The Oracle (I. A. Krylov, “Orakul”)
Some heathen temple had a god of wood
Who started to foretell the future like a prophet
To give wise counsels and to profit
By doing so. And so, he stood
Clothed both in silver and in gold
From head to foot; with hetacombs untold
Was smothered and made deaf with sounds of supplication
And offered incense to the point of suffocation.
Blindly believed in him the heathen race;
But suddenly – what shame and what disgrace! –
The oracle’s predictions started running wild
He started talking like a foolish child.
His answers being neither true nor wise:
Whoever comes to him, hears only lies,
Or else his answers would be hopeless blunder.
So that his worshippers began to wonder:
What could have set his mind adrift,
Where was their god’s prophetic gift?
This wonder no one could explain.
The explanation, it was plain:
The effigy was hollow, and inside
A priest would hide
And speak to laymen coming for advice.
So, while the priest was wise, the idol, too, was nice,
But once a fool, instead, to that position rose,
The idol was proved to be the dummy that it was.
Nor, it is true, what I’ve been told
That judges have been seen of old,
Whom secretaries made look wise,
Who without them proved otherwise?