The Education of the Lion – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
Unto the monarch of the woods a son was born. The nature of wild beasts, of course, you know
;
With them ’tis not as ’tis with us : their yearlings scorn Already to be swaddled,
While ours are coddled
Long after they a year can show
;
And e’en our babes imperial are all Not the less stupid, weak, and small.
Therefore, before the year was put, the lion-sire In sober earnest thought, ’twas fit That after him no fool should sit Upon his throne, to drag into the mire
The honour of his kingly name, And, that his people ne’er should blame
The father in the son, he’d best inquire
Whom he should force, or take on hire, To teach and turn the prince into a king.
Give him unto the fox ? The fox is wise,
But then, unhappily, be always lies, And liars come to grief, a thing
That surely should not upon kingship wait. A mole, the lion thought, might aid the state, Moles are reputed to love order well
!
They feel their way each step they take,
And every grain themselves they make
Clean for their tables, peeling off the shell
;
In short the word goes round,
That moles are great where small affairs abound ;
But one mistake : their eyes beneath their noses Are more than keen,
But, in the distance, no one e’en supposes
That by them anything is seen
;
Thus, as to order moles are never wrong, Yet only in the things which unto moles belong
;
However, it is clear, A lion’s realm has many a bigger hole Than any into which but creeps a mole. The panther, though, is here,
And he is known to be both strong and bold
;
And besides that a great tactician he
;
Yes, but the panther cannot hold
His own in politics, nor can he see The meaning of a civil right
:
How can he, then, good lessons give to use a sovereign’s
might?
Kings should be ministers, in peace or war
Judges or leaders fit
;
But panthers still from this are far, Given to throat-cutting to wit
;
A talent that doth hardly hit What in the tutor of a royal cub is most required. In short : the beasts, and e’en the most admired,
Up to the elephant, whose mind
Throughout the forest world they find Mighty as that of Plato once, To the lion seemed to wisdom blind,
To want all learning of a better kind,
The best of them a dunce.
If luckily or otherwise we soon shall see, Hearing what caused our monarch’s grief,
Another king brought him relief, He that ruled o’er the feathered tribe, The eagle, he,
That for the lion love and amityHad long professed (by these moved, not a
bribe),
Came forward with a most obliging offer, And to bring up the cub himself did proffer.
His burden off the lion’s shoulders rolled,
As soon as he was told A king the prince to tutor was at hand
;
What could he wish for more ? The cub, equipped with ample store, Was sent at once off to a rock-bound land,
By the eagle to be taught to rule. A year goes by, another; and all the while but
praise
Of the lion-cub is heard, and of his royal school
;
The birds a song of triumph over his wonders raise. At last the appointed term is out
;
The lion for his son hath sent
;
The son appears : at once each royal scout Unto the people went,
To call them to the audience of their king,
Both great and small. The king doth on his son’s neck fall, And, while embracing him before them all, Thus graciously his words do ring :
” Son of my heart
!
Thou, that my sole successor art
!
I look already toward the grave, while thou
Beginnest but to live
;
To thee my sceptre I rejoice to give.
Tell me, before my subjects now, What have thy studies been, and how
To make thy people happy, thou dost hope.”
” Papa,” replied the son, “what I know, here
There is not one that can come near
:
From eagles unto quails, I cope
With any bird, in knowing what
Birds want, and birds have not
;
Where water they can find, What food they take according to their kind,
And what the eggs they lay
;
See here what all my teachers say
:
And, if the birds’ report may weigh
For aught, there’s nothing in the world or sky
Too hard for me triumphant to defy : When dost thou mean to me thy throne to cede ? Then will I teach the beasts the need
Of building each a nest.” Here groaned the lion-king, and with him every beast
;
All hung their heads, at least The Council did ; and the old king confessed,
Though somewhat late, his cub had learned in vain,
And vainer still was his oration
;
For he, that o’er the beasts hath got to reign,
Hath no great need to study the feathered nation :
And that the learning, that a king should own
Best to support his throne,
Was that his people well he understood,
And all that might be for his country’s good.
[This was intended for the education of Alexander I. The emperor’s tutor was one La Harpe from Geneva, who
gave him liberal but unpractical ideas. Undoubtedly
Alexander intended to lay down a constitution for which
the country was unfitted, but Kriloff, belonging to the
old Conservative party, is unjust in his exaggeration, as we shall see him afterwards unjust to the mam who was
the right hand of Alexander in these meditated reforms, cut short by the war with Napoleon, to Speransky. The
party that held to the system of Catherine II. accused the Emperor of knowing the constitution and writers of England better than he did the state of his own country.
Many of Alexander’s plans have since been carried out
;
the codification of the law was accomplished by his suc- cessor Nicholas, and the late Emperor, Alexander II., emancipated the serfs.]