Krylov’s THE LEAVES AND THE ROOTS*

Posted by jlubans on July 19, 2018

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ON a beautiful summer day the Leaves of a tree whispered softly to the breezes; and as the shadows fell across the valley this was what they were saying, boasting of their luxuriant abundance:
"Is it not a fact that we are the pride of the whole valley?
Is it not due to us that this tree is so vigorous and wide-spreading, so stately and majestic?
What would it be without us?
Yes, indeed, we may well praise ourselves without vanity!
Do we not, by our cool shade, protect the shepherd and the traveller from the noonday heat?
Do we not, by our beauty, attract the shepherdess to come and dance here?
And from among us, both morning and evening, the nightingale sings; while as for you, gentle breezes, you hardly ever desert us."
"You might spare just a word of thanks to us," interrupted a faint voice from under ground.
"Who is it that has the audacity to call us to account?
Who are you who are talking down there beneath the grass?" the leaves retorted pertly, tossing disdainfully on the tree.
"We are they," came the reply from far down below, "who burrow here in the darkness to provide you with food.
Is it possible that you do not know us?
We are the Roots of the tree on which you flourish.
Go on rejoicing in your beauty!
But remember there is this difference between us that with every autumn the old Leaves die, and with every spring new Leaves are born; but if the Roots once perish neither you nor the tree can live at all."
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As Krylov would have it, those of us on display – like the first leaves and blossoms of spring time – sometimes forget our “roots”.
Our amnesia may apply to former colleagues who gave us a hand up (we, of course, deserved it), or if we are leaders, the countless followers who did most of the work (it was, of course, our wise leadership that made things happen). Or, if we are an organization riding a wave of success, we should not forget the early days and predecessors when failure was just around the corner.
So, let’s hope the myopic leaves heed the wise words of the roots and be thankful for their days in the sun.

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