Krylov’s THE CASK*

Posted by jlubans on March 16, 2019

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.

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!
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.
More “Fables for Leaders” are only a click away:

And, my 2010 book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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