Kriloff’s Original Fables
Of devils men unfairly talk, As if in ways of truth they never walk,
Though justice of her due they seldom balk
Of this a good example I can bring.
It chanced that once, within hell’s burning ring,
A Snake and Slanderer together took their swing
But neither to the other precedence would allow,
And so began a row, As to the one that properly should march before his friend. In hell precedence doth, ’tis known, on this depend
Who can his neighbour’s heart most surely rend ? In the dispute, with heat, in lengthy guise,
The Slanderer, to persuade the Snake,
The venom from his tongue doth shake
And boasting of her sting the Snake replies : She hisses out, none dare insult her to her face, And strives to overcrawl her rival’s pace. The Slanderer behind her tail a step had stayed : When Beelzebub, disgusted, moved his shanks
Himself, for which to him be thanks,
The Slanderer came to aid
And set the Snake again behind,
Saying: “Although thy services I’mind, In his unto precedence all a juster claim must find :
Thou evil art, —thy sting is death ; Thou dangerous art, when thou art near
Thou bit’st offenceless ones (enough, no fear !), But from a distance sendest thou such poisonous breath,
As doth this Slanderer here ? From him no flight o’er mountains high that saves, No stretch of ocean’s waves ! The harm he doth is never worked by thee ; Crawl thou, then, after him, and henceforth humbler be ! ”
This is why Slanderers in hell prized above Snakes we see.
[There is a Russian proverb to this effect : ” Thou
may’st escape a snake, but calumny its own will take.”]
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