"Count not your chickens before they be hatched," is a well-known proverb in English, and most people, if asked what was its origin, would probably appeal to La Fontaine's delightful fable, La Laitière et le Pot au Lait. 1 We all know Perrette, lightly stepping along from her village to the town, carrying the milk-pail on her head, and in her day-dreams selling her milk for a good sum, then buying a hundred eggs, then selling the chickens, then buying a pig, fattening it, selling it again, and buying a cow with a calf. The calf frolics about, and kicks up his legs-so does Perrette, and, alas! the pail falls down, the milk is spilt, her riches gone, and she only hopes when she comes home that she may escape a flogging from her husband.
Did La Fontaine invent this fable? or did he merely follow the example of Sokrates, who, as we know from the Phædon, 2 occupied himself in prison, during the last days of his life, with turning into verse some of the fables, or, as he calls them, the myths of Aesop.