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The Frogs Desiring a King

Some frogs looking at a crown.

The Frogs Desiring A King

Some frogs sitting on a log about to be eaten by a stork. Zeus looks on from afar.

The Frogs Desiring A King

The Frogs were grieved at their own lawless condition, so they sent a deputation to Zeus begging him to provide them with a King. Zeus, perceiving their simplicity, dropped a Log of wood into the pool. At first the Frogs were terrified by the splash, and dived to the bottom; but after a while, seeing the Log remain motionless, they came up again, and got to despise it so much that they climbed up and sat on it. Dissatisfied with a King like that, they came again to Zeus and entreated him to change their ruler for them, the first being altogether too torpid. Then Zeus was exasperated with them, and sent them a Stork, by whom they were seized and eaten up.

Along a shoreline, Irish men sit on a log on which the words 'land bill' are written. They are pleading with Britannia to give them home rule.

A crowned stork.

The Frogs Desiring a King

The Frogs were living as happy as could be in a marshy swamp that just suited them; they went splashing about caring for nobody and nobody troubling with them. But some of them thought that this was not right, that they should have a king and a proper constitution, so they determined to send up a petition to Jove to give them what they wanted. "Mighty Jove," they cried, "send unto us a king that will rule over us and keep us in order." Jove laughed at their croaking, and threw down into the swamp a huge Log, which came down splashing into the swamp. The Frogs were frightened out of their lives by the commotion made in their midst, and all rushed to the bank to look at the horrible monster; but after a time, seeing that it did not move, one or two of the boldest of them ventured out towards the Log, and even dared to touch it; still it did not move. Then the greatest hero of the Frogs jumped upon the Log and commenced dancing up and down upon it, thereupon all the Frogs came and did the same; and for some time the Frogs went about their business every day without taking the slightest notice of their new King Log lying in their midst. But this did not suit them, so they sent another petition to Jove, and said to him, "We want a real king; one that will really rule over us." Now this made Jove angry, so he sent among them a big Stork that soon set to work gobbling them all up. Then the Frogs repented when too late.

Better no rule than cruel rule.

Illustration 103

The Frogs Desiring A King

Athens  in freedom flourish'd long,

'Till licence seized the giddy throng.

Just laws grown weary to obey,

They sunk to tyranny a prey.

Pisistratus, though mild he sway'd,

Their turbulence had not allay'd.

Whilst they were cursing in despair,

The yoke they had not learn'd to bear,

Esop, their danger to describe,

Rehears'd this fable to the tribe:

"Some frogs, like you, of freedom tired,

From Jupiter a king desir'd:

One that should execute the law,

And keep the dissolute in awe.

Jove laugh'd, and threw them down a log,

That thundering fell and shook the bog.

Amongst the reeds the tremblers fled:

Till one more bold advanc'd his head,

And saw the monarch of the flood

Lying half smothered in the mud.

He calls the croaking race around:

"A wooden king!" the banks resound.

Fear once remov'd they swim about him,

And gibe and jeer and mock and flout him;

And messengers to Jove depute,

Effectively to grant their suit.

A hungry stork he sent them then,

Who soon had swallow'd half the fen.

Their woes scarce daring to reveal,

To Mercury by night they steal,

And beg him to entreat of Jove

The direful tyrant to remove.

'No,' says the God, 'they chose their lot,

And must abide what they have got:'

So you, my friends, had best go home

In peace, lest something worse should come."

Illustration 105


The Frogs, living an easy free life every where among the lakes and ponds, assembled together, one day, in a very tumultuous manner, and petitioned Jupiter to let them have a King, who might inspect their morals, and make them live a little honester. Jupiter, being at that time in pretty good humour, was pleased to laugh heartily at their ridiculous request; and, throwing a little log down into the pool, cried, 'There is a King for you.' The sudden splash which this made by its fall into the water, at first terrified them so exceedingly, that they were afraid to come near it. But in a little time, seeing it lay still without moving, they ventured, by degrees, to approach it; and at last, finding there was no danger, they leaped upon it; and, in short, treated it as familiarly as they pleased. But not contented with so insipid a King as this was, they sent their deputies to petition again for another sort of one; for this they neither did nor could like. Upon that he sent them a Stork, who, without any ceremony, fell a devouring and eating them up, one after another, as fast as he could. Then they applied themselves privately to Mercury, and got him to speak to Jupiter in their behalf, that he would be so good as to bless them again with another King, or to restore them to their former state. 'No,' says he, 'since it was their own choice, let the obstinate wretches suffer the punishment due to their folly.'


It is pretty extraordinary to find a fable of this kind finished with so bold and yet polite a turn by Phædrus: one who attained his freedom by the favour of Augustus, and wrote it in the time of Tiberius; who were, successively, tyrannical usurpers of the Roman government. If we may take his word for it, Æsop spoke it upon this occasion. When the commonwealth of Athens flourished under good wholesome laws of its own enacting, they relied so much upon the security of their liberty, that they negligently suffered it to run out into licentiousness. And factions happening to be fomented among them by designing people, much about the same time, Pisistratus took that opportunity to make himself master of their citadel and liberties both together. The Athenians finding themselves in a slate of slavery, though their tyrant happened to be a very merciful one, yet could not bear the thoughts of it; so that Æsop, where there was no remedy, prescribes to them patience, by the example of the foregoing fable; and adds, at last, 'Wherefore, my dear countrymen, be contented with your present condition, bad as it is, for fear a change should be worse.'