The Butterfly And The Ant

A Butterfly called to an Ant carrying grain asking why. Ant said to survive the winter. Butterfly said to enjoy life as it’s short for everyone.

Enjoy youth; everyone dies.


JN Fable 025

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)

The sun shone bright, and all was gay,
And men and maids were making hay;
‘Twas on the twenty-first of June,
The time of day exactly noon.
A Butterfly, as gay with pride,
As on from flower to flower he hied,
With painted coat and spotted wing,
The brightest insect of the spring,
Address’d a poor laborious Ant,
(Providing then for future want,
By lugging home a grain of wheat,
Which made the little insect sweat,)
‘Why, how now, nauseous being, say,
‘What makes you toil thus all the day,
‘For that same carcase which I see,
‘Devoid of birth, of pedigree?
‘Is it for that you sweat and moil,
‘And all the genial season spoil?’
‘Yes, true,’ the honest Ant replied,
‘I must for wintry days provide;
‘For when ’tis biting frost and snow,
‘I cannot travel far you know.’
‘Oh stupid! stupid!’ she rejoin’d;
‘Oh what a grov’ling narrow mind!’
Then off, with proud disdain, she flew,
To sip from flowers the balmy dew.
Ere long, our Ant return’d again,
To fetch another golden grain;
And saw this very Butterfly
Beneath some mouldering rubbish lie:
And started back with much surprise;
And hardly could believe his eyes.
‘And, ah!’ said he, ‘my painted friend,
‘You little thought of such an end,
‘Of such an end, I do suppose,
‘When basking on the fragrant rose;
‘But insects all, however gay,
‘Must surely have a dying day:
‘Yet mortals in their pride forget,
‘They have to pay this solemn debt.’


The sweetest flow’rs that scent the sky,
Are only born to blush and die!
And ev’ry blooming youth and maid
Shall shortly in the dust be laid.
Then let us now, in early youth,
With ardour climb the ascent of truth;
By treading which alone we rise,
And gain admittance to the skies.

JN Fable 025a

Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)