Friday Fable. Odo of Cheriton ‘s “THE ABBOT AND THE FLEA”

Posted by jlubans on September 15, 2017

Caption: Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1912.

“AN Abbot, having caught a Flea, said to him, ‘At last I have caught you. Many a time have you bitten me; now that I have you I will never let you go, but shall put you to death.’
‘Holy Father,’ said the Flea, ‘since you are going to kill me, place me in the palm of your hand, so that I may freely confess my sins to you.’
The Abbot, moved by pious pity, placed the Flea in the middle of his palm.
The Flea at once made a great jump, and by his jump, escaped. The Abbot called loudly to him to return and confess his sins, but the Flea would not return.
There are many people who finding themselves in a tight place, promise much, but when set at liberty fail to keep their promises.”

In Aesop’s version (depicted), the flea bites the dust.
Odo’s flea survives, playing on the Abbott’s “pious pity”. While Odo often panned his clergy betters for their egregious sins, his epimythium is less about lambasting the clergy than it is about those who make promises – to get something – and having gotten what they want, reneg on their promises.
I was a partner in a research project that went belly up. Why? My partner was active and wholly committed, until he gained tenure, his personal “tight spot”. Once there, his interest waned into nothingness.
How do we avoid resting on our laurels after reaching a desired life position? Do we plateau or do we continue to strive, finding in each day something to do better, something new to explore?

*Source: Cooper, Frederic Taber, editor (1864-1937), “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land”. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company. 1921.

N.B. My next book,
Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, can be pre-ordered now ($26.99) with original illustrations by Béatrice Coron.
ISBN: 978-0-692-90955-3
LCCN: 2017908783

© Copyright John Lubans 2017
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