Lessing’s AESOP AND THE ASS*

Posted by jlubans on August 20, 2020

20200820-rsz_disc_donk.jpg
Caption: Discerning Donkey

THE next time you write a fable about me," said the donkey to Aesop, "make me say something wise and sensible."
"Something sensible from you!" exclaimed .Aesop; "what would the world think? People would call you the moralist, and me the donkey!"
Be careful whom you support as wise and sensible.
-------------------
The donkey gets a b
um rap and Lessing’s Aesop goes along.
As a former slave, Aesop might have had a bit more sympathy for the donkey.
For all of Lessing’s philosopher credentials – even though he never sported a beard – he gets no further than the stereotype. Once a silly ass always a silly ass!
What about the biblical Balaam’s Ass?
I’ve often referred to that creature as a star follower, one who hears an invisible guardian angle and stubbornly stops his leader’s headlong gallop into perdition.
Aesop, btw, was never a moralist. Morals and moralists came long after Aesop.
Aesop, it seems, never doubted a listener’s getting the message.
Imagine that!
Does Lessing really have to tell us about taking care in whom we “support as wise and sensible”?
Good advice, nevertheless, during this presidential election.

*Source: Lessing, Fables, Book I, No. 30. Translated by G. Moir Bussey
Excerpted From: Cooper, Frederic Taber, 1864-1937. “An argosy of fables; a representative selection from the fable literature of every age and land.”

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© Copyright John Lubans 2020


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