Kriloff’s Original Fables
One spring a Market Gardener dug round
His beds, as well as if he sought a treasure
Of vigorous look, so fresh and sound
One saw that work to him was pleasure
And he with cucumbers had laid out half his ground.
Beside his plot lived one, who loved to measure
All details that to gardening belong,
With florid wordiness, in would-be learned scales
He had enjoyed the titles long
Of nature’s helper when she ails, Of a Philosopher that ne’er went wrong
‘Twas whispered, though,
That no diploma could he show,
And that, in talking of a garden and its use, He made of what he read a sad abuse. At length, to put in practice what he taught,
Of raising cucumbers he thought,
And while about it laughed thus at his neighbour
” Goodman, ’tis vain for you to sweat
To leave you long behind I’ll bet, With this my labour
Your garden, with my own close by,
Like waste land soon will strike the eye.
Yes, to speak truth, I can’t believe my sight,
To see this ground of yours kept somehow going.
How is’t you are not ruined quite,
Having no science got to keep you right ? ”
” No time for learning,” said the Gardener, showing
His roughened hands, ” to these is owing,
To industry, and practice too, The only science that I ever knew
With these God lets me earn my bread.” —”You dunce, to dare ‘gainst science raise your head !
—” No, sir : don’t twist my words awry
If you can show good reason why,
I’m willing by you to at once be led, Well, wait and see if summer comes in vain. * * * But, is’t not time to set to work again ?
I’ve sown and planted something here and there ; But you your beds have not dug out.” —” True, I have not, because I’m still in doubt
I’ve read, re-read, Until went round my head,
To know if spade or plough the better were. What then? There’s time enough on hand.” —” May be for you there is, with us time does not
stand Quite still,” the Gardener said, and—off he set, Taking his spade.
Then our Philosopher walked home, to fret, Read up, write out ; inquiries made
And, digging into bed and book,
No rest from morn to evening took. One work unto another leads : ‘ No sooner crops up something green, Than in a newspaper he reads Some novelty,- and he is seen
To dig all up, and all transplant
For some newfangled plan and want. And what then was the end ? The Gardener’s cucumbers to ripeness grew, And, as he well deserved, his pocket too
But, our poor friend Of philosophic mind
Had not one cucumber of any kind.
[This fable has been the subject of much dispute among
Russian critics of Kriloff. There has always been a
party inclined to accuse Kriloff of neglecting science, and
of a tendency to sneer at the learned. The two best
authorities, Kenevitch and Pletneff. have clearly shown
the injustice and the absurdity of these attacks. Kriloff’s point of view was always that of the critic and satirist, and
therefore in dwelling on the evil effects of pedantry in learning, of presumption and excess in philosophy, and of
ill-matured enthusiasm in science, not grounded on ade- quate knowledge, as he so often does, he is true to his mission, and by no means guilty, as he has been said to
be, of setting himself blindly against all innovations. He
welcomed with enthusiasm the idea of freeing the Serfs, and was always the firm defender of Poushkin, though, as he himself belonged to the old classical school of litera- ture, Poushkin must have seemed to him an innovator. That the present fable does not attack science or true learning is. evident from the text of it; the Philosopher
makes that very • complaint of the Gardener, and is answered, as Kriloff might have answered his critics]
Kriloff’s Original Fables