Friday, July 9, 2010

The Wethers and the Butcher

The Wethers and the Butcher. The wethers were together in a flock with the rams when they saw the butcher sneakily making his way among them. They watched as one of them was snatched by the butcher's deadly hand, and then dragged away and killed, but even then they were not afraid and recklessly said to one another, "He's taken that one, but not you. It's not our problem; let the butcher take whom he takes." Finally there was just one sheep left and when he too saw that he was being dragged away as well, he is said to have spoken these words to the butcher: "It's only fair that someone has butchered us all, one by one, since we did not see what was coming; while we were still together and saw you here in our midst, it is our fault that we did not use our heads to pound you and crush you to death."

Verveces et Lanius. Verveces in collecto cum essent una cum arietibus, lanium videntes inter se intrare dissimulaverunt. Cum autem unum ex se cernerent mortifera manu lanii teneri, trahi et interfici, etiam nec sic timuerunt, sed inter se incaute dicebant, "Hunc tetigit et te non. Dimittamus; trahat quem trahat." Novissime remansit unus, cum et ipse similiter se trahi videret, se dixisse lanio fertur, "Digne sumus laniati singillatim ab uno, qui hoc non prospeximus, dum essemus simul et te in medio nostro positum aspeximus et capitum impulsionibus quassatum, confractumque non occidimus."

Notes. This is Steinhowel 4.6 , which is Perry 575 in Perry's classification scheme. This fable always makes me think of the 'first they came' parable of Pastor Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984): 'First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.' (The question of just which groups and in which order Niemoeller invoked them is examined in great detail by Harold Marcuse here: Niemoller Quotation Page).

verveces et lanius

Click here for a SLIDESHOW of all the colored Steinhowel images. The butcher's bloody business is very vivid in this colored version!

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