Krylov’s THE COMB*

Posted by jlubans on July 01, 2021

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A LOVING mother bought a good strong Comb to keep her boy's hair in order.
The child never let his new present go out of his hands.
Whether playing or learning his alphabet, he was always lovingly passing his Comb through the twining curls of his waving golden hair, soft as fine flax.
And what a Comb it was!
Not only did it not pull out his hair, but it never even got caught in it; so smoothly and easily did it glide through his locks.
It was a priceless Comb in the eyes of the child.
But at last it happened, one day, that the Comb was mislaid.
Our boy went playing and romping about, until he got his hair into a regular tangle.
Scarcely had the nurse touched it, when he began to howl,
"Where is my Comb?"
At last it was found; but when they tried to pass it through his locks, it could not be moved either backwards or forwards: all it did was to pull his hair out by the roots, so as to bring the tears into his eyes.
"How wicked you are, you bad Comb!" cries the boy.
But the Comb replies,
"My dear, I am what I always was; only your hair has become tangled."
Whereupon our young friend, giving way to rage and vexation, flings his Comb into the river. And now the Naiads comb their hair with it.
In my time (says Krylov) I have often seen men behave in a like manner towards the truth.
As long as we have a clear conscience, truth is agreeable to us, we hold it sacred, we listen to it and obey it; but as soon as a man has begun to do violence to his conscience, the truth becomes alien to his ears.
Then everyone resembles the boy who did not like to have his hair combed after it had got into a tangle.
_____________
Imagine what Krylov
would observe were he time-transported from 18th century St. Petersburg to today’s America and her political clashes.
There’s a whole lot of “tangled hair” out there and too few combs willing to do the untangling, willing to speak 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 2021

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