The Guns and the Sails

Kriloff’s Original Fables
Upon a ship, the Guns once with the Sails Came to an open dreadful war
;
And lo, a row of noses, long as tails, Out of the portholes poke, as wails One of the Guns unto the gods afar ! ” dwellers in the skies, have ye
E’er seen that such base lowly creatures Dare unto you to raise their canvas features,
Proclaiming they, like us, of use can be ? What do they all our long and troubled way ? Let but the wind upon them play,
And, puffed out with conceit, they sway
As ‘neath the burden of their honours bending,
And o’er the seas the good ship proudly sending

They boast ’tis all their work ; but we, we thunder in the
fight!
Is’t not through us our ship rules wide as ocean’s might ?
Is’t not ourselves that o’er him do carry death and fright ? No, we can live no more with Sails together
;
We on ourselves take all, despite of wind and weather. Fly to us, Boreas, thou, thy help, thy power show,
And torn to pieces they, at once when thou dost blow !”
The prayer was heard—the god but sighed, as there he
flew;
At once the sea’s face frowned, and dark it grew
;
Great lowering clouds swept o’er the sky
;
And massive waves arose, piled, breaking, mountains high
;
The deafening thunders roar ; the blinding flashes fly
;
And raging Boreas rives the sails to rags. They’re gone, and suddenly the tempest flags ; What then? The ship, her sails without,
By winds and waves is tossed a toy about,
Or floats a log which every current drags
;
And the first time she meets the foe, Who rakes her from her stem to stern with one broadside,
She stands immoveable—a sieve through which the tide Pours—and she drops with all her Guns, key-like, to depths below.
A kingdom, small or great, is strong
With all her parts by wisdom ordered well
:
Her Arms—are ready to avenge a wrong, Her Sails—the civil rights of all that in her dwell.
[This fable is a protest against the predominance of the
military element in the reign of the Emperor Nicholas.]