Book 1. The Loss of Friends
In a certain city lived a merchant named Ocean, who loaded a hundred camels with valuable doth and set out in a certain direction. Now one of his camels, [135} whose name was Ugly, was overburdened and fell limp, with every limb relaxed. Then the merchant divided the pack of cloth, loaded it on other camels, and because he found himself in a wild forest region where delay was impossible, he proceeded, leaving Ugly behind.
When the trader was gone, Ugly hobbled about and began to crop the grass. Thus in a very few days the poor fellow regained his strength.
In that forest lived a lion whose name was Haughty, who had as hangers-on a leopard, a crow, and a jackal. As they roamed the forest, they encountered the abandoned camel, and the lion said, after observing his fantastic and comical shape: "This is an exotic in our forest. Ask him what he is."
So the crow informed himself of the facts and said: "This is what goes by the name of camel in the world."
Thereupon the lion asked him: "My good friend, where did you come from?"
And the camel gave precise details of his separation from the trader, so that the lion experienced compassion and guaranteed his personal security.
In this posture of affairs, the lion fought an elephant one day, received a thrust from a tusk, and had to keep his cave. And when five or six days had passed, they all found themselves in urgent distress from the failure of food. So the lion, observing how they drooped, said to them: "I am crippled by this wound and cannot supply you with the usual food. [136} You will just have to make an effort on your own account."
And they replied: "Why should we care to thrive, while our lord and king is in this state?"
"Bravo!" said the lion. "You show the conduct and devotion of good servants. Round up some food-animal for me while I am in this condition." Then, when they made no answer, he said to them: "Come! Do not be bashful. Hunt up some creature. Even in my present condition I will convert it into food for you and myself."
So the four started to roam the woods. Since they found no food-animal, the crow and the jackal conferred together, and the jackal said: "Friend crow, why roam about? Here is Ugly, who trusts our king. Let us provide for our sustenance by killing him."
"A very good suggestion," said the crow. "But after all, the master guaranteed his personal security, and so cannot kill him."
"Quite so," said the jackal. "I will interview the master and make him think of killing Ugly. Stay right here until I go home and return with the master's answer." With this he hastened to the master. When he found the lion, he said: "Master, we have roamed the entire forest, and are now too famished to stir a foot. Besides, the king is on a diet. So, if the king commands, one might fortify one's health today by means of Ugly's flesh."
When the lion had listened to this ruthless [137} proposal, he cried out, angrily: "Shame upon you, most degraded of sinners! The moment you repeat those words, I will strike you dead. Why, I guaranteed his personal security. How can I kill him with my own paw? You have heard the saying:
The wise declare and understand
No gift of cow or food or land
To be among all gifts as grand
As safety granted on demand."
"Master," replied the jackal, "if you kill him after guaranteeing his safety, then you are indeed blameworthy. If, however, of his own accord he devotedly offers his own life to his lord and king, then no blame attaches. So you may kill him on condition that he voluntarily destines himself to slaughter. Otherwise, pray eat one or another of the rest of us. For the king is on a diet, and if food fails, he will experience a change for the worse. In that case, what value have these lives of ours, which will no longer be spent in our master's service? If anything disagreeable happens to our gracious master, then we must follow him into the fire. For the proverb says:
Save the chieftain of the clan,
Whatever the pain;
Lose him, and the clan is lost:
Hubless spokes are vain."
After listening to this, Haughty said: "Very well. Do as you will."
With this message the jackal hastened to say to [138} the others: "Well, friends, the master is very low. His life is oozing from the tip of his nose. If he goes, who will be our protector in this forest? So, since starvation is driving him toward the other world, let us go and voluntarily offer our own bodies. Thus we shall pay the debt we owe our gracious master. And the proverb says:
Servants, when disaster
Comes upon their master,
If alive and well,
Tread the road to hell."
So they all went, their eyes brimming with tears, bowed low before Haughty, and sat down. On seeing them, Haughty said: "My friends, did you catch any creature, or see any?" And the crow replied: "Master, though we roamed everywhere, we still did not catch any creature, nor see any. Master, pray eat me and support your life for a day. Thus the master will be replete, while I shall rise to heaven. For the saying goes:
A servant who, in loyal love,
Has yielded up his breath,
Adorns a lofty seat in heaven,;
Secure from age and death."
On hearing this, the jackal said: "Your body is small. If he ate you, the master would scarcely prolong his life. Besides, there is a moral objection. For the verse tells us:
Crows' flesh and such small leavings
Are things to be passed by: [139}
Why cat an evil somewhat
That does not satisfy?
"You have shown your loyalty, and have won a saintly reputation in both worlds. Now make way, while I address the master."
So the jackal bowed respectfully and said: "Master, pray use my body to support your life today, thus conferring on me the best of earth and heaven. For the proverb says:
Since servants' lives on masters hang
In forfeit for their pay,
The master perpetrates no sin
In taking them away."
Hearing this, the leopard said: "Very praiseworthy, indeed, my friend. However, your body is rather small, too. Besides, he ought not to eat you, since you belong to the same unguipugnacious family. You know the proverb:
The prudent, though with life at stake,
Avoid forbidden food
(Too small at that) - from fear to lose
Both earth's and heaven's good.
Well, you have shown yourself a loyal servant. There is truth in the stanza:
That swarms of gentlemen delight
A monarch, is not strange,
Since, first and last and times between,
Their honour does not change.
Make way, then, so that I, too, may win the master's grace."
Thereupon the leopard bowed low and said: [140} "Master, pray prolong your life for a day at the cost of my life. Grant me an everlasting home in heaven, and spread my fame afar on earth. Pray show no hesitation. For the proverb says:
A servant who, by loyal love,
Has demonstrated worth,
Attains a lasting home above,
And glory on the earth."
Hearing this, poor Ugly thought: "Well, they use the most elegant phrases. Yet the master did not kill a single one of them. So I, too, will make a speech befitting the occasion. I have no doubt that all three will contradict me."
Having come to this conclusion, he said: "very admirable, friend leopard. But you too are unguipugnacious. How, then, can the master eat you? There is proverb to fit the case:
To mere imagining of wrongs
To kinsmen done, confirms
The loss of earth and heaven. Such rogues
Turn into unclean worms.
Make way, then, so that I too, may address the master."
So poor Ugly stood in the presence, bowed low and said: "Master, these you surely may not eat. Pray prolong your life by means of my life, so that I may win the best of earth and heaven. For the proverb says:
No sacrifice and no saint
Can ever rise as high [141}
As do the simple serving-folk
Who for the master die."
Hereupon the lion gave the word, the leopard and the jackal tore his body, the crow pecked out his eyes, poor Ugly yielded up the ghost, and all the others ravenously devoured him.
And that is why I say:
All who live upon their wits, . . .
and the rest of it.
After telling the story, Lively continued, addressing Victor: "My dear fellow, this king, with his shabby advisers, brings no good to his dependents. Better have as king a vulture advised by swans than a swan advised by vultures. For from the vulture advisers many vices appear in their master, quite sufficient to bring ruin. Of the two, therefore, one should choose the former as king. But a king instigated by evil counsel is incapable of reflection. You know the saying:
You jackal does not reassure;
Your crow's sharp bill offends:
You therefore see me up a tree -
I do not like your friends."
How was that?" asked Victor. And Lively told the story of
In a certain city lived a carpenter named Trust-good. It was his constant habit to carry his lunch and [142} go with his wife into the forest, where he cut great anjana logs. Now in that forest lived a lion named Spotless, who had as hangers-on two carnivorous creatures, a jackal and a crow.
One day the lion was roaming the wood alone and encountered the carpenter. The carpenter for his part, on beholding that most alarming lion, whether considering himself already lost or perhaps with the ready wit to perceive that it is safer to face the powerful, advanced to meet the lion, bowed low, and said: "Come, friend, come! Today you must eat my own dinner which my wife - your brother's wife - has provided."
"My good fellow," said the lion, "being carnivorous, I do not live on rice. But in spite of that, I will have a taste, since I take a fancy to you. What kind of dainty have you got?"
When the lion had spoken, the carpenter stuffed him with all kinds of dainties - buns, muffins, chewers, and things, all flavoured with sugar, butter, grape juice, and spice. And to show his gratitude, the lion guaranteed his safety and granted unhindered passage through the forest.
Then the carpenter said: "Comrade, you must come here every day, but please come alone. You must not bring anyone else to visit me." In this manner they spent their days in friendship. And the lion, since every day he received such hospitality, such a variety of goodies, gave up the practice of hunting. [143}
Then the jackal and the crow, who lived on others' luck, went hungry, and they implored the lion.
"Master," they said, "where do you go every day? And tell us why you come back so happy."
"I don't go anywhere," said he. But when they urged the question with great deference, the lion said: "A friend of mine comes into this wood every day. His wife cooks the most delicious things, and I eat them every day, in order to show friendly feeling."
Then the jackal and the crow said: "We two will go there, will kill the carpenter, and have enough meat and blood to keep us fat for a long time." But the lion heard them and said: "Look here! I guaranteed his safety. How can I even imagine playing him such a scurvy trick? But I will get a delicious titbit from him for you also." To this they agreed. So the three started to find the carpenter. While they were still far off, the carpenter caught a glimpse of the lion and his seedy companions, and he thought: "This does not look prosperous to me." So he and his wife made haste to climb a tree. Then the lion came up and said: "My good fellow, why did you climb a tree when you saw me? Why, I am your friend, the lion. My name is Spotless. Do not be alarmed."
But the carpenter stayed where he was and said:
Your jackal does not reassure;
Your crow's sharp bill offends:
You therefore see me up a tree -
I do not like your friends. [144}
"And that is why I say that a king with shabby advisers brings no good to his dependents."
After telling the story, Lively continued: "Somebody must have set Rusty against me. Besides:
Soft water's scars elide
The mighty mountain side,
And leave it much diminished:
By those who have the trick
To make a whisper stick
Man's gentleness is finished.
"Under these circumstances, what action is opportune? Indeed, there is nothing left save battle. For the proverb says:
By gifts, by self-denial,
By sacrificial trial,
Some slowly win to heaven;
To him who yields his life
In glad, heroic strife,
Quick entrance there is given.
The slain attains the sky,
The victor joyful lives;
And heroes are content
With these alternatives.
And once again:
Gay maidens, smart with gems and gold;
The flyflap's royal toy;
Throne, horse, and elephant, and cash;
The white umbrella, joy
And sign of monarchs - shun the coward,
Are not for mamma's boy." [145}
When he heard this, Victor thought: "The fellow has sharp horns and plenty of vigour. He might perhaps strike down the master, if fate decreed it. That would not do, either. And the proverb says:
Even with heroes victory
Whimsically may alight.
Try three other methods first;
Only in extremis fight.
So I will use my wits to turn his thoughts from fighting." And he said: "My dear fellow, this is not a good plan, because
He loses fights who fights before
His foeman's power is reckoned:
The ocean and the plover fought,
And ocean came out second."
"How was that?" asked Lively. And Victor told the story of
A plover and his wife once lived by the shore of the sea, the mighty sea that swarms with fish, crocodiles, turtles, sharks, porpoises, pearl oysters, shellfish, and other teeming life. The plover was called Sprawl, and his wife's name was Constance.
In due time she became pregnant and was ready to lay her eggs. So she said to her husband: "Please find a spot where I may lay my eggs."
"Why," said he, "this home of ours, inherited from our ancestors, promises progress. Lay your eggs here."
"Oh," said [146} she, "don't mention this dreadful place. Here is the ocean near at hand. His tide might someday make a long reach and lick away my babies."
But the plover answered: "Sweetheart, he knows me, he knows Sprawl. Surely the great ocean cannot show such enmity to me. Did you never hear this?
What man is rash enough to take
The gleaming crest-jewel from a snake?
Or stirs the wrath of one so dread
His glance may strike his victim dead?
However summer heat distresses
In wild and treeless wildernesses,
Who, after all, would seek the shade
By some rogue elephant's body made?
When morning's chilly breezes blow
With whirling particles of snow,
What man with sense of value sure,
Employs for cold the water cure?
To visit Death what man desires,
So wakes the lion's sleeping fires,
Who, tired from slaying elephants,
Lies in a temporary trance?
Who dares to visit and defy
The death-god? Dares the fearless cry -
I challenge you to single strife;
If power be yours, pray take my life?
What son of man, with simple wit,
Defies the fire, and enters it -
The smokeless flame that terrifies,
Whose tongues by hundreds lick the skies?" [147}
But even as he spoke, his wife laughed outright, since she knew the full measure of his capacity, and she said: "Very fine, indeed. There is plenty more where that came from. O king of birds,
Your heavy boastings startle, shock,
And make of you a laughingstock:
One marvels if the rabbit plants
A dung-pile like the elephant's.
How can you fail to appreciate your own strength and weakness? There is a saying:
To know one's self is hard, to know
Wise effort, effort vain;
But accurate self-critics are
Secure in times of strain.
This much of effort brings success;
I have the power; I can:
So think, then act, and reap the fruit
Of your judicious plan.
And there is sound sense in this:
To take advice from kindly friends
Be ever satisfied:
The stupid turtle lost his grip
Upon the stick, and died."
"How was that?" asked Sprawl. And Constance told the story of
In a certain lake lived a turtle named Shell-Neck. He had as friends two ganders whose names were Slim and Grim. Now in the vicissitudes of time there came [148} a twelve-year drought, which begot ideas of this nature in the two ganders: "This lake has gone dry. Let us seek another body of water. However, we must first say farewell to Shell-Neck, our dear and long-proved friend."
When they did so, the turtle said: "Why do you bid me farewell? I am a water-dweller, and here I should perish very quickly from the scant supply of water and from grief at loss of you. Therefore, if you feel any affection for me, please rescue me from the jaws of this death. Besides, as the water dries in this lake, you two suffer nothing beyond a restricted diet, while to me it means immediate death. Consider which is more serious, loss of food or loss of life."
But they replied: "We are unable to take you with us since you are a water-creature without wings." Yet the turtle continued: "There is a possible device. Bring a stick of wood." This they did, whereupon the turtle gripped the middle of the stick between his teeth, and said: "Now take firm hold with your bills, one on each side, fly up, and travel with even flight through the sky, until we discover another desirable body of water."
But they objected: "There is a hitch in this fine plan. If you happen to indulge in the smallest conversation, then you will lose your hold on the stick, will fall from a great height, and will be dashed to bits."
"Oh," said the turtle, "from this moment I take [149} a vow of silence, to last as long as we are in heaven." So they carried out the plan, but while the two ganders were painfully carrying the turtle over a neighbouring city, the people below noticed the spectacle, and there arose a confused buzz of talk as they asked: "What is this cartlike object that two birds are carrying through the atmosphere?"
Hearing this, the doomed turtle was heedless enough to ask: "What are these people chattering about?" The moment he spoke, the poor simpleton lost his grip and fell to the ground. And persons who wanted meat cut him to bits in a moment with sharp knives.
"And that is why I say:
To take advice from kindly friends, . . .
and the rest of it." And Constance continued:
Forethought and Ready-wit thrive;
Fatalist can't keep alive.
"How was that?" asked Sprawl. And she told the story of
In a great lake lived three full-grown fishes, whose names were Forethought, Ready-wit, and Fatalist. Now one day the fish named Forethought overheard passers-by on the bank and fishermen saying: "There [150} are plenty of fish in this pond. Tomorrow we go fishing."
On hearing this, Forethought reflected: "This looks bad. Tomorrow or the day after they will be sure to come here. I will take Ready-wit and Fatalist and move to another lake whose waters are not troubled.' [9 So he called them and put the question. Thereupon Ready-wit said: "I have lived long in this lake and cannot move in such a hurry. If fishermen come here, then I will protect myself by some means devised for the occasion."
But poor, doomed Fatalist said: "There are sizable lakes elsewhere. Who knows whether they will come here or not? One should not abandon the lake of his birth merely because of such small gossip. And the proverb says:
Since scamp and sneak and snake
So often undertake
A plan that does not thrive,
The world wags on, alive.
Therefore I am determined not to go." And when
Forethought realized that their minds were made up, he went to another body of water.
On the next day, when he had gone, the fishermen with their boys beset the inner pool, cast a net, and caught all the fish without exception. Under these circumstances Ready-wit, while still in the water, played dead. And since they thought: "This big fellow died without help," they drew him from the net and laid [151} him on the bank, from which he wriggled back to safety in the water. But Fatalist stuck his nose into the meshes of the net, struggling until they pounded him repeatedly with clubs and so killed him.
"And that is why I say:
Forethought and Ready-wit thrive;
Fatalist can't keep alive."
"My dear," said the plover, "why do you think me like Fatalist?
Horses, elephants, and iron,
Water, woman, man,
Sticks and stones and clothes are built
On a different plan.
Feel no anxiety. Who can bring humiliation upon you while my arms protect you?"
So Constance laid her eggs, but the ocean, who had listened to the previous conversation, thought: "Well, well! There is sense in the saying:
Of self-conceit all creatures show
An adequate supply:
The plover lies with claws upstretched
To prop the falling sky.
I will just put his power to the test."
So the next day, when the two plovers had gone foraging, he made a long reach with his wave-hands and eagerly seized the eggs. Then when the hen-plover returned and found the nursery empty, she said to her husband: "See what has happened to poor [152} me. The ocean seized my eggs today. I told you more than once that we should move, but you were stupid as Fatalist and would not go. Now I am so sad at the loss of my children that I have decided to burn myself."
"My dear," said the plover, "wait until you witness my power, until I dry up that rascally ocean with my bill." But she replied: "My dear husband, how can you fight the ocean? Furthermore,
Gay simpletons who fight,
Not estimating right
The foe's power and their own,
Like moths in flame atone."
"My dear," said the plover, "you should not say such things.
The sun's new-risen beams
Upon the mountains fall:
Where glory is cognate,
Age matters not at all.
With this bill I shall dry up the water to the last drop, and turn the sea into dry land."
"Darling," said his wife, "with a bill that holds one drop how will you dry up the ocean, into which pour without ceasing the Ganges and the Indus, bearing the water of nine times nine hundred tributary streams? Why talk nonsense?"
But the plover said:
Success is rooted in the will;
And I possess an iron-strong bill;
Long days and nights before me lie:
Why should not ocean's flood go dry? [153}
The highest glory to attain
Asks enterprise and manly strain:
The sun must first to Libra climb
Before he routs the cloudy time.
"Well," said his wife, "if you feel that you must make war on the ocean, at least call other birds to your aid before you begin. For the proverb says:
A host where each is weak
Brings victory to pass:
The elephant is bound
By woven ropes of grass.
Woodpecker and sparrow
With froggy and gnat,
Attacking en masse, laid
The elephant flat."
"How was that?" asked Sprawl. And Constance told the story of the duel of the elephant and the sparrow (next page).