Phaedrus' THE ASS AND THE LYRE*

Posted by jlubans on May 08, 2019

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Caption: Carving from Romanesque Church Aulnay-de-Saintonge, 12th c.


How Genius is often wasted through Misfortune.
An Ass espied a Lyre lying in a meadow: he approached and tried the strings with his hoof; they sounded at his touch.
“By my faith, a pretty thing,” said he; “it happens unfortunately that I am not skilled in the art.
If any person of greater skill had found it, he might have charmed my ears with divine notes.”

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An ass playing a musical instrument? While the ass in the fable appreciates his limits (hooves not fingers) he still enjoys the lyre’s melodic notes.
Some have this as a fable which describes improbabilities. An ass is as likely to play a harp as is a goat to bleet out an operatic aria.
I am less sure about that take.
It seems to me that this fable is about anyone’s appreciation of someone else’s creation.
I cannot paint a picture, yet I know what I like when I see a artist’s work. I can’t do art, but I can certainly voice my approval or disapproval.
And so it can be at work.
I may not know how to do some arcane accounting routine, but I sure can praise a spread sheet that answers my questions.
Or, I can explain that I need more information and in a certain format.


*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

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Also, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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