The Peasant and the Snake 2 – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
A Snake within a Peasant’s house once asked to dwell,
Not to live idly without labour,
No, nurse the children would he of his neighbour ; Sweeter is bread when toiled for well !
” I know,” said he, ” the evil reputation,
Which men unfairly make
For every snake
Wicked they call the hissing nation
From earliest times the rumour runs, That gratitude to it is all unknown ; That friendship, kinship’s ties it ever shuns
And as to children, why, parents eat up their own.
All this, perhaps, is true : but, I’m not therefore worse, From birth not only have I no one stung,
But been from evil so averse, That from my fangs my sting they might have wrung,
If, when once flung
Away, I could have lived without it
In short, I am the kindest of all snakes,
Don’t doubt it
You’ll see what for your children’s sakes A loving snake can do.” ” If so,” replied the Peasant, ” and you lie not,
Still on my taking you rely not
For, if such cases oft themselves renew, For one kind snake, that here by chance may creep, A hundred wicked ones may too, And we our children lost for ever weep.
Yes, my good friend, it seems to me, And that is why your breath you only waste,
The best of snakes should be
Off to the devil packed, and that post-haste.”
Now parents, can ye guess with what I’ve here made free ?
[This fable is directed against one of the evil conse- quences of the campaign of 181 2. The French prisoners were not only treated with humanity, but became the lions of society to an extent that roused a justifiable patriotic
indignation. Numbers of these foreigners, quite unqualified morally and intellectually for the task, were
intrusted with the education of youth. French soldiers,
cooks, housemaids, and grooms could hardly make useful
instructors. This occurred while the national feeling was
still deeply stirred by the struggles, the victories, and the
sufferings of the war. One of the writers of the day
exclaims : ” A Jew cheats in all saleable articles, a Gipsy
in horses, and a Frenchman in the education he gives.” Kriloff belonged to the literary circle in which this feeling was uppermost, and even in the early days of his ” Spirits’
Post” it was one of the points to which his satire continually returned.]