The Fables of Phædrus
When a weak mind, beguiled by frivolous applause, has once given way to insolent self-sufficiency, such foolish vanity is easily exposed to ridicule.
Princeps, the Flute-player, was pretty well known, being accustomed to accompany Bathyllus with his music on the stage. It chanced that, at a representation, I don’t well remember what it was, while the flying-machine was being whirled along, he fell heavily, through inadvertence, and broke his left leg, when he would much rather have parted with two right ones. He was picked up and carried to his house groaning aloud. Some months pass by before his cure is completed. As is the way with the spectators, for they are a merry race, the man began to be missed, by whose blasts the vigour of the dancer was wont to be kept at full stretch.
A certain Nobleman was about to exhibit a show, just when Princeps was beginning to walk abroad. With a present and entreaties he prevailed upon him merely to present himself on the day of the show. When the day came a rumour about the Flute-player ran through the theatre. Some affirmed that he was dead, some that he would appear before them without delay. The curtain falling, the thunders rolled, and the Gods conversed in the usual form. At this moment the Chorus struck up a song unknown to him who had so recently returned; of which the burthen was this: “Rejoice, Rome, in security, for your prince [Princeps] is well.” All rise with one consent and applaud. The Flute-player kisses hands, and imagines that his friends are congratulating him. The Equestrian order perceive the ridiculous mistake, and with loud laughter encore the song. It is repeated. My man now throws himself sprawling at full length upon the stage. Ridiculing him, the Knights applaud; while the people fancy he is only asking for a chaplet. When, however, the reality came to be known throughout all the tiers, Princeps, his leg bound up with a snow-white fillet, clad in snow-white tunic, and snow-white shoes, while pluming himself on the honors really paid to the Deified House, was thrust out headlong by common consent.
The Fables of Phædrus