The Elephant in Command – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
A man of influence and rank,
Whose mind’s a blank,
The softness of his heart will find but few to thank,
That only makes the matter worse.
An Elephant was once, in high command,
Placed o’er the forests of a woody land. Description should be terse :
So let us say—though elephants are clever,
No family without its fool is ever : Our new-made chief From birth was fat, And in his birth found comfort e’en for that
;
While to a fly, if asked, he’d give relief. He soon had given him a brief
Petition from the sheep, who prayed for aid
:
” The wolves them daily without mercy flayed.” —” rogues,” doth cry the Elephant, ” what crime ! Who gave you leave to rob in this free clime ? ”
Answered the wolves : ” By thy paternal rule, Hear us too ! In the winter thou didst give
Leave to us wolves the sheep to school,
And take from them light tribute of their wool,
That we throughout the cold might warmer live.
‘Tis but a silly sheep that calls that sin
:
Why, we take nothing from them but their skin,
And even that they grudgingly give in.” —” Well, well,” the Elephant decides, ” look out
!
In none will I injustice bear ; Their skins they well may do without
;
But, beyond that don’t touch of them a hair.”
[The line, ” Why, we take nothing from them but their skin,” has become a proverb among the people. The
wolves are the Tchinovnicks, and the sheep the peasants.
The kind of good-natured fool described in the Elephant
certainly was, and perhaps still is, too common among
Russians in high command.]