The Belly and the Limbs

1.28. THE BELLY AND THE LIMBS. It is a folly even to wish to withhold our part from the support of civil government.
Menenius Agrippa, a Roman Consul, being deputed by the senate to appease a dangerous tumult and sedition of the people, who refused to pay the taxes necessary for carrying on the business of the state, convinced them of their folly by delivering to them the following fable:
My friends and countrymen, said he, attend to my words. It once happened that the Members of the human body, taking some exception at the conduct of the Belly, resolved no longer to grant him the usual supplies. The Tongue first, in a seditious speech, aggravated their grievances; and after highly extolling the activity and diligence of the Hands and Feet, set forth how hard and unreasonable it was that the fruits of their labour should be squandered away upon the insatiable cravings of a fat and indolent Paunch, which was entirely useless, and unable to do anything towards helping himself. This speech was received with unanimous applause by all the Members. Immediately the Hands declared they would work no more; the Feet determined to carry no further the load of guts with which they had hitherto been oppressed; nay, the very Teeth refused to prepare a single morsel more for his use. In this distress, the Belly bethought them to consider maturely, and not foment so senseless a rebellion. There is none of you, says he, can be ignorant that whatsoever you bestow upon me is immediately converted to your use, and dispersed by me for the good of you all into every Limb. But he remonstrated in vain; for during the clamours of passion, the voice of reason is always disregarded. It being therefore impossible for him to quiet the tumult, he starved for want of their assistance, and the body wasted away to a skeleton. The Limbs, grown weak and languid, were sensible at last of their error, and would fain have returned to their respective duties; but it was now too late, death had taken possession of the whole, and they all perished together. [more info]

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