The Eagle and the Spider – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
Beyond the clouds an Eagle flew, And on a peak of Caucasus alighted,
Just where an aged cedar stately grew, And with the wide expanse beneath his eyes delighted :
It seemed as if he saw the earth’s far edge
;
There streams amid the plains their shining waters wedge
There groves and meadows bloom,
In spring’s first verdure decked
;
And there the Caspian’s angry waves find room, Dark as a crow’s wing on the horizon flecked. ” Praise, Jove, that thou, ordering the world aright,
Apportioned unto me such wondrous flight, That spot unreachable I never knew !

The Eagle unto Jupiter is speaking, ” That I from hence a world of beauty view,
Which all but me are vainly seeking.”
” What boaster is’t that here doth waste his wit ? ”
A Spider answered, from the branch now creaking
Beneath them both. ” Do I, then, lower sit ? ” The Eagle looks, and there he sees a Spider
Making his net around them fast and wider,
Weaving so busily about
As if the Eagle from the sun he would shut out. ” How earnest thou so high ? ”
Did ask the Eagle. ” Those, who fly With boldest wing, but seldom dare Make for this spot, and thou art there ! Thou without wings and weak ! Surely, thou hast not crept?”—” No, as to that, my pluck had failed.” —”Then, how from here canst thou have hailed? ” —” Well, over thee a thread I trailed, And on thy tail have I been upward swept,
But here without thee to hold on I’m able,
And so shut up thy boasting words of fable, And learn that I ” . . . but here the wind’s sharp blow
The Spider carried to his haunts below,
Never again on high to sail.
How is’t with you ? To me it seems we never fail To meet with human spiders, who are thrown —Wittols, without one effort of their own

High up, by clinging to a great man’s tail
;
Then proudly swells the chest,
As if from God an eagle’s strength were given : Yet, let a puff of wind blow, off they’re driven With damaged web in some dark hole to rest.
[This fable has been generally supposed to allude to the
career of Speransky. Kenevitch doubts the correctness of the application, because the fable was approved by the censorship three months before the fall of Speransky, but,
in the biography of the latter by Baron Korf, it is evident
that his fall had become inevitable long before it occurred,
and Kriloff may well be credited with so much of the
prophetical spirit, and moreover with the desire to hasten
the predicted event. In KrilofFs fables and in his earlier works we find continually a dislike of foreign teaching and
especially of French ways of thought, and Speransky was
generally looked upon as the representative of French
ideas in the administration. This to Kriloff, Karamzin
and others represented an evil principle. I do not doubt
that the Spider was intended for Speransky, but it is still more certain that the comparison was exaggerated and
undeserved. Speransky was the son of an uneducated provincial priest,
and by his unaided talents rose to high rank in the service before he was thirty years of age. He became the
principal confidant of Alexander I., and his power was
greater than that of any of the ministers from the famous Conference of Erfurt, to which he accompanied
the Emperor, till the beginning of 1812. He shared
Alexander’s admiration for Napoleon, and was the chief author of all the great changes in the administration which
were put an end to by the Moscow campaign. He was
unjustly accused of treason, and exiled in March 18 12. It is almost certain that Alexander never believed the
accusation, but he clearly thought himself compelled to give some satisfaction to the general voice, on the eve
of a decisive struggle with Napoleon. The nobles, the commercial classes, and the peasants were all against
Speransky, and he had many personal enemies among the higher Tchinovnicks : his fall was considered as the first victory over the French.
Speransky, like the Emperor himself, was more of a
theoretical than a practical turn of mind, but again, like his master, he was a man of high personal character, of
chivalrous and generous impulses, of great energy, and of
the truest patriotism. The work he accomplished was
enormous. The charges, conveyed through his prototype
the Spider, of hanging on to others, and owing his eleva- tion to no efforts of his own, and of foolish pride, are
especially unjust.
Within four years after his exile Speransky was made
Governor of Perm, and three years later Governor-General
of Siberia. After holding the latter post two years, he
was recalled to St. Petersburg, and readmitted to high
office and the personal confidence of the Emperor, but
he never regained his former pre-eminent position. The
Emperor Nicholas made him one of the instructors of his son and successor, Alexander II., and before his death, in 1839, he was created a Count. The immediate application of this fable is manifestly
unjust, but, like all KrilofFs fables based on particular
incidents, it will bear a wider and more general application, the truth of which will always last.]