The Ship-rats (I. A. Krylov, “Myshi”)
A ship-rat shouted to his mate: “Behold!
There’s water rising in the hold!
I almost drowned!” (But one can bet
It only made his fore-paws wet). –
“I have just sounded an alarm
To warn of the impending harm –
No one would pay any attention –
There’s no reaction worth to mention,
As if I spread a false report!
No discipline of any sort!
Our captain, he is either drunk,
Or else is sleeping in his bunk;
The lazy crew, they all neglect
Their duty. What can you expect?
And now the ship is sinking fast:
‘Tis full of water and will last,
If all goes well, about an hour.
So, while it is still in our power,
Jump overboard, as I suggest!
Why should we perish with the rest
Maybe, we are not far from land,
And we shall reach some friendly strand.”
The other seconded the motion,
And they both drowned in the great ocean.
The vessel, on the other hand,
Under a competent command
Did safely sail and reach the land.
About the leak, about the crew,
About the captain, was it true?
That much was true: there was a leak,
But being only small and weak,
‘Twas quickly stopped; but all the rest
Of the far-reaching accusation
Was simply slander, or, at best,
It could be called ‘exaggeration’.
This way of thinking we can trace
In so-called “benefactors” of the human race,
Who, being only self-appointed,
Or even lawfully anointed,
Must, like those rats who perished in the ‘drink’,
Invent, in their imagination,
That ‘dismal precipice’ from whose imagined brink
They want to save civilization.
Don’t punish slanderers! All tortures, executions,
Are in reality not true solutions:
We cannot hope, by using these,
To conquer slander, this disease!
But one may ask: “Is there no way to render
Their venom harmless, to allay our fears?”
Of course there is! It is – to cut off ears
That listen gladly to all kinds of slander.