The Mice in Council – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
The Mice once formed a plan to gain great reputation,
And, in despite of cats, or toms or pussies,
To turn the heads of cooks and household hussies,
Rousing a chorus of general admiration,
From cellar up to garret, of their nation
;
And to this end a Council they did call, In which a seat to those should only fall Whose tails were long as they themselves were tall
:
Having observed that Mice with tails than others longer
Were wiser, stronger,
And far more agile than the rest. We won’t stop now to ask if this were wise ; When we ourselves of wisdom judge, we’ve often eyes But for a coat, or beard at best.
Suffice it may that, by unanimous consent,
All long-tailed brothers of the race were members named
;
But none whose tails unhappily were maimed,
E’en though in heat of battle off them rent
;
This was a sign that they’d behaved them sadly,
Or that their heads were furnished badly ; So that of such the Council had not one, Nor to its dignity would injury be done. Thus all put right, to meet are summoned all selected,
When the dark hours of night begin ; And then, on meal sacks piled within
• A dealer’s store, assemble the elected.
Each in his place appointed sat, And lo, among them was, without his tail, a rat
!
Observing this, a young Mouse nudged an old And grey one squatted near, And said : ” By what chance here Got in a tailless one ? He’s over bold,
Thus at the law we’ve made to scoff
:
Let’s give our votes, and send him packing off
!
Thou knowest how the race that tails want love us not
;
And is it likely he to us can be of use Who could not his own tail from shame keep and abuse ? Through him shelves, holes, and larder, we’re all one ruined
lot!” The old Mouse said : ” Of such good reasons I’ve a dozen,
But then, you see, the rat is my first cousin.” — —
[Although the meaning of this fable is self-evident, I cannot refrain from adding that it hits one of the worst and most general defects of the Russian administration.
” Protection ” still plays an important part in every branch
of the service, and is far more prevalent and injurious than patronage ever was among ourselves. Efforts have
undoubtedly been made of late to purify the administration from this and other abuses, and the palace influence
is now unsparingly exerted against them, but it is difficult to root out abuses to which a nation has so long been
accustomed, and it must be a work of time. The fearless way in which Kriloff, here and elsewhere, makes his meaning plain, is remarkable at a time when the censorship was so powerful and vigilant, and it should be
remembered that the mass of KrilofFs fables were read by himself to the Imperial Family.]