The Farmer and The Snake

A farmer takes pity on a frozen snake and brings it home. Thawed, the snake reverts to character and bites all.

The wicked show no thanks.

Eliot-JacobsEliot/Jacobs Version

One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it under his coat. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound.

Aesop For ChildrenAesop For Children

A Farmer walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a Snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the Snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life.

The Snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die. As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around:

Moral

Learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

Countryman and Snake

Ernest Griset (1874)

A Villager, one frosty day in the depth of winter, found a Snake under a hedge almost dead with the cold. Having pity on the poor creature, he brought it home, and laid it on the hearth near the fire. Revived by the heat, it reared itself up, and with dreadful hissings flew at the wife and children of its benefactor. The man, hearing their cries, rushed in, and with a mattock, which he brought in his hand, soon cut the Snake in pieces. “Vile Wretch!” said he; “is this the reward you make to him who saved your life? Die, as you deserve; but a single death is too good for you.”

Townsend VersionTownsend version

One winter a Farmer found a Snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. “Oh,” cried the Farmer with his last breath, “I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.”

Moral

The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.

Samuel CroxallSamuel Croxall

Croxall - Countryman and the SnakeA VILLAGER, in a frosty, snowy winter, found a Snake under a hedge, almost dead with cold. He could not help having compassion for the poor creature, so brought it home, and laid it upon the hearth near the fire: but it had not lain there long, before (being revived with the heat) it began to erect itself, and fly at his wife and children, filling the whole cottage with dreadful hissings. The Countryman hearing an outcry, and perceiving what the matter was, catched up a mattock, and soon dispatched him, upbraiding him at the same time in these words: Is this vile wretch, the reward you make to him that saved your life? Die, as you deserve; but a single death is too good for you.

THE APPLICATION

It is the nature of ingrates to return evil for good: and the moralists in all ages have incessantly declaimed against the enormity of this crime, concluding that they who are capable of hurting their benefactors, are not fit to live in a community; being such, as the natural ties of parent, friend, or country, are too weak to restrain within the bounds of society. Indeed, the sin of ingratitude is so detestable, that, as none but the most inhuman temper can be guilty of it, so, in writing to men, there is no occasion to use many words, either in exposing the vice itself, or dissuading people from the commission of it. Therefore it is not likely that a person of Aesop’s sagacity would have compiled this fable, without having something else in view, besides this trite and obvious subject. He certainly intended to put us in mind, that as none but a poor silly clown would go to take up a Snake and cherish it, so we shall be very negligent and ill-advised, if, in doing good offices, we do not take care to bestow our benevolence upon proper objects. It was not at all unnatural in the Snake to hiss, and brandish his tongue, and fly at the first that came near him; as soon at the person that saved his life as any other; indeed more likely, because nobody else had so much to do with him. Nor is it strange at any time to see a reprobate fool throwing his poisonous language about,and committing his extravagancies against those, more especially,who are so inadvertent as to concern themselves with him. The Snake and the reprobate will not appear extraordinary in their malevolence: but the sensible part of mankind cannot help thinking those guilty of great indiscretion, who receive either of them into their protection.

L'Estrange VersionL’Estrange version

A countryman happen’d in a hard winter to spy a snake under a hedg, that was half frozen to death. The man was good natur’d, and took it up, and kept it in his bosom, till warmth brought it to life again; and so soon as ever it was in condition to do mischief, it bit the very man that sav’d the life on’t. Ah thou ungrateful wretch! says he, is that venomous ill nature of thine to be satisfi’d with nothing less than the ruine of thy preserver.

Moral

There are some men like some snakes; ’tis natural to them to be doing mischief; and the greater the benefit on the one side, the more implacable is the malice on the other.

Crane Poetry VisualCrane Poetry Visual

Man and Snake

In pity he brought the poor Snake
To be warmed at his fire. A mistake!
For the ungrateful thing
Wife & children would sting.
I’have known some as bad as the Snake.

Beware how you entertain traitors.

1001Rusticus et Coluber

Rusticus repertum in altiori nive colubrum, frigore prope enectum, domum tulit et ad focum adiecit. Coluber, ab igni vires virusque recipiens et non amplius flammam ferens, totum tugurium sibilando infecit. Accurrit rusticus et, correpta sude, verbis verberibusque cum eo iniuriam expostulat, “Num haec est quam retulit gratia, eripiendo vitam illi cui vitam debuit?”

Perry #176