The Two Scythes

One rusty and one well honed scythes were together with the rusty saying how easy life is. The used scythe pointed out how helpful and, so better it was.

It’s always better to be useful.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

It so happened that a couple of mower’s Scythes were placed together in the same barn: one of them was without its proper handle, and therefore remained useless and rusty; the other was complete, bright, and in good order, and was frequently made use of in the hands of the mowers. “My good neighbour,” said the rusty one, “I much pity you, who labour so much for the good of others, and withal so constantly are fretted with that odious whetstone, that scours you till you strike fire, whilst I repose in perfect ease and quiet.” “Give me leave,” replied the bright one, “to explain to you, neighbour, the difference of our conditions. I must own that I labour, but then I am well rewarded by the consideration that it is for the benefit of multitudes, and this gives me all my importance; it is true, also, that I am renovated by a harsh whetstone, but this still increases my capability to become useful in a more powerful degree, whilst you remain the insignificant and helpless victim of your pride and idleness, and in the end fall a prey to a devouring rust, useless, unpitied, and unknown.”


[Note: The Northcote fable is the same fable as in the JBR Collection above. Only the illustrations and Application associated with the fable in the Northcote book are displayed here.]


Idleness in every station in life is attended by a portion of misery. By it the health is impaired, the intellects benumbed, all importance or value in society is forfeited, and as we contribute nothing towards the profit or pleasure of mankind, we become little better than outcasts or burdens on the earth. In the rich, idleness produces a mental misery, and they become the prey of melancholy: and in the inferior orders, its fruits are poverty, vice, and disease. And if the industrious do meet with rubs in the world, still like the whet-stone to the Scythe, it sharpens their wits, and prepares them by an acquisition of knowledge and experience to overcome difficulties with more facility. J. N.

JN Fable 026

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: H. White (1828)

JN Fable 026a

Wood drawing: William Harvey (1828)