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Book 3. Crows and Owls


[291} Here, then, begins Book 3, called "Crows and Owls," which treats of peace, war, and so forth. The first verse runs:

Reconciled although he be,

Never trust an enemy.

For the cave of owls was burned,

When the crows with fire returned.

"How was that?" asked the princes, and Vishnusharman told the following story.

In the southern country is a city called Earth-Base. Near it stands a great banyan tree with countless branches. And in the tree dwelt a crow-king named Cloudy with a countless retinue of crows. There he made his habitation and spent his time.

Now a rival king, a great owl named Foe-Crusher, had his fortress and his habitation in a mountain cave, and he had an unnumbered retinue of owls. This owl-king cherished a grudge, so that whenever he met a crow in his airings, he killed him and passed on. In this way his constant aggression gradually spread rings of dead crows about the banyan tree. Nor is this surprising. For the proverb says: [291}

If you permit disease or foe

To march unheeded, you may know

That death awaits you, sure if slow.

Now one day Cloudy summoned all his counsellors and said: "Gentlemen, as you are aware, our enemy is arrogant, energetic, and a judge of occasions. He always comes at nightfall to work havoc in our ranks. How, then, can we counter-attack? For we do not see at night, and in the daytime we cannot discover his fortress. Otherwise, we might go there and strike a blow. What course, then, shall we adopt? There are six possibilities - peace, war, change of base, entrenchment, alliances, and duplicity."

And they replied: "Your Majesty does well to put this question. For the saying goes:

Good counsellors should tell their king,

Unasked, a profitable thing;

If asked, they should advise.

While flatterers who shun the true

(Which in the end is wholesome, too)

Are foemen in disguise.

Therefore it is now proper to confer in secret session."

Then Cloudy started to consult severally his five ancestral counsellors, whose names were Live-Again, Live-Well, Live-Along, Live-On, and Live-Long. And first of all he questioned Live-Again: "My worthy sir, what is your opinion under the circumstances?" And Live-Again replied: "O King, one should not make war with a powerful enemy. And this one is [293} powerful and knows when to strike. Therefore make peace with him. For the saying goes:

Bow your head before the great,

Lifting it when times beseem,

And prosperity will flow

Ever onward, like a stream.

And again:

Make your peace with powerful foes

Who are rich and good and wise,

Who are seasoned conquerors,

In whose home no discords rise.

Make your peace with wicked men,

If your life endangered be;

Life, itself first made secure,

Gives the realm security.

And again:

Make your peace with him whose wont

It is to conquer in a fight;

Other foes will bend their necks

To you, fearful of his might.

Even with equals make your peace;

Victory is often given

Whimsically; take no risks -

Says the current saw in heaven.

Even with equals victory

Whimsically may alight.

Try three other methods first;

Only in extremis fight.

And yet again:

See! The bully to whose soul

Power is all, and peace is not, [294}

Clashing with an equal foe,

Crumbles like an earthen pot.

Land and friends and gold at most

Have been won when battles cease;

If but one of these should fail,

It is best to live in peace.

When a lion digs for moles

Hiding in their pebbly house,

He is apt to break his nails,

And at best he gets a mouse.

Therefore, where no prize is won

And a healthy fight is sure,

Never stir a quarrel, but

Whatever the cost, endure.

By a stronger foe assailed,

Bend as bends the river reed;

Do not strike, as serpents do,

If you wish your luck to speed.

Imitators of the reed

Slowly win to glory's peak;

But the luckless serpent-men

Only earn the death they seek.

Shrink like turtles in their shells,

Taking blows if need there be;

Raise your head from time to time

Like the black snake, warily.

To sum it up:

Never struggle with the strong

(If you wish to know my mind)

Who has ever seen a cloud

Baffle the opposing wind?" [295}

Having heard this view, the king said to Live-Well: "My worthy sir, I desire to hear your opinion also."

And Live-Well said: "O King, I disagree. Inasmuch as the enemy is cruel, greedy, and unprincipled, you should most certainly not make peace with him. For the proverb says:

With foes unprincipled and false

It's vain to seek accommodation:

Agreements bind them not; and soon

They show a wicked transformation.

Therefore you should, in my judgement, fight with him. You know the saying:

It's easy to uproot a foe

Contemning fighters, never steady,

Cruel and greedy, slothful, false,

Foolish and fearful and unready.

"But more than this - we have been humiliated by him. Therefore, if you propose peace, he will be angry and will employ violence again. There is a saying:

The truculence of fevered foes

By gentle measures is abetted:

What wise physician tries a douche?

He knows that fever should be sweated.

Conciliation simply makes

A foeman's indignation splutter,

Like drops of water sprinkled on

A briskly boiling pan of butter.

Besides, the previous speaker's point about the strength of the enemy is not decisive. [296}

The smaller often slays the great

By showing energy and vigour:

The lion kills the elephant,

And rules with unrestricted rigour.

And more than that:

Foes indestructible by might

Are slain through some deceptive gesture,

As Bhima strangled Kichaka,

Approaching him in woman's vesture.

And yet again:

When kings are merciless as death,

All foes are quick to knuckle under;

Quick, too, to kill the kings who fall

Into compassion's fatal blunder.

And he whose sun of glory sets

Before the glory of another

Is born in vain; he wastes for nothing

The youthful vigour of his mother.

For Regal Splendour, unbesmeared

With foemen's blood as rich cosmetic,

Though dear, is insufficient for

Ambitions truly energetic.

And in a kingdom unbedewed

With foemen's blood in slaughter gory,

And hostile women's falling tears,

The king enjoys no living glory."

Having heard this view, the king put the question to Live-Along: "My worthy sir, pray express your opinion also."

And Live-Along said: "O King, the enemy is vicious and powerful and unscrupulous. [297} Therefore you should make neither peace nor war with him. Only a change of base can be recommended. For the saying goes:

With vicious foemen, proud of power,

From hindering scruples free,

Adopt a change of base, not peace

Nor war, for victory.

Now change of base is known to be

No single thing, but twin -

Retreat, to save imperilled life;

Invasion, planned to win.

A warlike and ambitious king

May choose 'twixt April and

November - other months are barred -

To invade the hostile land.

For storming-parties - so the books

Prescribe - all times are fair,

If hostile forces show distress,

And lay some weakness bare.

A king should put his realm in charge

Of heroes strong and fit;

Then pounce upon the hostile land,

When spies have peopled it.

The case in hand requires, O King,

The base-change called Retreat,

Not peace nor war; the foe is vile,

And very hard to beat.

"Furthermore, a recessive movement is made, says the science of ethics, with due regard to cause and effect. The point is thus expressed in poetry: [298}

When rams draw back, their butting fiercer stings;

The crouching king of beasts more deadly springs:

So wise dissemblers, holding vengeance sure,

In dumb communion with their hearts, endure.

And once again:

A king, abandoning his realm

To foes of fighting worth,

Preserves his life, as Fight-Firm did,

And later rules the earth.

And so, to sum it up:

The weak who, struggling with the strong,

Are not too proud to fight,

Bring great rejoicing to their foes,

And on their kinsmen, blight.

"Therefore, since you are engaged with a powerful foe, there is occasion for a change of base. It is no time for peace or war."

When he had listened to this view, the king said to Live-On: "My worthy sir, pray express your opinion also."

And Live-On said: "O King, I disapprove of peace, war, and change of base, all three of them; and particularly change of base. For

A crocodile at home

Can beat an elephant;

But if he goes abroad,

A dog can make him pant.

And again:

When stronger foes attack,

Close in your fortress stay;

But sally to relieve

Your friends, and save the day. [299}

If, panic-struck, you flee

When foes are at the door,

And leave the land to them,

You never will see it more.

One man, entrenched, can hold

A hundred foes at bay

(Strong foes at that), therefore

In your entrenchment stay.

Therefore provide your fort

With shaft and gun; adorn

It well with moat and wall,

And store abundant corn.

Stand ever firm within,

Resolved to do or die:

So, living, earn renown;

Or dead, the starry sky.

And there is a further consideration:

The union of the weak

A powerful bully stumps:

The hostile blizzard spares

The shrubs that grow in clumps.

And single trees, though huge

And posted for defence,

May be uprooted by

The stout wind's violence.

While groves of trees, where each

Receives and gives defence,

Unitedly defy

The wind's fierce violence. [300}

Just so, one man alone,

However brave he be,

Is scorned by foes, who soon

Proceed to injury."

Having listened to this view likewise, the king said to Live-Long: "My worthy sir, pray express your opinion also."

And Live-Long said: "O King, from among the six possibilities, I recommend alliance. Pray adopt that. For the saying goes:

Though deft and brilliant, what good end

Can you attain without a friend?

The fire that seems immortal will

Die when the fanning wind is still.

"Therefore you should stay at home and seek some competent ally, to make a counterweight against the enemy. But if you leave home and travel, no one will give you so much as a friendly word. For the proverb says:

The wind is friend to forest-fire

And causes it to flame the higher;

The same wind blows a candle out.

Who cares what poor folk are about?

"Nor is it even essential that the ally be powerful; the alliance even of feeble folk makes for defence. You know the saying:

However weak, a bamboo stem

From others takes, and gives to them

Strength to resist uprooting: so

Weak kings unite against a foe.

"And how much more so, if you have alliance with the truly great! For the poet says: [301}

Who is there whom a friendly state

With great folk does not elevate?

The raindrop, hiding in a curl

Of lotus-petal, shines like pearl.

"Thus, O King, there is no counterweight to your enemy save in alliance. Therefore let an alliance be concluded. Such is my opinion."

After these opinions had been given, Cloudy bowed low before an ancient, farsighted counsellor of his race. This was a crow who had persevered to the last page of every textbook of social ethics, and his name was Live-Strong. "Father," said the king, "I had a secret purpose in questioning the others in your very presence; namely, that you might listen to everything, and instruct me as to what is fitting. Pray instruct me in the appropriate course of action."

And Live-Strong said: "My son, all that these have proposed is drawn from the textbooks of social ethics, and all is highly proper, each course in its own good time. But the present hour demands duplicity. You have heard the saying:

You must regard with like distrust

Both peace and warlike measures; must

Seek through duplicity your goal,

With powerful foes of evil soul.

"In this way those who themselves trust nobody and have a single eye to self-interest can win the trust of an enemy and easily destroy him. For the saying goes: [302}

Shrewd enemies will cause a foe

Whom they would ruin, first to grow:

The flow of mucus by molasses

Is first increased, but later passes.

And again:

To foe, to false friend, to female

(Particularly her for sale)

The man so simple as to give

Straightforward conduct, does not live.

Proceed in pure straightforwardness

With Brahmans, with the gods no less,

With teachers, with yourself; but treat

All other creatures to deceit.

A hermit mastering his soul

May see life simple, see it whole;

Not those who thirst for carnal things,

Nor, most particularly, kings.

And so:

Strong through duplicity, you will

Preserve your habitation still;

For death will prove a friend in need,

To crush a foe possessed by greed.

"Furthermore, if a vulnerable point appears in him, you will destroy him by being aware of it."

But Cloudy said: "Father, I do not know his residence. So how shall I become aware of a vulnerable point?"

And Live-Strong replied: "My son, through spies I will reveal not only his dwelling, but also his vulnerable point. For [303}

Cows see a thing by sense of smell;

While Scripture serves the Brahman well;

The king perceives by means of spies:

And other creatures use their eyes.

And in this connection there is another saying:

The king, well served by spies, who knows

The functionaries of his foes,

Who knows his retinue no less,

Is never plunged in deep distress."

Then Cloudy said: "Father, what are these functionaries? What is their number? And of what character are secret-service men? Pray tell me all."

And Live-Strong replied: "On these points the sage Narada gave the following information when questioned by King Fight-Firm. In the hostile camp are eighteen functionaries; in one's own, fifteen. Their conduct is discovered by assigning to each three secret-service men, by whose efforts both friends and enemies are kept in good control. The facts are put in a bit of doggerel:

The foe has eighteen functionaries;

And you have five and ten:

Give each, as unknown secretaries,

Three secret-service men.

"The term 'functionary' implies a delegated task. If this be shamefully performed, it ruins the king; if admirably, it brings him high success.

"Now for details. The functionaries in the hostile camp are - the counsellor, the chaplain, the commander-in-chief, the crown prince, the concierge, the [304} superintendent of the gyneceum, the adviser, the tax-collector, the introducer, the master of ceremonies, the director of the stables, the treasurer, the minister for elephants, the assessor, the war-minister, the minister for fortifications, the favourite, the forester, and so forth. By sowing intrigue among these the enemy is subdued. In one's own camp the functionaries are - the queen, the queen-mother, the chamberlain, the florist, the lord of the bedchamber, the chief of the secret service, the star-gazer, the court physician, the purveyor of water, the purveyor of spices, the professor, the life-guard, the quartermaster, the bearer of the royal umbrella, and the geisha. It is by way of these that ruin befalls one's own party. As the saying goes:

Professor, star-scout, and physician

Find flaws within your home position:

The madman and snake-charmer know

Points vulnerable in the foe."

"Father," said Cloudy, "what is the origin of the deadly feud between crows and owls?"

And Live-Strong answered: "Listen. I will tell you

How the Birds Picked a King

Once upon a time the bird-clans gathered for consultation. There were swans and cranes and nightingales; there were peacocks, plovers, and owls; there were doves and pigeons and partridges; there were blue jays, vultures, skylarks; there were demoiselles and cuckoos and woodpeckers and many others. [305}

And they said: "We have in Garuda a king, to be sure. But he is ever intent on serving holy Vishnu, and pays no heed to us. What is the good of a sham king? He does not defend us when we are in genuine distress - when we are caught in traps, for instance. There is a saying:

Only one, but anyone

Is my king, when all is done -

Only one who will restore

Health and joy I felt before:

Anyone, but only one -

For the moon a single sun.

"Any other is king only in name. As the poet says:

Let him calm the panting breath

Of his people, quivering

Under blows; or he is Death

Masquerading as a king.

And again:

These six should every man avoid

Like leaky ships at sea -

A dull professor; and a priest

Without theology;

A king who does not give defence;

A wife whose tongue can slash;

A cowboy hankering for town;

A barber after cash.

We must therefore pitch upon someone else as king of the birds."

Thereupon, observing that the owl had a venerable appearance, they all said: "Let this owl be our [306} king. And let a plentiful supply be provided of all substances prescribed for the anointing of a king."

Straightway water was brought from various holy streams; a bouquet of one hundred and eight roots was provided, including the one marked with a wheel and the yellow-stemmed lotus; and the lion-throne was set in place. Moreover, there was drawn on the ground a relief map of the seven continents, oceans, and mountains. A tiger-skin was spread. Golden jars were filled with five twigs, blossoms and grains; oblations were prepared; the most eminent bards chanted poetry. Furthermore, Brahmans, skilled in reciting the four Vedas, also chanted, while maidens sang songs, sweet holiday songs being their specialty. In the forefront was prepared a vessel of consecrated rice set off with white mustard, parched grain, rice-grains, yellow pigment, wreaths of flowers, conch-shells, and so forth. The materials for lustration ceremonies were provided, and holiday drums rumbled. In the midst of a consecrated spot strewn with potash stood the lion-throne, adorned by the person of the owl as he waited the anointing.

At that moment a crow came into the assembly from nobody knew where, announcing his entrance with a raucous caw. And he thought: "Well, well! What means this gathering of all the birds, and this great festival?"

But when the birds saw him, they whispered together: "He is the shrewdest of the birds, they say. [307} So let us have a speech from him, too. For the proverb says:

Of men, the barber smartest is;

The jackal, of the beasts;

The crow is cleverest of birds;

The White-Robe, of the priests.

And besides:

Concerted counsels of the wise,

If heedfully thought through,

Will never founder, being sound

From every point of view."

So the birds said to the crow: "You know, the birds have no king. They have therefore decided unanimously to anoint this owl as their supreme monarch. Please express your opinion also. You come in the nick of time."

Then the crow laughed and said: "Gentlemen, this is foolish. When you have eminent swans, peacocks, nightingales, partridges, sheldrakes, pigeons, cranes, and others, why anoint this ugly-faced fellow who is blind in the daytime? It seems wrong to me. For

Big hooked nose, and eyes asquint,

Ugly face without a hint

Of tenderness or beauty in it.

Good-natured, it is fierce to see;

If he were mad, what might it be?

And furthermore:

Ugly, cruel, full of spleen,

Every word he speaks is mean; [308}

If you make the owl your king,

You will fail in everything.

Besides, when Garuda is your king, what is this fellow good for? Suppose he has virtue, still a second king is not a good idea when you already have one. For the saying runs:

A single king of lordly sway

Is good; but more than one will slay,

Like plural suns on Judgement Day.

Why, the very name of your genuine king keeps others from taking liberties. As the proverb puts it:

Mere mention of a lordly monarch's name

To mean men, straightway saves from loss and shame.

And there is a saying:

The feigning of a great commission

Immensely betters your condition:

Feigning a message from the moon,

The rabbits dwelt in comfort soon."

"How was that?" asked the birds. And the crow told

How the Rabbit Fooled the Elephant

In a part of a forest lived an elephant-king named Four-Tusk, who had a numerous retinue of elephants. His time was spent in protecting the herd.

Now once there came a twelve-year drought, so that tanks, ponds, swamps, and lakes went dry. Then all the elephants said to the lord of the herd: "O King, our little ones are so tortured by thirst that [309} some are like to die, and some are dead. Pray devise a method of removing thirst." So he sent in eight directions elephants fleet as the wind to search for water.

Now those who went east found beside a path near a hermitage a lake named Lake of the Moon. It was beautiful with swans, herons, ospreys, ducks, sheldrakes, cranes, and water-creatures. It was embowered in flowering sprays of branches drooping under the weight of various blossoms. Both banks were embellished with trees. It had beaches made lovely by sheets of foam born of the splashing of transparent waves that danced in the breeze and broke on the shore. Its water was perfumed by the ichor-juice that oozed from elephant-temples washed clean of bees; for these flew up when the lordly creatures plunged. It was ever screened from the heat of the sun by hundreds of parasols in the shape of the countless leaves of trees on its banks. It gave forth deep-toned music from uncounted waves that turned aside on meeting the plump legs, hips, and bosoms of mountain maidens diving. It was brimming with crystal water, and beautified with thickets of water lilies in full bloom. Why describe it? It was a segment of paradise.

When they saw this, they hastened back to report to the elephant-king.

So Four-Tusk, on hearing their report, travelled with them by easy stages to the Lake of the Moon. And finding a gentle slope all around the lake, the [310} elephants plunged in, thereby crushing the heads, necks, fore-paws and hind-paws of thousands of rabbits who long before had made their home on the banks. Now after drinking and bathing, the elephant-king with his followers departed to his own portion of the jungle. Then the rabbits who were left alive held an emergency convention. "What are we to do now?" said they. "Those fellows - curse their tracks! - will come here every day. Let some plan be framed at once to prevent their return."

Thereupon a rabbit named Victory, perceiving their terror and their utter woe at the crushing of sons, wives, and relatives, said compassionately: "Have no fear. They shall not return. I promise it. For my guardian angel has granted me this grace." And hearing this, the rabbit-king, whose name was Block-Snout, said to Victory: "Dear friend, this is beyond peradventure. For

Good Victory knows every fact

The textbooks teach; knows how to act

In every place and time. Where he

Is sent, there comes prosperity.

And again:

Speak for pleasure, speak with measure,

Speak with grammar's richest treasure,

Not too much, and with reflection -

Deeds will follow words' direction.

The elephants, sir, making acquaintance with your ripe wisdom, will become aware of my majesty, [311} wisdom, and energy, though I am not present. For the proverb says:

I learn if foreign kings be fools or no

By their dispatches or their nuncio.

And there is a saying:

The envoy binds; he loosens what is bound;

Through him success in war, if found, is found.

And if you go, it is as if I went myself. Because, if you

Speak what lies in your commission,

Speak with careful composition,

Grammar and good ethics seeking,

'It's as if myself were speaking.

And again:

This is, in brief, the envoy's care:

An argument to fit the facts

And sound results, so far as speech

May be translated into acts.

"Depart then, dear friend. And may the office of envoy prove a second guardian angel to you."

So Victory departed and espied the elephant-king in the act of returning to the lake. He was surrounded by thousands of lordly elephants, whose ears, like flowering branches, were swaying in a dignified dance. His body was dappled with masses of pollen from his couch made of twigs from the tips of branches of flowering cassia trees; so that he seemed a laden cloud with many clinging lightning-flashes. His trumpeting was as deep toned and awe inspiring as the clash of [312} countless thunderbolts from which in the rainy season piercing flashes gleam. He had the glossy beauty of leaves in a bed of pure blue lotuses. His twisting trunk had the charm of a perfect snake. His presence was that of an elephant of heaven. His two tusks, shapely, smooth, and full, had the colour of honey. Around his entire visage rose a charming hum from swarms of bees drawn by the fragrant perfume of the ichor-juice that issued from his temples.

And Victory reflected: "It is impossible for folk like me to come too near. Because, as the proverb puts it:

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.

I must by all odds seek impregnable terrain before introducing myself."

After these reflections, he climbed upon a tall and jagged rock-pile before saying: "Is it well with you, lord of the two-tusked breed?" And the elephant king, hearing this, peered narrowly about, and said "Who are you, sir?"

"I am an envoy," said the rabbit.

"In whose service?" asked the elephant, and the envoy answered: "In the service of the blessèd Moon."

"State your business," said the elephant king, and the rabbit stated it thus.

"You are aware, sir, that no injury may be done an envoy in the discharge of his function. For all [313} kings, without exception, use envoys as their mouthpieces. Indeed, there is a proverb:

Though swords be out and kinsmen fall in strife,

The king still spares the harsh-tongued envoy's life.

"Therefore by command of the Moon I say to you: 'Why, O mortal, why have you used violence upon others, with no true reckoning of your own power or your foe's? For the Scripture says:

All those who madly march to deeds,

Not reckoning who are masters,

Themselves or powerful enemies,

Are asking for disasters.

"'Now you have sinfully violated the Lake of the Moon, known afar by my sacred name. And there you have slain rabbits who are under my special protection, who are of the race of that rabbit-king cherished in my bosom. This is iniquitous. Nay, one would think you the only creature in the world who does not know the rabbit in the moon. But what is gained by much speaking? Desist from such actions, or great disaster will befall you at my hands. But if from this hour you desist, great distinction will be yours; for your body will be nourished by my moonlight, and with your companions you shall pursue your happy, carefree fancies in this forest. In the alternative case, my light shall be withheld, your body will be scorched by summer heat, and you with your companions will perish.'"

On hearing this, the elephant-king felt his heart [314} stagger, and after long reflection he said: "It is true, sir. I have sinned against the blessèd Moon. Who am I that I should longer contend with him? Pray point out to me, and quickly, the way that I must travel to win the blessèd Moon's forgiveness."

The rabbit said: "Come, sir, alone. I will point it out." So he went by night to the Lake of the Moon, and showed him the moon reflected in the water. There was the brilliant, quivering disk, of lustrous loveliness, surrounded by planets, the Seven Sages, and hosts of stars, all dancing in the reflection of heaven's broad expanse. And its circle was complete, with the full complement of digits.

Seeing this, the elephant said: "I purify myself and worship the deity," and he dropped upon the water a trunk that two men's arms might have encircled. Thereby he disturbed the water, the moon's disk danced to and fro as if mounted on a whirling wheel, and he saw a thousand moons.

Then Victory started back in great agitation, and said to the elephant-king: "Woe, woe to you, O King! You have doubly enraged the Moon." The elephant said: "For what reason is the blessèd Moon angry with me?"

"Because," said Victory, "you have touched this water."

So the elephant-king, with drooping ears, bowed his head to the very earth in deep obeisance, in order to win forgiveness from the blessèd Moon. And he spoke again to Victory: "My worthy sir, in [315} all other manners, also, beseech for me the forgiveness of the blessèd Moon. I shall never return here." And with these words he went to his own place.

"And that is why I say:

The feigning of a great commission, . . .

and the rest of it.

"But worse remains behind. The owl is a seedy rascal, with a wicked soul. He could never protect subjects. Or rather, to say nothing of protection, you may anticipate actual danger from him. You know the stanza:

A seedy umpire is not very

Pleasing to either adversary:

Rabbit and partridge teach you that -

They died, confiding in the cat."

"How was that? Tell us about it,"' said the birds, and the crow told the story of

The Cat's Judgement

At one time I was living in a certain tree. And beneath the same tree dwelt another bird, a partridge. So by virtue of our near neighbourhood there sprang up between us a firm friendship. Every day after taking our meals and airings we spent the evening hours in a round of amusements, such as repeating witty sayings, telling tales from the old story-books, solving puzzles and conundrums, or exchanging presents. [316}

One day the partridge went foraging with other birds to a spot where the rice was ripe and abundant, and he did not return at nightfall. Of course, I missed him greatly and I thought: "Alas! Why does not my friend the partridge come home tonight? I am much afraid he is caught in some trap, or has even been killed." And many days passed while I grieved in this way.

Now one evening a rabbit named Speedy made himself at home in the partridge's old nest in the hole. Nor did I say him nay, for I despaired of seeing the partridge again.

However, one fine day the partridge, who had grown extremely plump from eating rice, remembered his old home and returned. This, indeed, is not to be wondered at.

No mortal has such joy, although

In heaven's fields he roam,

As in his city, in his land,

And in his humble home.

Now when he saw the rabbit in the hole, he said reproachfully: "Come now, rabbit, you have done a shabby thing in occupying my apartment. Please be gone, and lose no time about it."

"You fool!" said the rabbit, "don't you know that a dwelling is yours only while you occupy it?"

"Very well, then," said the partridge, "suppose we ask the neighbours. For, to give you a legal quotation, [317}

For ownership of cisterns, tanks,

Wells, groves, and houses, too,

The neighbours' testimony goes -

Such is the legal view.

And again:

When house or field or well or grove

Or land is in dispute,

A neighbour's testimony is

Decisive of the suit."

Then the rabbit said: "You fool! Are you ignorant of the consecrated tradition which says:

Suppose beside your neighbour you

For ten long years abide,

What weight have learnèd arguments?

Eyewitnesses decide.

Fool! Fool! Did you never hear the dictum of the sage Narada?

The title to possession is

A ten years' habitation

With men. But with the birds and beasts

Mere present occupation.

"Hence, even supposing this apartment to be yours, still it was unoccupied when I moved in, and now it is mine."

"Well, well!" replied the partridge, "if you appeal to consecrated tradition, come with me, and we will consult the specialists. It shall be yours or mine according to their decision."

"Very well," said the other, and together they started off to have their suit [318} decided. I, too, was at their heels, out of curiosity. "I will just see what comes of all this," I said to myself.

Now they had not travelled far when the rabbit asked the partridge: "My good fellow, who is to pass judgement on our disagreement?" And the partridge answered: "On a sand-bank by the sacred Ganges - where there is sweet music from the dancing waves that inter-cross and break when the water is swept by nimble breezes - there dwells a tomcat whose name is Curd-Ear. He abides unshaken in his vow of penance and self-denial, and character has begotten compassion."

But when the rabbit spied the cat, his soul staggered with terror, and he said: "No, no! He is a seedy rascal. You must have heard the proverb:

Oh, never trust a rogue for all

His pharisaic puzzling:

At holy shrines some saints are found

Quite capable of guzzling."

Upon hearing this, Curd-Ear, whose manner of life had been assumed for the purpose of making an easy livelihood, desired to win their confidence. He therefore gazed straight at the sun, stood on his hind-legs, lifted his fore-paws, blinked his eyes, and in order to deceive them by pious sentiments, delivered the following moral discourse. "Alas! Alas! All is vanity. This fragile life passes in a moment. Union with the beloved is an empty dream. Family [319} endearments are a conjurer's trick. But for the moral law, there would be no escape. Oh, listen to Scripture!

Each transitory day, O man,

To moral living give;

Else, like the blacksmith's bellows, you

Suck air, but do not live.

And furthermore:

Non-moral learning is a curse,

A dog's tail, nothing less,

That does not save from flies and fleas,

Nor cover nakedness.

And yet again:

A rotten ear among the wheat,

Among the birds a bat,

Is he who spurns the moral law;

The merest living gnat.

The flowers and fruit are better than the tree;

Better than curds is butter said to be;

Better than oil-cake, oil that trickles free;

Better than mortal man, morality.

The praise of constant steadfastness

Some wise professors sing;

But moral earnestness is swift,

Though many fetters cling.

Forget your prosings manifold;

The moral law is briefly told:

To help your neighbour - this is good;

To injure him is devilhood."

Having listened to this moral discourse, the rabbit said: "Friend partridge, here on the river-bank is [320} the saint who expounds the moral law. Let us ask him."

But the partridge said: "After all, he is our natural enemy. Let us ask him from a distance." So together they began to question him: "O holy moralist, a dispute has arisen between us. Pray give judgement in accordance with the moral law. And whichever of us is found to speak falsely, him you may eat."

"Dear friends," said the cat, "I implore you not to speak thus. My soul abhors every act of cruelty, that street-sign pointing to hell. Surely, you know the Scripture:

The holy first commandment runs -

Not harsh, but kindly be -

And therefore lavish mercy on

Mosquito, louse, and flea.

Why speak of hurting innocence?

For he, with purpose fell

Who injures even noxious beasts,

Is plunged in ghastly hell.

"Nay, even those who slay living creatures in the act of sacrifice are befuddled, and their hermeneutic theology is at fault. And if you object to me the passage, 'One should sacrifice with goats,' in that passage the word 'goats' signifies grain that has aged seven years. 'Go, oats' - such is the true exegesis. And then, consider the passage:

If he who cuts down trees or cattle,

Or makes a bloody slime in battle, [321}

Should thereby win to heaven - well,

Who (let me ask you) goes to hell?

"No, no. I shall eat nobody. However, I am somewhat old and do not readily distinguish your voices from a distance. So how am I to determine winner and loser? In view of this, pray draw near and make me acquainted with the case. Then I can pronounce a judgement that discriminates the essence of the matter, and thus causes no impediment in my march to the other world. You know the stanza:

If any man, from pride or greed,

Timidity or wrath,

Judge falsely, he has set his foot

On hell's down-sloping path.

And again:

Who wrongs a sheep, slays kinsmen five;

Who wrongs a cow, slays ten;

A hundred die for maidens wronged;

A thousand die for men.

"Therefore confide in me and speak clearly at the edge of my ear."

Why spin it out? That seedy rogue won their trust so fully that both drew near him. Then, of course, he seized them simultaneously, one with his paw, the other with the saw of his teeth. And when they were dead, he ate them both.

"And that is why I say:

A seedy umpire is not very. . . .

and the rest of it. [322}

"Just so, you, too, being blind at night, if you take as overlord this seedy fellow who is blind in the daytime, will go the way of the rabbit and the partridge. Reflect on this, then do what seems proper."

And all the birds, after listening to the crow's remarks, said: "He speaks well," and they flew to their homes, planning to reassemble for consultation on the question of a king. Only the owl remained with his consort, for he was blind in the daytime. There he sat in his chair of state, awaiting the anointing. And he called out: "Ho, there! Who takes my orders? Why is the ceremony delayed?"

Thereupon his consort said: "My dear sir, the crow has found means to hold up the ceremony. And the birds have gone flying away. Only that crow, for some reason or other, remains here all alone. Rise at once, and I will conduct you home."

Then the owl was deeply disappointed, and he said: "You monster! Why have you wronged me by preventing the regal anointing? From this day there is enmity between us. For the proverb says:

When arrows pierce or axes wound

A tree, it grows together sound;

From cruel, ugly speech you feel

A wound that time will never heal."

Thereupon he went home with his consort, while the crow reflected: "Dear me! I have burdened myself with a needless enmity by speaking so. I should have remembered: [323}

All spoken words, if harsh and heedless

And inappropriate and needless,

Are self-condemnatory slips

That turn to poison on the lips.

And again:

However wise and strong you be,

Beware the needless enemy:

You would not swallow poison down

Because a doctor lives in town.

No man of sense vituperates

Another, while the public waits;

For even truth should be concealed,

If causing sorrow when revealed.

And finally:

Reflect with many a chosen friend;

Reflect alone, and to the end;

Then act. You are intelligent,

And fame's and wealth's recipient."

After these reflections, the crow also left the spot.

"For this cause, my son, we have an inherited feud with the crows."

"Father," said Cloudy, "what should we do under the circumstances?" And Live-Strong answered: "Even in these circumstances there is an effective procedure other than the six expedients. This I will adopt, and will myself lead the way to conquer the enemy. I will deceive them and put them in a fatal situation. For the saying goes:

The strong, deft, clever rascals note,

Who robbed the Brahman of his goat." [324}

"How was that?" asked Cloudy. And Live-Strong told the story of

The Brahman's Goat

In a certain town lived a Brahman named Friendly who had undertaken the labour of maintaining the sacred fire. One day in the month of February, when a gentle breeze was blowing, when the sky was veiled in clouds and a drizzling rain was falling, he went to another village to beg a victim for the sacrifice, and said to a certain man: "O sacrificer, I wish to make an offering on the approaching day of the new moon. Pray give me a victim." And the man gave him a plump goat, as prescribed in Scripture. This he put through its paces, found it sound, placed it on his shoulder, and started in haste for his own city.

Now on the road he was met by three rogues whose throats were pinched with hunger. These, spying the plump creature on his shoulder, whispered together: "Come now! If we could eat that creature, we should have the laugh on this sleety weather. Let us fool him, get the goat, and ward off the cold."

So the first of them changed his dress, issued from a by-path to meet the Brahman, and thus addressed that man of pious life: "O pious Brahman, why are you doing a thing so unconventional and so ridiculous? You are carrying an unclean animal, a dog, on your shoulder. Are you ignorant of the verse: [325}

The dog and the rooster,

The hangman, the ass,

The camel, defile you:

Don't touch them, but pass."

At that the Brahman was mastered by anger, and he said: "Are you blind, man, that you impute doghood to a goat?"

"O Brahman," said the rogue, "do not be angry. Go where you will." But when he had travelled a little farther, the second rogue met him and said: "Alas, holy sir, alas! Even if this dead calf was a pet, still you should not put it on your shoulder. For the proverb says:

Touch not unwisely man or beast

That lifeless lie;

Else, gifts of milk and lunar fast

Must purify."

Then the Brahman spoke in anger: "Are you blind, man? You call a goat a calf." And the rogue said: "Holy sir, do not be angry. I spoke in ignorance. Do as you will."

But when he had walked only a little farther through the forest, the third rogue, changing his dress, met him and said: "Sir, this is most improper. You are carrying a donkey on your shoulder. Yet the proverb tells you:

If you should touch a donkey - be it

In ignorance or not -

You needs must wash your clothes and bathe,

To cleanse the sinful spot.

Pray drop this thing, before another sees you." [326}

So the Brahman concluded that it was a goblin in quadruped form, threw it on the ground, and made for home, terrified. Meanwhile, the three rogues met, caught the goat, and carried out their plan.

"And that is why I say:

The strong, deft, clever rascals note, . . .

and the rest of it.

"Moreover, there is sound sense in this:

Is any man uncheated by

New servants' diligence,

The praise of guests, the maiden's tears,

And roguish eloquence?

Furthermore, one should avoid a quarrel with a crowd, though the individuals be weak. As the verse puts it:

Beware the populace enraged;

A crowd's a fearsome thing:

The ants devoured the giant snake

For all his quivering."

"How was that?" asked Cloudy. And Live-Strong told the story of

The Snake and the Ants

In a certain ant-hill lived a prodigious black snake, and his name was Haughty. One day, instead of following the beaten path out of his hole, he tried .to crawl through a narrower crevice. In doing so, he suffered a wound, because his body was huge, and the opening was small, and fate willed it so. [327}

Then the ants gathered about him, drawn by the odour of blood from the wound, and drove him frantic. How many did he kill? Or how many crush? Yet their uncounted phalanx stung him in every member, and enlarged the numerous wounds. And Haughty perished.

"And that is why I say:

Beware the populace enraged, . . .

and the rest of it.

"Furthermore, O King, I have something to tell you, which you must consider, and ponder, and do."

"Father," said Cloudy, "tell me what you have in mind." And Live-Strong said: "Listen, my son. I have discovered a fifth device, different from the well-known four - conciliation, intrigue, bribery, and fighting. And it is this. You must turn against me, revile me with the hardest-hearted words you can find, smear me with blood (which you will provide) in order to deceive the enemy's spies, throw me out at the foot of this banyan tree, and depart yourself to Antelope Mountain. And there you must stay with your retinue until by clever planning I win the trust of all the enemy, discover the heart of their fortress, and kill them - for they are blind in the daytime. This plan I devised on the assumption that their fortress is of simple construction, without egress at the rear. For the saying goes: [328}

A fort must have for egress, say

The specialists, a gap;

If this be lacking, it is not

A fortress, but a trap.

Nor should you feel any pity for me. For the proverb says:

Pet and pamper servants well;

Love them as you love your life:

Yet consider them as dry

Tinder in the hour of strife.

Nor must you balk me in my design. For once more:

Cherish servants like yourself;

Guard them as you guard your life

Every day for one sole day,

When you meet your foe in strife."

With these words he started a sham fight with the king. And Cloudy's retinue, seeing Live-Strong jabber with unbridled license at the king, started up to kill him. But Cloudy said: "Out of my path, you. I take upon myself the chastisement of this traitorous scoundrel." With this he pounced upon him, pecked at him gently, smeared him with blood (which he had provided), and departed with his retinue for Antelope Mountain, as Live-Strong had recommended.

At this juncture the owl's consort, acting as spy for the enemy, went and reported in detail to the owl-king the disgrace of Cloudy's prime minister. And the owl-king, informed of the occurrence, started with his retainers at sundown on a crow-hunt. And he said: "Hasten, friends, hasten! The enemy is [329} panic-stricken, is in full flight, and can be readily caught. For the proverb says:

In flight, a fort becomes a trap

Where all defence is lacking;

It's easy then to beat a king

Whose men are busy packing."

With this battle-cry they flew to attack the banyan tree. And failing to find a single crow, King Foe-Crusher gleefully perched on a branch, and while the court poets chanted flatteries, he gave orders: "Ho there! Discover their line of retreat. Before they establish themselves in a fort, I will be at their heels and will kill them."

At this point Live-Strong reflected: "If the enemy simply go home after learning what we have done, I shall have accomplished nothing. For the proverb says:

The first or second evidence

Of genuine intelligence

Is - leave a business unbegun,

Or, if begun, then see it done.

It would have been better not to undertake this than to see the undertaking fail. I will reveal myself by letting them hear me caw."

So he cawed with a feeble squeak. And the owls, hearing this, started up to kill him. But Live-Strong said: "Gentlemen, I am Cloudy's minister, Live-Strong, reduced to this state by Cloudy himself. Pray inform your own king. I have much to discuss with him." [330}

So the owl-king, informed by his followers, came, beheld with astonishment the scars of many wounds, and said: "Well, sir! How did you fall into this condition? Tell me."

And Live-Strong said: "O King, listen. Yesterday that rascal Cloudy, seeing how many crows you had killed, was distracted by wrath and grief, and started for your fortress. Whereupon I said: 'You should not march against him. For they are strong, and we are weak. Now the proverb advises those who wish to thrive:

Do not, even in thought, offend

Stronger foes who will not bend;

They will feel no loss or shame;

You will die, a moth in flame.

You should seek peace by paying him tribute.' When he heard this, he was made furious by rascally advisers, suspected me of being a partisan of yours, and reduced me to this state. Therefore your royal feet are now my sole refuge. In a word, so long as I can stir, I will conduct you to his abode, and cause the total destruction of the crows."

On hearing this, Foe-Crusher took counsel with the counsellors who had served his father and his grandfather. They were five in number, and their names were Red-Eye, Fierce-Eye, Flame-Eye, Hook-Nose, and Wall-Ear.

So first he questioned Red-Eye: "My worthy sir, what is to be done under the circumstances?" And [331} Red-Eye said: "O King, what is there to consider here? Kill him without hesitation. For the proverb says:

Kill a weakling, lest he grow

Hard to smite;

Later, with augmented power

He will fight.

Besides, you know how common people say: 'A lost chance brings a curse.' And again:

He who will not when he may,

When he will, he shall have nay.

And this too:

The lighted funeral pile you may

Break up and fling apart;

But love, when torn and patched again,

Lives in an aching heart."

"How was that?" asked Foe-Crusher. And Red-Eye told the story of the snake who paid cash (next page).


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