A Boar was insulted by an Ass but wisely avoided conflict with nothing more than a curt comment.
The impudent sometimes escape the effects of their impudence.
A little scamp of an Ass meeting in a forest with a Boar, came up to him and hailed him with impudent familiarity. The Boar was about to resent the insult by ripping up the Ass’s flank, but, wisely stifling his passion, he contented himself with saying, “Go, you sorry beast; I could easily and amply be revenged upon you, but I do not care to foul my tusks with the blood of so base a creature.”
A LITTLE scoundrel of an Ass, happening to meet with a boar, had a mind to be arch upon him: And so, brother, says he, your humble servant. The Boar, somewhat nettled at his familiarity, bristled up to him, and told him, he was surprised to hear him utter so impudent an untruth, and was just going to show his noble resentment, by giving him a rip in the flank; but wisely stifling his passion, he contented himself, with only saying, Go, you sorry beast, I could be amply and easily revenged of you, but I don’t care to foul my tusks with the blood of so base a creature.
Fools are sometimes so ambitious of being thought wits, that they run great hazards in attempting to show themselves such. This is not the first Ass, who, after a handsome rebuke from one superior to himself, both in courage and merit, has continued his awkward raillery even to the last degree of offence. But such a dull creature is so far from raising himself the least esteem by his ludicrous vein, that he has very good luck if he escapes with a whole skin. Buffoons, like dwarfs, should be matched with those of their own level; a man, in sense or stature, would be ashamed to encounter either of them. But, notwithstanding all this, and though the Boar in the fable is a very good example to men of generous brave spirits, not to give themselves up to passion, nor to be distempered with thoughts of revenge upon the insolent behaviour of every ass that offends them, because their hands would be dishonoured by the tincture of a base man’s blood; yet, among human creatures, the correction of an ass that would be unseasonably witty, may be performed with justness and propriety enough, provided it be done with good humour. The blood of a coward, literally speaking, would stain the character of a man of honour; when we chastise such wretches, it should be done, if possible in the utmost calmness of temper. It takes off something from the reputation of a great soul, when we see it is in the power of a fool to ruffle and unsettle it.
Thomas Bewick (The Boar and The Ass)
An Ass happening to meet with a Boar, and being in a frolicsome humour, and having a mind to shew some of his silly wit, began in a sneering familiar style to accost the Boar with, So ho, brother, your humble servant, how is all at home with you? The Boar, nettled at his familiarity, muttered out, Brother indeed! then bristled up towards him, told him he was surprized at his impudence, and was just going to shew his resentment by giving him a rip in the flank: but wisely stifling his passion, he contented himself with only saying, Go, thou sorry beast! I could be easily and amply revenged upon thee; but I don’t care to foul my tusks with the blood of so base a creature!
It is no uncommon thing to meet with impudent fools, so very eager of being thought wits, that they will run great hazards in attempting to shew themselves such, and will often persist in their awkward raillery to the last degree of offence. But these kind of folks, instead of raising themselves into esteem, are held in contempt by men of sense; and though the generous and the brave may scorn to suffer themselves to be ruffled by the insolent behaviour of every ass that offends them, yet such sparks must not from thence conclude, that they will not meet with retorts in kind from men far superior to themselves in mental endowments; or that their unseasoned wit will always escape a more proper, but a different chastisement.