The Quartett – Jataka Tales

Kriloff’s Original Fables
A roguish Monkey,
A Goat, and Donkey,
With a great clumsy Bear,
Agreed in a Quartett to share. They got their notes; two fiddles, flute, and bass,
And on a grass plot sat, under some limes,
Fain to enchant the world with skill and grace
;
But how they struck up can’t be told in rhymes.
” Stop, brothers, stop !” the Monkey cries, ” Be quiet
!
Your music ends in riot, Because you all are seated wrong
:
Thou Bruin, seat thee with thy bass Before the flute there, face to face ! And thou, good second fiddler, take thy place
‘Gainst this, which doth to me as first belong ! Our music now will go apace, Rousing the woods and mountains into song
!

They change, and the Quartett begins
;
But by it music nothing wins,
” Hold hard, the secret I have hit !

Bawls out the Donkey. ” We shall get on better,
If in a row we sit.” The donkey is obeyed unto the letter
;
They all sit in a row
:
Still the Quartett will not consent to go. Now worse than ever quarrel they, disputing,
And refuting
The place of each.
It happened that a Nightingale their noise did reach ; She flew to them : they asked her to decide, ” Have patience here with us a space,” they cried, ” Set our quartett in order, that we may
These notes and instruments correctly play
;
Above all show us how to sit
!

” To be musicians first of all ’tis fit Talent to have, and good ears too,”
Replied the judge that music knew ; ” But ye, my friends, whatever seats ye take,
Musicians all your lives will never make.”
[According to some, this alludes to a quadruple division
into committees of the society called literally ” Conversations of the Friends of Russian Literature,” to which
Kriloff belonged, and in which were first read a large
number of his fables. This separation merely led to a
useless multiplication of Secretaries and Presidents, and in no way advanced the work of the society. According to
others, the fable alludes to a similar division of the
labours of the Council of State, and the disputes of the
leaders about their titles and precedence. Kenevitch considers either explanation equally applicable.]