An Ant and A Fly

An ant and fly disputed their respective merits. The fly boasted about being on royalty; the ant talked about toiling for a living. The ant won.

Work honestly and you won’t be scorned.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

An Ant and a Fly one day disputed as to their respective merits. “Vile creeping insect!” said the Fly to the Ant, “can you for a moment compare yourself with me? I soar on the wing like a bird. I enter the palaces of kings, and alight on the heads of princes, nay, of emperors, and only quit them to adorn the yet more attractive brow of beauty. Besides, I visit the altars of the gods. Not a sacrifice is offered but is first tasted by me. Every feast, too, is open to me. I eat and drink of the best, instead of living for days on two or three grains of corn as you do.” “All that’s very fine,” replied the Ant; “but listen to me. You boast of your feasting, but you know that your diet is not always so choice, and you are sometimes forced to eat what nothing should induce me to touch. As for alighting on the heads of kings and emperors, you know very well that whether you pitch on the head of an emperor, or of an ass (and it is as often on the one as the other), you are shaken off from both with impatience. And, then, the ‘altars of the gods,’ indeed! There and everywhere else you are looked upon as nothing but a nuisance. In the winter, too, while I feed at my ease on the fruit of my toil, what more common than to see your friends dying with cold, hunger, and fatigue? I lose my time now in talking to you. Chattering will fill neither my bin nor my cupboard.”

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

There happen’d a warm dispute betwixt an ant and a fly. Why, where’s the honour, or the pleasure in the world, says the fly, that I have not my part in? Are not all temples and palaces open to me? Am not I the taster to gods and princes, in all their sacrifices and entertainments? Am I not serv’d in gold and silver? And is not my meat and drink still of the best? And all this, without either mony or pains. I trample upon crowns, and kiss what ladies lips I please. And what have you now to pretend to all this while? Why, says the ant, you value your self upon the access you have to the altars of the gods, the cabinets of princes, and to all publick feasts and collations: and what’s all this but the access of an intruder, not of a guest. For people are so far from liking your company, that they kill ye as fast as they can catch ye. You’re a plague to ’em wherever you come. Your very breath has maggots in’t, and for the kisse you brag of, what is it but the perfume of the last dunghill you touch’d upon, once remov’d? For my part I live upon what’s my own, and work honestly in the summer to maintain my self in the winter; whereas the whole course of your scandalous life, is only cheating or sharping, one half of the year, and starving, the other.


Here’s an emblem of industry, and luxury, set forth at large: with the sober advantages, and the scandalous excesses of the one and of the other.

1001Apes et Musca

Apes et musca contendebant quae earum esset potentior, et dixit musca, “Cum tu et tui similes multo labore et ingenio mel ex floribus collegeritis et in cellulis vestris, quas item mirifice construitis, toto anno collocaveritis, homo in momento unius diei totum laborem vestrum sibi usurpat et, quod gravius est, vos ipsas interficit, et ego et mei similes postea de labore vestro comedimus. Et videtis quod ego, si mihi placet, iuxta regem sedeo vel, si magis voluero, super caput ipsius sublimis exsisto. Sed vos, si veneritis in conspectum regis vel ei appropinquare volueritis, continuo repellemini.” Tunc apes respondit, “Gloriam tuam, quia vana est, audire non possum. Sed hoc te volo scire: quanto te in altiori loco videro, tanto te viliorem habeo.”

Perry #521