Kriloff’s Original Fables
A Spirit, that a house did guard, once watched a treasure, Buried below it deep ; when suddenly a measure, Adopted by the demon peers, Sent him to fly o’er unknown lands for lengthened years
Such was the service : gave it grief or pleasure,
An order must be carried out. Our Spirit was by this much put about
Who in his absence should fulfil his task ? To guard the treasure whom to ask ? Watchers to hire, a warehouse to erect, With that one must expense expect
Leave it unwatched, the treasure might go lost
To answer for a day one could not
They’d dig it up, whatever pains it cost
Money to steal, what man that would not ? His wits he worries, and at last ’tis hit
His landlord, a mean miser, is the man the place to fit. The Spirit with his treasure unto the Miser goes, Saying : ” Good landlord, pity thou my woes ! In distant lands I now afar must roam ; I’ve always felt a liking for thy home ;
So, as a parting gift, for friendship’s sake,
Thou won’t refuse my treasure here to take ! Drink, eat, and merry be,
To spend it all thou’rt free ! And, when at last thou hast to die,
The heir of all thou leavest I
Upon these terms with thee it stays, And for the rest, may fate prolong thy days !
Agreed, and off he is. Ten years, twice ten have passed,
The Spirit’s service done, at last He flies home fast, To his loved home again.
What sees he there ? triumph ! The Miser, key in hand,
Lies starved to death upon the coffer, and
The ducats all remain ! The Spirit takes his treasure back,
Glad that he need not rack His brains to find a watchman’s pay, And that the safety of his gold cost nothing anyway.
When, ‘midst his gold, a miser will neither eat nor drink
To keep for the House Spirit all his ducats does he think ?
[There are two Russian proverbs applicable to this fable
” Who gets into a miser’s hands never gets out,” and ” He
looks into the grave, and trembles a groat to save.”]
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