The Hermit and the Bear – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
Although a service is, when needed, dear to all, The way to render one but few men know
May none of us into a fool’s hands fall
More dangerous an officious friend than e’en a mortal foe.
A lonely kinless man once lived, apart
From cities, in a forest deep,
Whatever praise a hermit’s life may reap, Loneliness does not suit full many a heart,
Our joys and sorrows sweet it is to share.
You’ll say : ” But then, the mead, the forest’s gloom,
The hills and streams, the verdure and the bloom ? ” —” All excellent, deny it those who dare ! But all in time will tire, with no one whom
To speak a word to.” Thus quite weary
Was now our Hermit of a life so dreary,
So off he sets into the woods, to find Some one with whom he can acquaintance make,
Whom with him to his hut he’ll take,
That is not of the bear or wolfish kind.
It happens, though, that a great Bear he meets. What was there to be done ? To lift His hat politely to the Bear, who greets
Him with extended paw. They make a shift In this way to be introduced,
And then make friends So fast, they cannot be induced
To part, or think that friendship ever ends. What all these days, which they together passed
While this their friendship happily did last, They talked about, if they beguiled the way
With tales, or let their conversation rim
Into some anecdote or racy fun,
Up to this time I cannot say. The Hermit oftenest was mute,
And Bruin born a silent brute ; So that their dirty wash at home was done. But let that pass, the Hermit’s greatest pleasure
Was that God gave him in his friend a treasure. Bruin he’d stand by, without Bruin pined,
Nor could he praise his Bruin to his mind.
One hot day out the two friends went,
On wandering through meads and groves intent, O’er dales and many a hill
And, as with bears in strength man matches
The Hermit sooner than the Bear got tired, And could not keep the pace required.
This seeing, Bruin spoke thus to his friend
” Lie down a while, and take some rest, And if thou sleep, it may be best
And I my time in guarding thee will spend.”
The Man, not given to dispute, lay down, yawned deep,
And instantly was fast asleep.
Meanwhile the sentinel was not at ease
A fly the sleeper’s nose did tease
His paw swept o’er the face
He looked,—another place

‘Twas near the neck ; driven off with blow the third,
Again it settled on the nose
And thus kept on for hours, escaping from all blows. At last poor Bruin, without a single word,
Seized in his massive paw a great rough stone,
Sat on his hams, and, hardly drawing breath,
Thought to himself—’
‘ I’ll have thee, meddler,’sdeath !

Then, watching till the fly had reached the frontal bone,
With all his strength, upon the brow the stone he dashed
The blow was deftly aimed, the skull was smashed,
And Bruin’s friend for long did lie there all alone.

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