Aesop at Play

Aesop was chided for relaxing and playing with children. His response in today’s language was simple….

Lighten up.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

An Athenian once found Aesop joining merrily in the sports of some children. He ridiculed him for his want of gravity, and Aesop good-temperedly took up a bow, unstrung it, and laid it at his feet. “There, friend,” said he; “that bow, if kept always strained, would lose its spring, and probably snap. Let it go free sometimes, and it will be the fitter for use when it is wanted.”

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Aesop at playAN Athenian, one day, found Aesop at play with a company of little boys, at their childish diversions, and began to jeer and laugh at him for it. The old fellow, who was too much a wag himself, to suffer others to ridicule him, took a bow, unstrung, and laid it upon the ground. Then calling the censorious Athenian, Now, philosopher, says he, expound the riddle if you can, and tell us what the unstrained bow implies. The Man, after racking his brains, and scratching his pate about it a considerable time, to no purpose, at last gave it up, and declared he knew not what to make of it. Why, says Aesop, laughing, if you keep a bow always bent it will break presently; but, if you let it go slack, it will be the fitter for use when you want it.


The mind of man is like a bow in this respect; for if it be always kept intent upon business, it will either break, and be good for nothing, or lose that spring and energy which is required in one who would acquit himself with credit. But sports and diversions sooth and slacken it, and keep it in a condition to be exerted to the best advantage upon occasion. It proceeds either from pride, ill-nature, or hypocrisy, when people censure and are offended at the liberties which others use in thus relaxing their minds. Sloth and idleness, by which we neglect the prosecution of our necessary affairs, must be condemned by all means; but those who know how to dispatch the proper business of life well and seasonably enough, need be under no apprehension of being surprised at their diversions, if they have nothing dishonest in them. As these amusements ought to be allowed, because they are proper, so it is no great matter how they are followed; we may, if we like it, as well play with children as men; and rather if we find they can divert us better, which is not very seldom the case; some men and women are useless and untractable in every circumstance of life; and some children so engaging and entertaining, with an agreeable undesigned mixture of innocence and cunning, that the company of the latter is many times the more preferable and diverting.

1001Aesopus et Arcus

Cum quidam Atticus Aesopum in puerorum turba nucibus ludentem vidisset, restitit et quasi delirum risit. Quod simul sensit Aesopus (senex derisor potius quam deridendus) arcum retensum in media via posuit. “Heus,” inquit, “sapiens! Expedi quid fecerim.” Concurrit populus. Ille diu se torquet, nec quaestionis positae causam intellegit. Novissime succumbit. Tum sophus victor “Cito,” inquit, “arcum rumpes, si semper tensum habueris; at si laxaris, utilis erit cum voles.”


Sic aliquando lusus animo dari debent, ut ad cogitandum melior tibi redeat.

Perry #505