The Ass and the Nightingale

Ivan Andreyevich Krylov

I CHING: Withdrawal: The Tun Hexagram.

The overall judgement: The times favors the small men. Retreat is proper for the superior man. The right moment needs to be selected, so as to control the nature of the withdrawal and to prepare for the countermove. Eventually the hostile forces are brought to a standstill through dignified detachement.

Chancing a Nightingale to meet
Thus did an Ass the songstress greet
“Whither in such a hurry winging ?
I’m told, my dear, you’re famed for singing.
My curiosity I fain would satisfy,
Come! for a specimen of your rare skill,
And let me hear how featly you can trill!”

Forthwith the Nightingale began,
And through her cadences she ran,
How tender and most soft,
Anon her voice she raised aloft;
While all around in silece hushed
Listened to her melting strains,
As it sweetly gushed,
And floated over dale and plain;
Hardly breathed the enraptured swain
As drank his ear of sound the stream
And as he mused on the varying theme.

Ceased the songstress, the critc Ass
His sentence thus began to pass,
“Upon my word! ‘tis not amiss!
Yet you should hear
Friend Chanticleer.*
From him some lessons you’d do well to take.
His mode of singing well I know,
Nor can there finer be, I trow.
Yes! He is clever;
And you, my dear, should by all means endeavor
Like him to crow!
He has a voice – a shake –
That really keeps folks quite awake.

Yet after all, you do not sing amiss.”

On hearing this,
Far away the songbird flew.

* Chanticleer

Source: The Portable Dragon by R.G. Siu, MIT Press 1984. About Ivan Andreyevich Krylov. The hexagrams. Hexagram 33. Illustration: jenink ...sooo busy (flickr)


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