The Fly and the Bee

Kriloff’s Original Fables
One spring, within a garden, on the slight
Stem of a flower bright
By the wind shaken,
A Fly its rolling seat had taken,
And, seeing on the bud a Bee alight,
Conceitedly did say : ” Does it not tire thee Toiling from morn to night to be ? A day of it enough to make me pine to death. But mine, ah, there’s a life Like to the joys of heaven ! No strife, No toil, but only, while I’ve breath,
Where guests are, or where balls to fly
And, not to boast, throughout the town I’m known
In every house a rich man calls his own,
If thou couldst only see how feasted I
At wedding or at birthday tables dining,
I’m sure to be the first,
I eat off porcelain dishes, and my thirst, Sweet wines slack well from crystal brightly shining,
And, before every guest,
I take what pleases me of delicacies best
Then, to the gentler sex I go, Wind round the youthful fair ones there,
And, if to take my rest I care, Upon some rosy cheek I sit, or neck that’s white as
“Of all that,” said the Bee, “thou need’st not now
But unto me the sad report’s come down,
That thou to no one e’er art kind,
And that at feasts at flies they only frown
That often e’en it haps, where’er thyself thou showest,
Out, driven off with shame, thou goest.” ” What if I do ? ” the Fly says ; ” a trifle not worth bother : Out of one window driven, I fly in at another !

[This fable is taken from ” La Mouche et la Fourmi;”
by La Fontaine. The play on the word “mouche,” in the sense of “patches” on ladies’ faces, is of course
omitted, and, I cannot help thinking, much to the advantage of the fable. La Fontaine’s version is wanting in the
directness and clear point of view, which strike at once
in Kriloff. The moral in La Fontaine is vague, and seems
to apply much to the same idea as that in ” La Cigale et
la Fourmi,” translated by Kriloff, and found in Esop
under the title of ” The Grasshopper and the Ant,” that
is, to industry and idle waste of time. In Kriloff the idea
of the importunate parasite is dominant throughout, and
is most humorously clenched by the concluding line. The
details in French, of tasting the sacrifices offered to the gods, of sitting on the heads of kings, etc., are replaced in Russian by a description of feasts more suited to the
subject; and the lines, “je baise un beau sein quand je veux; je me joue entre les cheveux,” are amplified in a way far more appropriate in consequence of this very description. The versification of the Russian has a lightness
and playful elegance, which has made it one of the fables oftenest given to be learned by heart in every Russian
school. This fable seems to me an instance of Kriloff’s superiority over La Fontaine, even when he has to a great extent followed him, and I have ventured on translating
it, in the hope that some of the qualities which distinguish KrilofFs work will still be apparent, to those who choose
to make the comparison, in spite of all that KrilofF must
lose through the necessary change into English.]

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