Site Map
Panchatantra Fables
Section › 13 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

Book 2. The Winning of Friends

Soft, the Weaver

In a certain town lived a weaver. His name was Soft, and he spent his time making garments dyed in various patterns, fit for such people as princes. But for all his labours, he could not collect a bit of money beyond food and clothes. Yet he saw other weavers, who made coarse fabrics, rolling in wealth, and he said to his wife: "Look at these fellows, my dean They make coarse stuff, but they earn heaps of money. This city does not offer me a decent living. I am going to move."

"Oh, my dear," said his wife, "it is a mistake to say that money comes to those who travel. There is a proverb:

What shall not be, will never be;

What shall be, follows painlessly:

The thing your fingers grasp, will flit,

If fate has predetermined it.

And again:

A calf can find its mother cow

Among a thousand kine:

So good or evil done, returns

And whispers: 'I am thine." [261}

And once again:

As shade and sunlight interbreed,

So twined are Doer and his Deed.

So stay here and mind your business."

"You are mistaken, my dear, said he. "No deed comes to fruition without effort. There is a proverb:

You cannot clap a single hand;

Nor, effortless, do what you planned.

And again:

Although, at meal-time, fate provide

A richly loaded plate,

No food will reach the mouth, unless

The hand co-operate.

And once again:

Through work, not wishes, every plan

Its full fruition reaps:

No deer walk down the lion's throat

So long as lion sleeps.

And one last quotation:

Suppose he gave the best he had,

Yet no fruition came,

It was fate that blocked his efforts, not

The man who was to blame.

I must go to another country." So he went to Growing City, stayed three years, and started home with savings of three hundred gold-pieces.

In mid-journey, he found himself in a great forest when the blessèd sun went to rest. So, forethoughtful for his safety, he climbed upon a stout branch of a [262} banyan tree and dozed. In the middle of the night, as he slept, he saw two human figures whose eyes were bloodshot with fury, and heard them abusing each other.

The first of them was saying: "Come now, Doer! You know you have, in every possible way, prevented this fellow Soft from getting any capital beyond food and clothes. So you have no right ever to let him have any. Why did you give him three hundred gold pieces?"

"Now, Deed!" said the other, "I am constrained to give the enterprising a reward in proportion to their enterprise. The final consequence is your affair. Take it from him yourself." On hearing this, Soft awoke and looked for his bag of gold.

When he found it empty, he thought: "Oh, dear! It was so much trouble to earn the money, and it went in a flash. I have had my work for nothing. I haven't a thing. How can I look my wife in the face, or my friends?" So he made up his mind to return to Growing City. There he earned five hundred gold-pieces in just one single year, and started home again by a different road.

When the sun went down, he came upon the very same banyan tree, and he thought: "Oh, oh, oh! What is fate up to - damn the brute! Here is that same fiendish old banyan tree once more." But he dozed off on a branch, and saw the same two figures. One of them was saying: "Doer, why did you give [263} this fellow Soft five hundred gold-pieces? Don't you know that he doesn't get a thing beyond food and clothes?"

"Friend Deed," said the other, "I am constrained to give to the enterprising. The final consequence is your affair. So why blame me?"

When poor Soft heard this, he looked for his bag and found it empty. This plunged him into the depths of gloom, and he thought: "Oh, dear! What good is life to me if I lose my money? I will just hang myself from this banyan tree and say goodbye to life." Having made up his mind, he wove a rope of spear-grass, adjusted it as a noose to his neck, climbed out a branch, fastened it, and was about to let himself drop, when one of the figures appeared in the sky and said: "Do not be so rash, Friend Soft. I am the person who takes your money, who does not allow you one cowrie beyond food and clothes. Now go home. But, that you may not have seen me without result, ask your heart's desire."

"In that case," said Soft, "give me plenty of money."

"My good fellow," said the other, "what will you do with money which you cannot enjoy or give away? For you are to have no use of it beyond food and clothes."

But Soft replied: "Even if I get no use of it, still I want it. You know the proverb:

The man of capital,

Though ugly and base-born, [264}

Is honoured by the world

For charity forlorn.

And again:

Loose they are, yet tight;

Fall, or stick, my dear?

I have watched them now

Till the fifteenth year."

"How was that?" asked the figure. And Soft told the story of

Hang-Ball and Greedy

In a certain town lived a bull named Hang-Ball. From excess of male vigour he abandoned the herd, tore the river-banks with his horns, browsed at will on emerald-tipped grasses, and went wild in the forest.

In that forest lived a jackal named Greedy. One day he sprawled at ease with his wife on a sandy riverbank. At that moment the bull Hang-Ball came down to the same stretch of sand for a drink. And the she-jackal said to her husband when she saw the hanging testicles: "Look, my dear! See how two lumps of flesh hang from that bull. They will fall in a moment, or a few hours at most. So you must follow him, please."

"My dear," said the jackal, "nobody knows. Perhaps they will fall some day, perhaps not. Why send me on a fool's errand? I would rather stay here with you and eat the mice that come to water. They follow this trail. And if I should follow him, somebody else [265} would come here and occupy the spot. Better not do it. You know the proverb:

If any leave a certain thing,

For things uncertain wandering,

The sure that was, is sure no more;

What is not sure, was lost before."

"Come," said she, "you are a coward, satisfied with any little thing. You are quite wrong. We always ought to be energetic, a man especially. There is a saying:

Depend on energetic might,

And banish indolence's blight,

Let enterprise and prudence kiss -

All luck is yours - it cannot miss.

And again:

Let none, content with fate's negation,

Sink into lazy self-prostration:

No oil of sesame, unless

The seeds of sesame you press.

"And as for your saying: 'Perhaps they will fall, perhaps not,' that, too, is wrong. Remember the proverb:

Mere bulk is nothing. The resolute

Have honour sure:

God brings the plover water. Who

Dare call him poor?

"Besides, I am dreadfully tired of mouse-flesh, and these two lumps of meat are plainly on the point of falling. You must not refuse me."

So when he had listened to this, he left the spot [266} where mice were to be caught and followed Hang-Ball. Well, there is wisdom in the saying:

Only while he does not hear

Woman's whisper in his ear,

Goading him against his will,

Is a man his master still.

And again:

In action, should-not is as should,

In motion, cannot is as can,

In eating, ought-not is as ought,

When woman's whispers drive a man.

So he spent much time wandering with his wife after the bull. But they did not fall. At last in the fifteenth year, in utter gloom he said to his wife:

"Loose they are, yet tight;

Fall, or stick, my dear?

I have watched them now

Till the fifteenth year.

Let us draw the conclusion that they will not fall in the future either, and return to the old mouse-trail."

"And that is why I say:

Loose they are, yet tight, . . .

and the rest of it.

"Now anybody as rich as that becomes an object of desire. So give me plenty of money.

"If things stand so," said the figure, "go once more to Growing City. There dwell two sons of merchants; their names are Penny-Hide and Penny-Fling. When you have observed their conduct, you may ask for [267} yourself the nature of one or the other." With this he vanished, and Soft returned to Growing City, his mind in a maze.

At evening twilight, he wearily inquired for Penny-Hide's residence, learned with some trouble where it was, and called there. In spite of scoldings from the wife, the children, and others, he made his way into the courtyard and sat down. Then at dinner-time he received food but no kind word, and went to sleep there.

During the night he saw the same two human figures holding council. One of them was saying: "Come now, Doer! Why are you making extra expense for this fellow Penny-Hide, in providing Soft with a meal?

And the second replied: "Friend Deed, it is no fault of mine. I am constrained to attend to acquisition and expenditure. But their final consequence is your affair."

Now when the poor fellow awoke, he had to fast because Penny-Hide was in the second day of a cholera attack.

So Soft left that house and went to Penny-Fling's, who showed him much honour, greeting him cordially and providing food, garments, and the like. In his house Soft rested in a comfortable bed, and in the night he saw the same two figures taking counsel together. One of them was saying: "Come now, Doer! This fellow Penny-Fling is at no little expense today, entertaining Soft. So how will he pay that debt? He [268} has drawn everything from the bank."

"Friend Deed," said the second, "I had to do it. The final consequence is your affair." Now at dawn a policeman came with money, a favour from the king, and gave it all to Penny-Fling.

When he saw this, Soft thought: "This Penny-Fling person, even without any capital, is a better kind of thing than that scaly old Penny-Hide. The proverb is right:

The Scriptures' fruit is pious homes;

Right conduct, that of learnèd tomes;

Wives fructify in joy and son;

And money's fruit is gifts and fun.

"So may the blessèd Lord of All make me a person whose money goes in gifts and fun. I see no good in Penny-Hiding."

So the Lord of All took him at his word, making him that kind of person.

"And that is why I say:

Your wealth will flee,

If fate decree, . . .

and the rest of it. Therefore, my dear friend Gold, recognize the facts and feel no uneasiness in the department of finance. You know the proverb:

A lofty soul, in days of power,

Is tender as a lotus-flower;

But, meeting misadventure's shock,

Grows hard as Himalayan rock. [269}

And again:

The goal desiderating powers at strain,

Is reached by listless sleepers with no pain:

Though panting life go struggling ceaselessly,

The to-be is, is not the not-to-be.

And once again:

Why think and think without relief?

Why weight the mind with aimless grief?

All finds fulfilment, soon or late,

If written on the brow by fate.

Or put it this way:

From distant island, central sea,

Or far horizon's brink,

Fate brings and links its wilful whims,

Before a man can wink.

Or this way:

Fate links the unlinked, unlinks links;

It links the things that no man thinks.

All life, unwilling, faces its

Unbidden doom -

Some ill, no doubt, but blessings, too -

Why sink in gloom?

And yet again:

Courageous, cultivated minds

Their fate would supervise;

But linked causation masters them,

And makes it otherwise.

And He who made the parrots green,

But made the king-swans white,

And peacocks particoloured, He

Will order us aright. [270}

There is great wisdom in the old story:

Within a basket tucked away

In slow starvation's grim decay,

A broken-hearted serpent lay.

But see the cheerful mouse that gnaws

A hole, and tumbles in his jaws

At night - new hope's unbidden cause!

Now see the serpent, sleek with meat,

Who hastens through the hole, to beat

From quarters cramped, a glad retreat!

So fuss and worry will not do;

For fate is somehow muddling through

To good or bad for me and you.

"Adopt this point of view, and give some attention to ultimate salvation. There is a verse about that, too:

Let some small rite - vow, fasting, self-control -

Be daily practiced with a quiet soul;

For fate chips daily from our days to be,

Though panting life go struggling ceaselessly.

"This being so, contentment is always wise:

Contentment's nectar-draught supplies

The quiet joy that satisfies;

How can the money-maddened know

That joy in bustlings to and fro?

And once again:

No penance like forbearance;

No pleasure like content;

No friend like gifts; no virtue

Like hearts on mercy bent. [271}

"But why bore you with a sermon? In this place you are at home. Pray divest yourself of disturbing worries, and spend your time in friendship with me."

Now when Swift had listened to these observations of Slow, set off as they were with the inner truth of numerous authoritative works, his face blossomed, his heart was satisfied, and he said: "Slow, my dear fellow, you are good. Your virtue is something to rely on. For in the act of offering this comfort to Gold, you have brought perfect satisfaction to my heart. As the proverb puts it:

They taste the best of bliss, are good,

And find life's truest ends,

Who, glad and gladdening, rejoice

In love, with loving friends.

And again:

The richest man is penniless,

A living nothing, a vain distress,

If greed, true wealth destroying, bends

His soul to lack the charm of friends.

"Now by means of this first-class advice you have rescued our poor friend, sunk in the sea of wretchedness. After all, it is quite in the nature of things:

The good forever save the good,

When dull misfortunes clog:

For only elephants can drag

Their comrades from the bog.

And again:

No man deserves the praise of men,

Nor meets the vow of virtue, when [272}

The poor or suppliant from him go

Averted, sunk in hopeless woe.

Yes, there is wisdom in this:

What manhood is there, making not

The sad, secure?

What wealth is that, availing not

To aid the poor?

What sort of act, performed without

Good consequence?

What kind of life, that glory feels

To be offense?"

While they were conversing thus, a deer named Spot arrived, panting with thirst and quivering for fear of hunters' arrows. On seeing him approach, Swift flew into a tree, Gold crept into a grass-clump, and Slow sought an asylum in the water. But Spot stood near the bank, trembling for his safety.

Then Swift flew into the air, inspected the terrain for the distance of a league, then settled on his tree again, and called to Slow: "Slow, my dear fellow, come out, come out! No evil threatens you here. I have inspected the forest minutely. There is only this deer who has come to the lake for water." Thereupon all three gathered as before.

Then, out of friendly feeling toward a guest, Slow said to the deer: "My good fellow, drink and bathe. Our water is of excellent quality, and cool." And Spot thought, after meditating on this invitation: "Not the slightest danger threatens me from these. And [273} this because a turtle has no capacity for mischief when out of water, while mouse and crow feed only on what is dead. So I will make one of their company," And he joined them.

Then Slow bade him welcome and did the honours, saying: "I trust your circumstances are happy. Pray tell us how you happened into this neck of the woods." And Spot replied: "I am weary of a life without love. I have been hard pressed on every side by mounted grooms and dogs and hunters. But fear lent speed, I left them all behind, and came here to drink. Now I am desirous of your friendship."

Upon hearing this, Slow said: "We are little of body. It is unnatural for you to make friends with us. One should make friends with those capable of returning favours." But Spot rejoined:

"Better with the learnèd dwell,

Even though it be in hell

Than with vulgar spirits roam

Palaces that gods call home.

"And since you know that one little of body may be of no little consequence, why these self-depreciatory remarks? Yet after all, such speech is becoming to the excellent. I therefore insist that you make friends with me today. There is a good old saying:

Make friends, make friends, however strong

Or weak they be:

Recall the captive elephants

That mice set free." [274}

"How was that?" asked Slow. And Spot told the story of

The Mice That Set Elephants Free

There was once a region where people, houses, and temples had fallen into decay. So the mice, who were old settlers there, occupied the chinks in the floors of stately dwellings with sons, grandsons (both in the male and female line), and further descendants as they were born, until their holes formed a dense tangle. They found uncommon happiness in a variety of festivals, dramatic performances (with plots of their own invention), wedding-feasts, eating-parties, drinking-bouts, and similar diversions. And so the time passed.

But into this scene burst an elephant-king, whose retinue numbered thousands. He, with his herd, had started for the lake upon information that there was water there. As he marched through the mouse community, he crushed faces, eyes, heads, and necks of such mice as he encountered.

Then the survivors held a convention. "We are being killed," they said, "by these lumbering elephants - curse them! If they come this way again, there will not be mice enough for seed. Besides:

An elephant will kill you, if

He touch; a serpent if he sniff;

King's laughter has a deadly sting;

A rascal kills by honouring. [275}

Therefore let us devise a remedy effective in this crisis."

When they had done so, a certain number went to the lake, bowed before the elephant-king, and said respectfully: "O King, not far from here is our community, inherited from a long line of ancestors. There we have prospered through a long succession of sons and grandsons. Now you gentlemen, while coming here to water, have destroyed us by the thousand. Furthermore, if you travel that way again, there will not be enough of us for seed. If then you feel compassion toward us, pray travel another path. Consider the fact that even creatures of our size will someday prove of some service."

And the elephant-king turned over in his mind what he had heard, decided that the statement of the mice was entirely logical, and granted their request. Now in the course of time a certain king commanded his elephant-trappers to trap elephants. And they constructed a so-called water-trap, caught the king with his herd, three days later dragged him out with a great tackle made of ropes and things, and tied him to stout trees in that very bit of forest. When the trappers had gone, the elephant-king reflected thus: "In what manner, or through whose assistance, shall I be delivered?" Then it occurred to him: "We have no means of deliverance except those mice."

So the king sent the mice an exact description of [276} his disastrous position in the trap through one of his personal retinue, an elephant-cow who had not ventured into the trap, and who had previous information of the mouse community.

When the mice learned the matter, they gathered by the thousand, eager to return the favour shown them, and visited the elephant herd. And seeing king and herd fettered, they gnawed the guy-ropes where they stood, then swarmed up the branches, and by cutting the ropes aloft, set their friends free.

"And that is why I say:

Make friends, make friends, however strong, . . .

and the rest of it."

When Slow had listened to this, he said: "Be it even so, my dear fellow. Have no fear. In this place you are at home. Pray dismiss anxieties and behave as in your own dwelling." So they all took food and recreation at such hours as suited each, met at the noon hour in the shade of crowding trees beside the broad lake, and spent their time in reciprocated friendship, discussing a variety of masterly works on religion, economics, and similar subjects. And this seems quite natural:

For men of sense, good poetry

And science will suffice:

The time of dunderheads is spent

In squabbling, sleep, and vice. [277}

And again:

A thrill

Will fill

The wisest heart,

When flow

Bons mots

Composed with art,

Though fe-

Males be

Removed apart.

Now one day Spot failed to appear at the regular hour. And the others, missing him, alarmed also by an evil omen that appeared at that moment, drew the conclusion that he was in trouble, and could not keep up their spirits.

Then Slow and Gold said to Swift: "Dear fellow, we two are prevented by locomotive limitations from hunting for our dear friend. We beg you, therefore, to hunt about and learn whether the poor fellow is eaten by a lion, or singed by forest fire, or fallen into the power of hunters and such creatures. There is a saying:

One quickly fears for loved ones who

In pleasure-gardens play:

What, then, if they in forests grim

And peril-bristling stay?

By all means go, search out precise news concerning Spot, and return quickly."

On hearing this, Swift flew a little distance to the edge of a swamp, and finding Spot caught in a stout trap braced with pegs of acacia-wood, he sorrowfully said: "My dear friend, how did you fall into this [278} distress?"

"My friend," said Spot, "there is no time for delay. Listen to me.

When life is near an end,

The presence of a friend

Brings happiness, allying

The living with the dying.

Oh, pardon any expressions of friendly impatience I may have used in our discussions. Likewise, say to Gold and Slow in my name:

If any ugly word

Was willy-nilly heard,

I pray you both, forgive -

Let only friendship live."

On hearing this, Swift replied: "Feel no fear, my dear fellow, while you have friends like us. I will return with all speed, bringing Gold to cut your bonds."

Thereupon, with his heart in a flutter, he found Slow and Gold, explained the nature of Spot's captivity, then returned to Spot, carrying Gold in his beak. Gold, for his part, on seeing the plight of his friend, sorrowfully said: "My dear fellow, you always had a wary mind and a shrewd eye. How, then, did you fall into this dreadful captivity?"

And Spot rejoined: "Why ask, my friend? Fate, you know, does what it will. As the saying goes:

What mortal flies

(However wise)

When billows rise

To fatal size

On seas of woe? [279}

In dead of night,

Or broad daylight,

Grim fate may smite;

Ah, who can fight

An unseen foe?

You, my saintly friend, are familiar with the caprices of constraining destiny. Therefore be quick. Cut my bonds before the pitiless hunter comes."

"Have no fear," said Gold, "while I am at your side. In my heart, however, is great sorrow, which I beg you to remove by telling your story. You are guided by an eye of wisdom. How did you fall into this captivity?"

"Well," said Spot, "if you insist on knowing, listen, and learn how I have been made captive a second time, having once before suffered the woes of captivity."

"Tell me," said Gold, "how once before you suffered the woes of captivity. I am eager to learn the full detail." And Spot told the story of

Spot's Captivity

Long ago, when I was six months old, I used to gambol in front of all the rest, as a youngster does. Out of sheer spirits I would run far ahead, then wait for the herd. Now we deer have two gaits, called the Jump-Up and the Straightaway. Of these I knew the Straightaway, but not the Jump-Up.

While amusing myself one day, I lost touch with the herd. At this I was dreadfully worried, gazed [280} about the horizon to learn where they might be, and discovered them ahead. Now they had avoided a snare by means of the Jump-Up; they stood in a body ahead of me, and waited, all looking at me. But I, ignorant of the Jump-Up, was caught in the hunter's snare.

While I was trying to drag it toward the herd, the hunter bound all my limbs and I fell to the ground, head foremost. And the herd of deer vanished, seeing no hope of saving me.

When the hunter came up, he did not put me to death, for pity softened his heart at the thought: "He is a fawn, fit only for a pet." Instead, he carefully took me home and gave me as a plaything to a prince, who showed his delight at seeing me by giving the hunter a generous reward.

The prince treated me kindly, providing ointments, massage, baths, food, perfumes, and salves, while my means were appropriate and palatable. But as I was passed from hand to hand by the curious women and princes at court, I was seriously inconvenienced by petting and scratching, which did not spare neck, eye, front hoof hind hoof, or ear. Finally, one day in the rainy season, as the prince reclined on a couch, I observed the lightning, listened to the thunder, and, my heart wistful for my fondly remembered herd, I recited:

When shall I follow on the herd

Of coursing deer again? [281}

When brace myself against the wind

That whistles by? Ah, when?

"Who said that?" cried the prince, and looked about him, terrified. When he saw me, he thought: "No man said it, but a deer. It is a prodigy. I am undone," and like one possessed by a devil, he tottered from the house, his garments in disarray.

Thinking himself ridden by a demon, he tempted the sorcerers and magicians with a great reward, saying: "If any free from this torment, I will pay him no small honour."

Meanwhile, overhasty individuals were striking me with sticks, bricks, and cudgels, but - further life being predestined - I was rescued by a certain holy many who said: "Why kill the poor beast?" Furthermore, he penetrated the cause of my malady, and respectfully said to the prince: "Dear sir, in the rainy season he wistfully remembers his native herd, and therefore recited:

When shall I follow on the herd

Of coursing deer again?

When brace myself against the wind

That whistles by? Ah, when?"

On hearing this, the prince was cured of his feverish malady, returned to his normal state, and said to his men: "Douse the poor deer's head in plenty of water, and set him free in the forest he came from." And they did so. [282}

"Thus, though having suffered a previous captivity, I am caught again through constraining destiny."

At this moment Slow joined them. For his heart was so full of love for his friend that he had followed, leaving grass, shrubs, and spear-grass crushed behind him. At sight of him, they were more distressed than ever, and Gold became their spokesman. "My dear fellow," said he, "you have done wrong in leaving your fortress to come here, since you are not able to save yourself from the hunter, while on us he cannot lay hands. For when the bonds are cut and the hunter stands near, Spot will bound away and disappear, Swift will fly into a tree, while I, being a little fellow, will find some chink to slide into. But what will you do, when within his reach?"

To this Slow listened, but he said: "Oh, do not blame me, you of all people. For

The loss of love and loss of wealth

Who could endure

But for restoratives of health

In friendship sure?

And again:

The days when meetings do not fail

With wise and good

Are lovely clearings on the trail

Through life's wild wood.

The heart finds rest in telling things (

When troubles toss) [283}

To honest wife, or friend who clings,

Or kindly boss.

Ah, my dear fellow,

The wistful glances wander,

The wits, bewildered, ponder

In good men separated,

Whose love is unabated.

And more than that:

Better lose your life than friends;

Life returns when this life ends,

Not the sympathy that blends."

At this moment the hunter arrived, bow and arrow in hand. Under his very eyes Gold cut the bonds and slipped into the before-mentioned chink. Swift flew into the air and was gone. Spot darted away.

Now when the hunter saw that the deer's bonds had been cut, he was filled with amazement and said: "Under no circumstances do deer cut their own bonds. It was through fate that a deer has done it." Then he spied a turtle on most improbable terrain, and with mixed feelings he said: "Even if the deer, with fate's help, cut his bonds and escaped, still I've got this turtle. As the saying goes:

Nothing comes, of all that walks,

All that flies to heaven,

All that courses over the earth,

If it be not given."

After this meditation, the hunter cut spear-grass with his knife, wove a stout rope, tied the turtle's feet [284} tightly together, fastened the rope to his bow-tip, and started home.

But when Gold saw his friend borne away, he sorrowfully said: "Ah, me! Ah, me!

No sooner sorrow's ocean-shore

I reach in safety, than once more

A bitter sorrow is my lot:

Misfortunes crowd the weakest spot.

Fresh blows are dreadful on a wound;

Food fails, and hunger-pangs abound;

Woes come, old enmities grow hot:

Misfortunes crowd the weakest spot.

One walks at ease on level ground

Till one begins to stumble;

Let stumbling start, and every step

Is apt to bring a tumble.

And besides:

It's hard to find in life

A friend, a bow, a wife,

Strong, supple to endure,

In stock and sinew pure,

In time of danger sure.

False friends are common. Yes, but where

True nature links a friendly pair,

The blessing is as rich as rare.

To bitter ends

You trust true friends,

Not wife nor mother,

Not son nor brother.

No long experience alloys

True friendship's sweet and supple joys; [285}

No evil men can steal the treasure;

It's death, death only, sets a measure.

"Ah, what is this fate that smites me ceaselessly? First came the loss of property; then humiliations from my own people, the result of poverty; because of gloom thereat, exile; and now fate prepares for me the loss of a friend. As the proverb says:

In truth, I do not grieve though riches flee;

Some lucky chance will bring them back to me:

It's this that hurts me - lacking riches' stay,

The best of friends relax and fall away.

And again:

Fate's artful linkage since my birth

Of evil deeds and deeds of worth

Pursues me on this present earth

Till states of mind that play and sway

And change and range from day to day,

Seem lives that strive and pass away.

Ah, there is only too much wisdom in this:

The body, born, is near its doom;

And riches are the source of gloom;

All meetings end in partings: yes,

The world is all one brittleness.

"Ah, me! Ah, me! The loss of my friend is death to me. What care I even for my own people? As the saying goes:

A foe of woe and pain and fear,

A cup of trust and feelings dear,

A pearl - who made it? Who could blend

Six letters in that name of friend? [286}

Oh, friendly meetings!

O joy to which the righteous cling,

Machine that answers love's sole string,

Pure happiness in every breath,

Cut short by one stern exile - Death!

And once again:

Pleasant riches; friendship's course

In familiar ruts;

Enmities of men of sense -

Death abruptly cuts.

And one last word:

If birth and death did not exist

Nor age nor fear of loved ones missed,

If all were not so quick to perish,

Whose life were not a thing to cherish?"

While Gold recited these grief-stricken sentences, Spot and Swift joined him and united their lamentations with his. And Gold said to them: "So long as our dear Slow is within sight, so long we have a chance to save him. Leave us, Spot. You must slip past the hunter unobserved, drop to earth somewhere near water, and pretend to be dead. Swift, you must spread your claws in the cage work of Spot's horns, and pretend to peck out his eyes. Then that dreadful beast of a hunter, in the greedy belief that he has found a dead deer, will certainly wish to seize him, will throw the turtle on the ground, and hurry up. When his back is turned, I for my part will in a mere [287} twinkling set Slow free to seek refuge in the water nearby, his natural fortress. I myself will slide into a grass-clump. You, furthermore, must plan a second escape when the beast of a hunter is upon you." So they put this plan into practice.

Now when the hunter saw a deer as good as dead beside the water, and noticed that a crow was pecking at him, he joyfully threw the turtle on the ground, and ran for a club. As soon as Spot could tell from the tramp of feet that the hunter was close upon him, with a supreme burst of speed he swept into dense forest. Swift flew into a tree. The turtle, his fettering cord cut by Gold, scrambled to shelter in the water. Gold slipped into a grass-clump.

To the hunter it seemed a conjurer's trick. "What does it mean?" he cried in his disappointment. Then he returned to the spot where he had left the turtle, and saw the cord cut in a hundred pieces no longer than a finger's breadth. Then he perceived that the turtle had vanished like a magician, and anticipated danger for his own person. With troubled heart he made all speed out of the wood for home, casting anxious glances at the horizon.

Meanwhile the four friends, free of all injury, came together, expressed their mutual affection, took a new lease on life, and lived happily. And so

If beasts enjoy so great a prize

Of friendship, why should wonder rise

In men, who are so very wise? [288}

Here ends Book 2, called "The Winning of Friends." The first verse runs:

The deer and turtle, mouse and crow

Had first-rate sense and learning; so,

Though money failed and means were few,

They quickly put their purpose through.

Contents


Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryder, Literature  

Panchatantra in English translation by Arthur W. Ryder, To top Archive section Set Next

Panchatantra in English by Arthur W. Ryder USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2011–2016, Tormod Kinnes, MPhil. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]