Friday Fable. Krylov’s “THE HOP-PLANT”*

Posted by jlubans on December 08, 2017


“A HOP-PLANT had made its way to the edge of a garden, and had begun to wind itself around a dry stake in the fence.
Now, in the open field beyond stood an oak-sapling.
‘What use is there in that stunted creature, or, indeed, in any of its kind?’ Thus about the oak the Hop used to whisper to the stake.
‘How can it even be compared with you?’
‘You, simply by your erect carriage, look like a perfect lady in its presence.
It is true that it is clothed with foliage; but how rough it is! what a colour it has ! Why ever does the earth nourish it?'
Meanwhile, a week had scarcely passed, before the owner broke up that stake for firewood, and transplanted the young oak into his garden.
His care resulted in full success, and the oak flourished, extending vigorous shoots.
Remarking this, our Hop-plant wound itself about it, and now its voice is entirely devoted to the oak's glory and honour.”
Savor, if you will, the richness of this fable.
How often do we side with a “tradition”, one that appears stalwart and strong, like a firm stake in the ground?
When an upstart, like the oak sapling, exposes the stake (or process or value or belief) as dead wood, how long do we stay with the good old ways.
When Krylov’s hop plant enviously asks, “Why ever does the earth nourish it?” maybe he is implying that the hop plant knows something, that the stake is rootless.
How long before you, like a reed in the wind, bend and move to the sapling?
A few “reeds” will move early on, because they are independent; their ideas coincide with the sapling’s.
But many others will only move – reluctantly and resentfully – when the status quo becomes indefensible, at least in public.
Krylov is clear about the hop plant as sycophant; it will praise whatever platform it has as long as it gains favour. If you are an oak sapling, don’t think you’ve won when a traditionalist becomes a follower.

*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 2017
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