Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Farmer and the Viper

One winter a farmer found a snake half-dead, 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 fatal wound.  "Oh," cried the farmer with his last breath, "I am rightly served for pitying so villainous a creature."  

This old story of "The Farmer and the Viper" is attributed to Aesop's Fables. Variations crop up in other times and places. Its moral is usually given as something like: "The greatest kindness is wasted upon the evil." As such it would seem to advise against following Jesus's admonition to "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you." Another lesson we might take away from it is: "Don't be surprised when things act according to their nature." Johnny Rivers captured this angle in a song that was popular when I was a kid, titled The Snake.

On the way to work one morning
down the path along side the lake
A tender hearted woman
saw a poor half-frozen snake
His pretty colored skin
had been all frosted with the dew
"Oh, well" she cried, "I'll take you in
and I'll take care of you."

Take me in tender woman
Take me in for heaven's sake
Take me in tender woman
Sighed the snake.

She wrapped him up all cozy
in a comforter of silk
and then laid him by the fireside
with some honey and some milk
She hurried home from work that night
and as soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she'd taken in
had been revived.


She clutched him to her bosom;
"You're so beautiful," she cried,
"but if I hadn't brought you in
by now you might have died."
Well she stroked his pretty skin again
and then kissed him really tight,
but instead of saying thanks
the snake gave her a vicious bite.


"I saved you!" cried that woman
"and you've bitten me but why?"
"you know your bite is poisonous
and now I'm gonna die."
"Ha, ha, shut up, silly woman."
said that reptile with a grin.
"You knew darn well I was a snake
before you took me in."


Oh, you better take me in sighed the snake.

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