A good lesson for you who, weary of truth, go to sleep to choose your lies, and who wait for
the oracle of dreams before making good use of the things of this world.


W ho has not contemplated with both sad and thrilling soul the beautiful picture called
the evening of life?
An artist was sitting one evening by the waterside. A ship went by carrying love and glory
and the illusions which memory cries for.
Already indifferent even to the remembrance of them, the dreaming artist let fall his lyre,
did nothing to hold on to them and watched them without smiling. The artist... but no, what
am I saying, he is not an artist anymore; his soul is slack and his fingers are crippled. He is a
money-maker who dreams of fortune. He wants to grow old behind a sales desk. Glory and
love are an unwelcome shadow; he has disowned them, he can no longer see them.
Ah! for the heart, illusions have no age, and the age of maturity is certainly not the decline
of the good times.
Anacreon was much wiser; sustained by romances, he would swim after the ship singing,
and his songs would echo from shore to shore.


A certain man had a crystal vase, dearer to him than his own soul. Then with an unlucky
blow - perhaps from the hand of a woman, who knows? - one morning the beautiful
vase was smashed to smithereens.
Then this man raged and cried, hitting his head in fury, and saying the stupidest things.
A wise man passing by said to him: You poor fool, what you ought to be crying about is
your crazy mistake in fixing your happiness on such a fragile object.

When an accident releases us from an unworthy attachment, heaven does us the greatest
good : it cures us of madness.


T he panting steam engine had just stopped next to a field full of flowers. There the idle
horse lived (to his disgust) among the active livestock of a lonely farm. He lifted his head
and gave a long neigh, uneven and unpleasant like a mocking laugh, and said to his black
So youre the one who dares to challenge my glory, you heartless and soulless machine!
So, do you have the strength of my flexible knees? Do you have my light feet which do not
damage the grass? Your dreadful whistling cannot compete with my splendid neighing;
your long, thin neck, with no head and no eyes, has only dirty smoke compared with the
flowing waves of my spreading mane. You never hear the voice of the triumphant knight.
Whilst as for me, I understand the barking of an excited pack of hounds; I quiver with
anticipation when I hear the war-trumpet. Intelligent and strong, unbeatable and obedient,
breathing terror from my flaring nostrils, I face armies and bite the chests of the enemy

Yes, all that is very nice, especially in poetry, said the engine, and I agree that my body is
much less elegant and well-bred than yours. But I go... run after me!

Dear supporters of flowery poetry, it is no good just complaining about cold industry.
Ways of progress exist there; run, my artistic friends, and overtake it!


T he sirens were singing, the sky was peaceful. Stopped by the sweet songs, the breeze
barely rippled the surface of the water with an imperceptible breath, and Odysseus ship
calmly sailed across the enchanted blue sea.
To brave the dangers of the wonderful concert he had blocked the ears of the rowers, and
tightly lashed to his main-mast, he alone enjoyed these voices and listened as their tune
died away into the vast horizon, as one who tastes a pleasure which must be forgotten.
The headland of the sirens was already fading from sight, and the charming monsters, their
power lost for ever, threw themselves into the sea proclaiming his victory, and followed
behind the boat with songs of love.

When you turn from a dangerous addiction to pleasure, and learn how to resist it, it becomes
your slave; it is necessary to conquer sensual pleasure in order to enjoy it. Do not slander
Woman; she treasures greatness of soul just as we men love beauty.

If you enjoyed any of the fables above,

you would definitely love the following book:

Related Interests