Sir Roger L’Estrange’s APPLES AND HORSE-TURDS*

Posted by jlubans on March 22, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Rene Magritte’s Son of Man, 1946

Upon a very great Fall of Rain, the Current carried away a huge Heap of Apples, together with a Dunghill that lay in the Watercourse.
They floated a good while together like Brethren and Companions; and as they went thus dancing down in the Stream, the Horse-Turds would be every foot crying out still, “Alack-a-day! How we Apples swim!”
THE MORAL. Every thing would be thought greater in the World than it is; and the Root of it is this, that it first thinks itself so.

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Like braggadocious fishing boat fleas claiming as the boat comes into harbor, “We have rowed well!” here we have Horse turds along for the ride.
They’re in the flood with Apples like “Brethren and Companions” regaling all who will listen, “How we Apples swim!”
So, the moral would have us be mindful of humankind’s (yours and mine) impression that we are more important than we really are.
In other words, practice humility, be humble, lest ye look foolish like the Horse-turds claiming to be something they are not.

*Source: Aesop’s Fables translated by Sir Roger L'Estrange, 1692.
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© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Krylov’s THE CASK*

Posted by jlubans on March 16, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Ye Olde Wooden Cask

NEIGHBOUR, a favor I would ask⁠
 —'Tis no great thing—'tis but a Cask
An empty Cask's not much to lend
Just to accommodate a friend.
When one money wants to borrow.
Then 'tis as well to cry 'To-morrow—
Not just now—I can't indeed—
No cash have I but what I need.'
For he that lends away his purse
May find it to return averse."
The Cask was lent—the Cask came back
Quite sound—at least, without a crack;
But then of oil't had such a snack!
So strong a scent that it quite spoiled
Whatever was poured in. 'Twas boiled.
Was scalded, aired; yet still the taint
Remained matter of complaint.
To cure it was a fruitless task.
And so they burned the infected Cask.

Parents! The lesson of my fable
⁠For you is specially intended.
⁠Deem not defects may be evaded
Imbibed in youth; since naught is able.
When once the evil's taken place,
Early impressions to efface,
Do what we may, they still prevail
And to correct them all our efforts fail.

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The epimythium
(the moral at the end of a fable) would have us be careful with whom our darling and dearest children associate. We know our Johnny or Janie would do no wrong; if misdeeds are done, it’s the fault of those friends from the wrong side of the tracks!
Maybe.
Still, there is truth in our fable.
I recall delegating one of our staff to a multi-university program. The planned cooperative result was years overdue; yet the project kept stumbling along, one excused delay after another.
So, to get it over and done with, we sent one of our staff to help out.
Alas, our staffer soon began to echo all the reasons why the project was so far behind. The only cure was more. More of everything: time, money and staff; he’d been, as they say, co-opted or tainted evermore like the borrowed cask.

*Source: Krilov, Fables. Translated from the Russian for Fraser's Magazine.
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And, my 2010 book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Krylov's THE ELEPHANT AS GOVERNOR (The Sheep’s Petition)*

Posted by jlubans on March 09, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Detail from a monument to Krylov by Peter Klodt von Urgensburg (1854–55)

AN Elephant was once appointed ruler of a forest.
Now, it is well known that the race of elephants is endowed with great intelligence; but every family has its unworthy scion.
Our Governor was as stout as the rest of his race are, but as foolish as the rest of his race are not.
As to his character, he would not intentionally hurt a fly.
Well, the worthy Governor becomes aware of a petition laid before him by the Sheep, stating that their skins are entirely torn off their backs by the Wolves.
"Oh, rogues!" cries the Elephant, "what a crime! Who gave you leave to plunder?
But the Wolves say,
"Allow us to explain, О father.
Did not you give us leave to take from the Sheep a trifling contribution** for our backs in winter?
It is only because they are stupid sheep that they cry out. They have only a single fleece taken from each of them, but they grumble about giving even that! "
“Well, well," says the Elephant, "take care what you do. I will not permit any one to commit injustice.
As it must be so, take a fleece from each of them.
But do not take from them a single hair besides."

He who has rank and power, but wants sense, however good his heart may be, is sure to do harm.

**ОЬгок—A tax levied on the Russian peasant by his master.

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This is another version of Krylov’s The Sheep’s Petition.
Herein it’s not a lion but a feckless elephant dispensing injustice. Unlike Krylov’s The Grandee, this elephant does not know his limits.
So, cluelessly he goes along with the wolves and their wicked scheme.
I’ll use this fable on my first day of the “Leadership and Literature” class, April 4, at the University of Latvia.
A few of my discussion questions will dwell on a leader’s self-assessment: How am I doing? What can I be doing better? Who can I turn to for guidance.
If the elephant has an advisor, what is her role? Does she speak up on behalf of the shorned sheep or does she let it be, lest she earn some injustice by speaking the truth?

*Source: Krilof and his fables, by Krylov, Ivan Andreevich, 1768-1844; Ralston, William Ralston Shedden, 1828-1889. Tr. London, 1869

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© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Phaedrus’ THE ASS DERIDING THE BOAR*

Posted by jlubans on March 04, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Drawing by Ernest Griset (1874)

Fools often, while trying to raise a silly laugh, provoke others by gross affronts, and cause serious danger to themselves.

An Ass meeting a Boar: “Good morrow to you, brother,” says he.
The other indignantly rejects the salutation, and enquires why he thinks proper to utter such an untruth.
The Ass, with legs crouching down, replies: “If you deny that you are like me, at all events I have something very like your snout.”
The Boar, just on the point of making a fierce attack, suppressed his rage, and said: “Revenge were easy for me, but I decline to be defiled with such dastardly blood.”

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One moralist explains the wisdom behind not responding vengefully: “it takes off something from the reputation of a great soul, when we see it is in the power of a fool to ruffle and unsettle it.”
The boar responds but only on his own terms. Likely, the ass is left sitting on his hind quarters puzzling over the boar’s lofty language.
Foolish speech can be countered with wit; no need to go to war.

*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

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My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:


Also, My 2010 book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019