The Divers – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
A certain king of old fell once in strange confusion Whether in science was more harm or profit found ? Whether the heart and hands were made less sound
By its illusion ? And whether a wise measure ’twas, if he
Out of his realm the learned packed beyond the sea ? But, as this king had ever wished, that his throne should be
Built on the love and happiness his people shared with him,
And, with that aim,
Had ever ruled the same
Impartially and not by whim,
He order gave, .that all his lieges go
To a Council, in which each, from empty phrase abstaining, In common sense might show his training,
And give his judgment : yes, or no
;
That is, if learned men out of the realm should hurry,
Or if their voice as once should aid in every worry ? However, though the Council argued long,
Though many voted from conviction strong,
And others for the chief clerks’ studied compilation,
Each only proved the others wrong, And darkness reigned within the doubting head that ruled
the nation.
Some said that ignorance was darkness made
More visible, that mind was aid God had not given us for things celestial, Unless ’twas his intent That man should have for reasoning greater bent
Than any speechless being bestial, And that, agreeing with the end,
Learning to man’s life happiness doth lend. Others there were to know,
That man from science only worse could grow
;
That learning folly taught,
On morals but corruption brought;
And that, as civilisation wrought
Its work, it laid the greatest empires low. In one word, though both sides shewed mettle,
Some less, some greater,
And filled with writing reams of paper, The quarrel as to science’ worth they could not settle. The king did more : calling from every side Experts unto him, he formed a Grand Committee,
And left to them the question to decide. This also turned out bad when tried, Through the allowances each member got who reached
the city
:
Thus, every point on which they disagreed
Was dainty food on which to feed ; And, if they had but had their will, They would be there disputing still, And still their salaries drawing
;
But, as the state’s finance the king would bear no flaw in,
And found it was at ebb, he soon dismissed them all
:
Meanwhile from hour to hour in greater doubt he’d
fall. One day to walk he went, troubled, beyond the wall, And saw before him stand A hermit, whose grey beard the breezes fanned,
Holding a great book in his slender hand. The hermit’s stately look no scowl morose defaces
;
A courteous and a kindly smile Plays o’er his open lips the while,
And on his brow are seen of thought the furrowed
traces. The monarch to converse with the hermit then began,
And, seeing in him knowledge the kingdom might
befriend,
To settle the vexed point did ask the holy man
:
If science were of use or hurtful in the end?
” king ! ” the old man said, ” permit me now to tell A simple tale to thee, which here suits well, And which the long experience of years to me doth
send,”
And, all his thoughts collecting, thus he spoke
:
” Upon the shore, and near the sea, In India lived some fisher folk, Who passed long years in woe and poverty,
The father died, and left three sons behind. The children, seeing
That they by netting fish barely to eat could find, And from their father’s trade with horror fleeing,
To seek rich treasures in the sea had mind,
Not fish at all—but pearls
;
And, knowing how to swim and dive,
Thought that they well could thrive By plunging till the head round whirls. A different fate, however, each of the triad met
:
One, idler than the other two,
Loitered all day the breeze to woo
Along the shore, and ne’er his legs would deign to
wet, Waiting for any pearls, though few,
The waves might throw up at his feet
:
Such idleness, as was but meet,
He starving had good cause to rue. The second^ who well knew
That without trouble man gains naught, In earnest worked, and sought
To find the depth for him was fit, Diving where all the richest pearls do sit
:
He lived and died by all a rich man thought.
The third for wealth felt such tormenting greed,
That reasoning with himself he thus decreed :
‘ Though pearls beside the shore no doubt are got, No wealth to speak of comes from such a spot
;
If I could only once succeed
In diving to the ocean’s bed, away with need ! There mountains lie, perhaps, of wealth unmeasured,
There corals, pearls, and stones of brightest colours
treasured,
Which only need the pains of raking
Into a heap, and taking.’