The Horse and The Ass

A Horse met an Ass on the road and demanded he move aside. The Ass complied but was delighted later to find the horse lame and abused along the same road.

Better humble security than gilded danger.

[These versions are not exactly the same fable, but are similar enough to be included on the same page.]

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

A Horse and an Ass were travelling together, the Horse prancing along in its fine trappings, the Ass carrying with difficulty the heavy weight in its panniers. “I wish I were you,” sighed the Ass; “nothing to do and well fed, and all that fine harness upon you.” Next day, however, there was a great battle, and the Horse was wounded to death in the final charge of the day. His friend, the Ass, happened to pass by shortly afterwards and found him on the point of death. “I was wrong,” said the Ass: “Better humble security than gilded danger.”

Townsend VersionTownsend version

A horse, proud of his fine trappings, met an Ass on the highway. The Ass, being heavily laden, moved slowly out of the way. “Hardly,” said the Horse, “can I resist kicking you with my heels.” The Ass held his peace, and made only a silent appeal to the justice of the gods. Not long afterwards the Horse, having become broken-winded, was sent by his owner to the farm. The Ass, seeing him drawing a dungcart, thus derided him: “Where, O boaster, are now all thy gay trappings, thou who are thyself reduced to the condition you so lately treated with contempt?’

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

A War-Horse, gaily caparisoned, with arching neck and lofty tread, the ground ringing beneath his hoofs, overtook a patient Ass, slowly walking along under a heavy load. He called upon him in a haughty tone to move on one side, and give him room to pass. The poor Ass did so, sighing at the inequality of their lots. Not long after, he met the same Horse in the same road, and near the same spot; but in how different circumstances! Wounded in battle, and his master killed, he was now lame, half blind, and heavily laden, driven with many blows by a brutal carrier, into whose hands he had fallen.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

In the days of old, when horses spoke Greek and Latin, and asses made syllogisms, there happen’d an encounter upon the road betwixt a proud pamper’d jade in the full course of his carriere, and a poor creeping ass, under a heavy burden, that had chopt into the same track with him. Why, how now sirrah, says he, d’ye not see by these arms, and trappings, to what master I belong? And d’ye not understand that when I have that master of mine upon my back, the whole weight of the State rests upon my shoulders? Out of the way thou slavish insolent animal, or I’ll tread thee to dirt. The wretched asse immediately slunck aside, with this envious reflexion betwixt his teeth. What would I give to change conditions with that happy creature there. This fancy would not out of the head of him, ’till it was his hap some few days after to see this very horse doing drudgery in a common dung-cart. Why how now friend (says the asse) how comes this about? Only the chance of the war, says the other; I was a soldiers horse, you must know, and my master carry’d me into a battel where I was shot, hack’d, and maim’d; and you have here before your eyes the catastrophe of my fortune.


The folly, and the fate, of pride and arrogance. The mistake of placing happiness in any thing that may be taken away, and the blessing of freedom in a mean estate.

1001Equus Superbus et Asinus

Equus phaleris sellaque ornatus cum ingenti hinnitu per viam currebat. Currenti onustus asellus forte obstabat, cui equus, fremebundus, “Quid,” inquit, “ignave, obsistis equo? Cede, inquam, aut te proculcabo pedibus!” Asellus, rudere non ausus, cedit tacitus. Equo provolanti crepat inguen. Tum, cursui inutilis, ornamentis spoliatur. Postea cum carro venientem asinus affatur, “Heus, mi amice! Quis ille ornatus est? Ubi aurea sella? Ubi splendidum frenum? Sic, amice, necesse fuit evenire superbienti.”

Perry #565