Kriloff’s Original Fables
A man, by birdcatching that throve,
A lot of Nightingales one spring caught in a grove. In cages sit the songsters, and there sing,
Although they wish their songs through woods could
ring;
Prisons most songs from every memory wipe.
But, nothing to be done, they pipe,
From sorrow some, from weariness the others. Among them was one hapless Nightingale,
Who suffered more than all his brothers : He for his mate did ceaseless wail,
And for his liberty with her enjoyed.
With tears the fields he sees, where once he toyed
;
Grieves day and night
;
But still he thinks : ” Grief won’t set evils right
:
Foolish are they, who only weep for woe
;
Wiser to seek for means, that go
To help us in our sorrow
;
And I myself may help, if not to-day to-morrow : We were not caught, methinks, to fill a dish ; The master clearly songs to hear doth wish
;
So that, perhaps, if with my voice I please,
I earn may from him in reward my ease, Nay, even liberty again.”
Thus thought he, and began his notes to trill
:
At twilight they the room with music fill, At sunrise every morn he’s singing still. But what’s the good of all his pain ? He only heavier made his cruel fate. Those that sang ill, for them the door
O’ th’ cage had opened long before. And they had got their liberty, though late
;
But our poor Bird,
Who in his tender song had erred,
Found his cage fast, and from it never stirred.
[This fable has been sometimes explained as referring to the censorship, and I have known some who specially
connected it with the poet Poushkin, but I can find no
ground for either application. It evidently applies to a tendency, common enough everywhere, to work a willing horse to death.]

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