Kriloff’s Original Fables
A Cat a Nightingale once caught, Into the poor thing stuck her claws,
And gently squeezing her, she sought
To soothe with soft applause : ” My dearest Nightingale !
I hear that everywhere thy songs are praised,
And thou above earth’s singers raised. My friend, the fox there, in the dale,
Says, that so marvellously sweet thy throat When from it trills the quivering note,
The shepherds and the shepherdesses fail To know themselves for joy.
Couldst thou not now employ
A talent which I die to hear ? Be not too stubborn, friend ; tremble not thus with fear, Thou hast no cause ; I will not eat thee, dear. Sing me but something, and I make thee free.
It is from love of music that I keep
Thee, for I often purr myself to sleep.”
Meanwhile the hapless Bird, Scarce breathing in her claws, not once had stirred. ” Well, well, begin ! ” encourages the Cat
” A song, my friend; or else—have done with that !
Our Songstress, though, won’t sing, she can but \yhine. ” So, this is what the forests call divine ! ”
Spitting out scorn, the Cat doth ask
“Where are the tones so clear thou once couldst task, Their wondrous strength, affirmed by all ?
I could not stand it did my kittens squall
Thus, and I see in singing thou’rt a dunce,
So, let .us try how well thou’lt taste for once !
And she the singer ate, Tq the last bone.
Shall I in whispers now my meaning here out set, Reader, for thee alone ? A nightingale’s best songs fall flat, Caught in the sharp claws of a cat. — —
[All the contemporaries of Kriloff agreed in understanding this fable to mean the censorship, then in all the
rigour of a strong reaction, and the closing allusion to the necessity for “whispering” makes the allusion more
evident and cutting.]
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