The Fishes’ Dance

Kriloff’s Original Fables
A Lion, in his kingdom’s bounds,
Not only forests had, but waters too : His herald one day to a meeting sounds ; The beasts must choose a Chief Commander new
Over the fish ; the Fox ’twas got the place,
And sat in it with all a warrior’s grace : He soon, however, visibly grew fat A Peasant was with him, his gossip, comrade, friend ; And they together to the river wend
While on the bank, in judgment ordering, sat The Fox, his gossip fished,
Giving unto his comrade dear all that the latter wished.
But roguery not always meets with the same success. The Lion at complaints his ears began to dress,
And think that in his Courts the scales of justice were Uneven held ; so he, when free, resolved to travel, And through his kingdom all the truth himself unravel,
To know if all was just and fair. He comes unto the bank : the ready Peasant’s fire, Prepared to cook the fish, burns as one could desire
The rogues are waiting to begin the feast
The fish are leaping sideways up —the water, it was
And death was near—but out not one had got.
The angry Lion, understanding least, Asks of the Peasant, opening wide his jaws : ” Who art thou ? Is it thus ye keep my laws ? ”
” Great Sovereign ! ” then the wily Fox replies
(For never yet were Foxes wanting in tricks and lies), ” Great Ruler of the wood ! This man so well a Clerk’s work understood,
I made him mine ; and the whole nation knows,
That not one thought of self he ever shows
These, sire, are carp, and in the water live : And we have all come here to give
Due honour to our loving King, who deigns to visit us.” —”Well, how goes justice on? Your province is content ? ” —” Great King, a people’s paradise ; unheard of—plaint or fuss
If only of thy life may be prolonged the glad extent.” (The fish within the pan meanwhile struggled to find a vent.)—” But, how is it,” the Lion says, ” and tell me now, I
pray, That there so many heads and tails are prancing ? ”
” Lion wise ! ” the Fox replies, ” and they
From joy to see thee here are dancing.”
But this time such gross lies the Lion could hot swallow,
And so, to give his people music their dance to cheer,
The Chief Commander and his Clerk so dear,
Squeezed in his heavy claws, he made to sing and hollow.
[This fable in its original form was forbidden by the
censorship. There was no Fox, and only a Peasant,
whose excuses were accepted, and the Lion, after embracing him, went on his way deceived and satisfied. Kriloff
felt so much annoyed at the prohibition of this fable, that he was only prevented by the entreaties of his friends from destroying it. He ultimately recast it in its present
form. The suspicions of the censors, that it alluded to one of the visits of Alexander I. to the provinces, were undoubtedly well founded. On one occasion Alexander came to a provincial capital, and stopped in the Governor’s
house. The next morning he perceived on the square
before the windows a large crowd apparently approaching
the house, and asked the Governor what they wanted. The latter replied that it was a deputation from the town
to thank the Emperor for the prosperous condition of the
province. The Emperor, on the point of leaving, avoided
the reception of the supposed deputation, and, rewarding
the Governor for the happy results of his administration,
went away well satisfied. The truth was, that the people
had assembled to present a complaint against the Governor
for his abuses and extortion.]

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