The Bráhman said, ‘They have related that in the country of Kashmír there was a delightful spot and an incomparable mead, the surface of whose ground—from the profusion of its flowers—was adorned like the expanse of heaven, and by the reflection of its perfume-shedding plants, the wings of a crow showed like a peacock’s tail.

Founts like life’s waters there on all sides spring,
The tulip kindles, too, its lamp of light;
Upstarts the violet with enameling
Of grass; and morn’s young breath reveals to sight
The rose’s bosom; and there wind-flowers shine
Like emerald branches holding cups of wine.*

And inasmuch as there was much game in that green plain, huntsmen visited it the more frequently and everywhere set their snares for the capture of animals and the imprisonment of birds; and in the vicinity of that plain, a Crow had made its nest on a large tree, and read from the pages of its leaves the maxim, ‘Love of country is a part of religion.’ One day, seated on the top of the tree, it was looking down and up and to the right and left, when, on a sudden, it beheld a fowler, who, with a net on his neck, a pouch at his back, and a stick in his hand, was coming towards the tree. The Crow was alarmed, and said to itself,

O God! what can the occurrence be,
Him hither in such haste to lead?
Nought know I of the cause why he
Comes this way, hurrying with such speed.

And it is probable that he may have girded himself to attack me and have placed the arrow of deliberation in the bow of stratagem to make me his prey; hence caution requires that I keep my place and watch,

Till from the curtain what proceeds I see.

The Crow, hidden by the leaves of the tree, employed the eye of expectancy; and the fowler coming to the foot of the tree spread his net and having scattered some grain over it, seated himself in ambush. After some time had elapsed, a flock of pigeons arrived, whose chief was called Ring-dove, of clear intellect and the utmost sagacity, and perfect intelligence and strong judgment; and these pigeons agreed in submitting to him, and gloried in obeying and ministering to him, and spent not their time save in his service, which was to them the service of safety and the adornment of their successful and happy state. As soon as the eyes of the pigeons fell upon the grain, the fire of hunger began to blaze and the reins of choice dropped from the hands of power. Ring-dove, according to the tenderness which is due from superiors to inferiors, endeavoured to induce them to reflect and pause, saying,

Not to the grain, through greed, impetuous fly.
Beware! for snares beneath each seed may lie.’

They replied, ‘Prince! matters with us have reached the pitch of urgency, and our affairs have issued in extreme distress. When our crops are empty of grain, and our hearts are full of anxiety, we have not the power to listen to advice, nor time to watch the consequences; and the wise have said,

Hunger meets peril hardily,
The sate of life dread not to die.’

Ring-dove perceived that he could not restrain with the noose of counsel those greedy grain-seekers, nor draw them out with the rope of reproach from the pit of incaution and ignorance.

He who becomes enslaved by greed,
Can hardly from those bonds be freed.

He wished to withdraw from them and to escape on one side, but the power* of the divine decree bound his neck with the chain of fate, and dragged him towards the snare.

I blindly follow, as he draws the hook.

In short the whole flock of pigeons, at once laying aside caution, alighted. The instant that they began to pick up the grain they were caught in the fowler’s net. Ring-dove exclaimed, ‘Did I not tell you that the consequences of precipitation are not commendable, and that to enter upon affairs without reflection, is not to be approved?

The path of love is full, my heart! of terror and dismay;
He stumbles who, too hastily, would hurry on this way.

The pigeons were quite overcome with shame and alarm, and the fowler, issuing from his place of concealment, was running with the utmost delight towards them, in order that, having seized and secured them, he might return home. As soon as the pigeons beheld the fowler they were distracted with fear, and each flapped its wings and struggled to free itself. Ring-dove exclaimed, ‘O comrades! you are exerting yourselves each for his own release, while you are all careless of your companions’ safety,

And acts like these ill suit fraternity.

Among friends, it has been declared that they ought to think of their com­panions’ safety before their own, as once on a time two comrades were sitting in a vessel, when, suddenly, near the shore, the vessel foundered, and both fell into the water. A boatman on the shore plunged into the water, and tried to save one of them, but whichever he wanted to rescue, called out,

In this dread troublous vortex, O my friend!
Leave me, and first to him thy arm extend.’

And if you have not sufficient firmness to prefer your comrade’s life to your own, and to esteem his safety more precious than yours, at least, let all of you, with mutual consent and co-operation, put out your strength, so that, perhaps, by the fortunate influence of this unanimity and agreement, the net may be raised from its place and we may all obtain deliverance.’ The pigeons did as they were directed and all made a common effort, and by this manœuvre, tore up the net and made off. The fowler, notwithstanding this circumstance, followed on their traces, and hoping that they would at last get weary and fall, went on with his eyes fixed in the air. The crow thought to himself. ‘It will take a vast interval of time before a similar strange occurrence comes from the womb of nonentity into the expanse of existence, and I, myself, am not safe from an accident of this nature. It will be better to follow them with speed that I may learn how their affair terminates, and storing up that experience for my future life, make use of it in the time of need.

Share of experience do not then refuse,
That thou in time of trouble may it use.

The Crow flew after them, and Ring-dove with his flock flew on, bearing the net, and the greedy and audacious fowler, fixing his eyes upon them traveled onward. When Ring-dove observed that the fowler still followed them and that his appetite being stimulated urged him not to rest until he had laid hands upon them, he turned to his companions and said, ‘This hostile person has prepared with the utmost diligence to pursue us and is bent upon killing us, and until we disappear from his sight he will not give us up. Our best course is to make for inhabited places and to fly towards orchards and trees, that his view of us may be intercepted and that he may turn back in despair and ashamed.’ The pigeons, in accordance with his direction, sped on and hastened from the wild waste and desert towards buildings. When the fowler lost sight of them, he turned back with extreme regret, and the Crow flew on as before, in order to learn the circumstances of the pigeons’ release, and treasure them up as a means of averting a similar danger, and as a remedy for an occurrence of the same nature, in accordance with the maxim, ‘Happy is he who is taught by the lesson of others.’

The wise is he who, testing loss and gain,
Attentive shares the lessons of his friend,
Takes that from which his comrades good obtain,
Shuns what to them proves hurtful in the end.

The pigeons, freed from the terror of the fowler, referred to Ring-dove as to the means of liberating themselves from the net, and that wise and prudent bird, after long reflection and consideration, replied, ‘I am constrained to think that there is no escape from this perilous position without the help of a faithful friend:

None unattended can this road conclude.

In this neighbourhood there is a mouse, Zírak by name, distinguished among my friends by his superior faithfulness, and pre-eminent among all my comrades and those who have a regard for me in the code of friendship.

A true companion and a friend sincere,
Love in his acts and faith alone appear.

It is probable that by his aid some means of escape from these fetters will be found and a plan offer itself for our release.’ They then alighted at a ruin where the mouse dwelt, and, approaching his hole, rapped with the knocker of the door of eagerness. When the voice of Ring-dove reached the ear of Zírak, he came out, and when he beheld his friend bound in the fetters of calamity, he caused tears of blood from the fountain of his eyes to flood the expanse of his cheek, and raised to heaven sighs of grief from his consuming heart, and said,

‘What state is this I see, what state is it?
In such a state I cannot patient be:
How can I, comrades, here inactive sit,
When a dear friend imprisoned thus I see?

O beloved friend! and O companion suited to my mind! by what stratagem didst thou fall into this net, and from what cause wast thou overtaken in this distress?’ Ring-dove replied, ‘A variety of good and ill, and divers gains and losses, have been bound up with the decrees of fate. Whatever the writer of the supreme will inscribes with the pen of predestination in the tribunal of eternity on the pages of the affairs of created things will assuredly come forward into the field of existence, and to endeavour to avoid or shun it is altogether unavailing.

Bitter and sweet the pen has traced, my son!
What does fate reck, though thou look sourly on?

And the divine will and God’s decree have plunged me into this vortex of destruction, and displayed to me and my companions the grain, and although I dissuaded them from acting with levity and precipitation, and rebuked them for their haste and neglect of caution, the hand of destiny drew down before the eye of my vision also the curtain of carelessness; and clear-sighted reason, and far-seeing prudence kept me behind the dark screen of ignorance and folly, and thus the whole of us were all at once overtaken with the hand of trouble and the claw of calamity.’ The Mouse replied, ‘Oh strange! that one like thee, with all this shrewdness and sagacity, could not resist the disastrous influence of fate, nor avert with the shield of stratagem and counsel the shaft of destiny.’ Ring-dove answered, ‘O Zírak! cease these words, for those who, in strength and power, and reason and foresight, are superior to me; and in dignity and wealth, and excellence and perfection are before me; cannot contend with the eternal decrees nor withdraw their heads from the mandate of Him who has no decline, ‘There is none who can avert His decree, and there is none to reverse his judgment.’* When the ruler whose commands all obey, moves the chain of His purpose, he transports the fish from the bottom of the ocean into the expanse of air, and the bird from its aerial height, he brings down into the centre of the earth; and there is no resource for any creature in the decrees of destiny and providence but to acquiesce and be resigned.

Though all earth’s atoms struggled to be free,
They could do nothing against God’s decree.
When fate’s dark features from the mantle* rise,
Of sight and hearing both they rob the wise.
Fish on the shore from ocean’s breast are tost,
And soaring birds in earth-set snares are lost.
Fate like an angry tempest is; mankind
The feeble straw swept headlong by the wind.

And thou must know that in the matter of the issue of the mandate of fate, the wise and the fool are alike, and in the whirlpool of destiny the poor peasant and the world-conquering king are on the same footing.

Thou mayst have gold or mayst be strong, thou canst not change fate’s mandates therefore.
Nor is it fit to God’s decree to answer with a ‘Why?’ or ‘Wherefore?’

Zírak replied, ‘O Ring-dove! be of good cheer, for every garment that the habit-maker of the Divine Will prepares for the person of any individual attendant of the court of God’s worship, whether its collar be adorned with the button of wealth, or its skirt worked with the border of distress, is indubitably a pure favor and absolute beneficence. And the climax of this bounty is that the creature remains ignorant of its nature, nor sees the recondite mercy involved in it,* and with reference to this they have said,

Lees or pure, to thee ’tis nothing, thou hast drunk the beverage up,*
All the Filler gives is kindness, with whate’er He fill the cup.

And if thou dost well consider it, what has befallen thee was for thy good; and the wise have said, ‘The pure honey is not found without the cruel sting, nor does the rose of joy grow up without the thorn of trouble.’

Full many a wish in disappointment lies.’

And when Zírak had finished this discourse and began to busy himself in severing the meshes which confined Ring-dove, the latter exclaimed, ‘Kind friend! first undo the fetters of my companions, and after thou hast satisfied thyself of their release, come to me.’ The mouse, paying no attention to these words, went on with his work. Ring-dove said again, and with greater emphasis, ‘O Zírak! if thou desirest to please me and act true to thy obligations as a friend, it is requisite for thee first to release my friends, and by this favour, thou wilt place the chain of obligation on my neck.’ The Mouse answered, ‘Thou hast reiterated this remark, and hast laid excessive stress upon it. But carest thou not for thine own life? and dost thou not admit the duty of self-preservation or neglectest thou the maxim, ‘Begin with thine own self.’* Ring-dove replied, ‘Thou shouldest not reproach me, for they have written out for my name the diploma of the chieftainship of these pigeons, and I have made myself responsible for superintending their affairs. Inasmuch as they are my subjects, they have just claims upon me, and I too have claims upon them, because I am their prince, and now that they have faithfully discharged their duty to me, and that by their aid and assistance I have escaped from the hands of the fowler, I too ought to acquit myself of the duties which belong to me, and perform the functions of a leader; and every king who seeks his own ease, and leaves his people entangled in the bonds of trouble, it will not be long before the draught of his happiness is discolored, and the eye of his fortune darkened.

In thy dominions will be rest for none,
If thou should’st seek for thine own ease alone.’

The Mouse answered, ‘The king is to his people what life is to the frame, or the heart to the body; wherefore, the first thing will be to take care of his condition, since, if the heart is whole, there cannot result so much detriment from the ill-state of the members, but if—which God forbid!—the heart be injured, the safety of the limbs is of no use whatever.

What harm though servants be diminishèd,
If a hair fall not from the monarch’s head.’

Ring-dove rejoined, ‘I fear lest, if thou shouldst begin to remove my bonds, thou mightest become weary, and some of my companions might be left imprisoned; while, as long as I am bound, though thou be utterly tired, thou wilt not forsake me, nor will thy feelings suffer thee to neglect to set me free, and, moreover, we have been partners in calamity, and honor demands that our release and freedom too should be simultaneous.

Dost boast of friends? then boast his friendship, who
Acts like a friend in joy and sorrow too.
They who in joy alone their friendship shew,
Speak not of them, they but augment thy woe.’

The Mouse answered, ‘This is the custom of the magnanimous and the fundamental principle of the generous; and by this laudable disposition and amiable temperament, the confidence of people in thy friendship becomes more unclouded, and the reliance of thy subjects on thy beneficence and high-mindedness is increased.

Thy hopes of friendship on the man devolve,
Who can things adverse and entangled solve.’

Then Zírak, with the utmost energy and ineffable zeal, severed the meshes of Ring-dove’s companions, and, last of all, released the neck of Ring-dove himself from the chain of calamity. The pigeons bade him farewell, and, safe and secure, returned to their own nests, and the Mouse retreated into his hole. When the Crow beheld the Mouse’s assistance, and how he undid the meshes, he longed to secure his friendship and alliance, and viewing his fidelity and fraternity as a rare blessing, said to himself, ‘I can never be secure from the adventure which befel the pigeons, and, consequently, I can never be indifferent to the friendship of such a person as this, who renders help in adversity.

Of mere companions both the east and west
Are full; but those one really wants, are few.
Many hang round thee from self-interest,
To those who help, the name of ‘friend’ is due.

The crow then flew lightly down to the door of the mouse’s hole, and called out. The Mouse asked, ‘Who art thou?’ The Crow replied, ‘It is I, the Crow, and I have urgent business with thee. Zírak was a mouse of prudence, who had experienced many vicissitudes and seen both good and ill fortune, and he had in that place prepared many holes for places of refuge, and had cut passages from one to the other, and he was in the habit of making ready for emergencies before they occurred, and of providing for all things wisely and prudently. When he heard the Crow’s voice, he recoiled, and said, ‘What hast thou to do with me or what connection have I with thee?’ The Crow recounted the case from beginning to end, and informed him of his acquaintance with his fidelity and excessive truthfulness in the matter of the pigeons, and said, ‘I have discovered thy perfect honor and loyalty, and goodly generosity and discharge of duty, and know how those pigeons reaped the fruits of thy friendship, and the consequences of thy amity; and how they obtained deliverance from that whirlpool of destruction by the blessing of thy constancy and attachment. I have bent all my energies to secure thy friendship, and am here to go through the preliminaries for commencing our intimacy.

To thee our hearts expectant look. Lo! now
Our wish is told, the arbiter art thou.’

The Mouse replied, ‘The path of companionship between me and thee is closed, and the road of intercourse shut.

No profit in the mart with thee, but deadly peril meets my eyes,
For in our friendship’s path a gulf, than east and west more distant, lies.

Go! cease attempting to weld iron that has not been heated, nor take steps in pursuit of a thing, the attainment of which is every way surrounded with difficulties; for the pursuit of that which comes not within the range of possibility, is like trying to impel a ship on dry ground or to gallop a horse on the surface f the sea; and whoever labors in search of impossibilities makes himself an object of ridicule, and does but display his own ignorance to the wise.

Remove thy net and other game pursue,
Thy noose is vain for that thou hast in view.’

The Crow replied, ‘Forbear to speak thus, for the generous leave not the needy unsatisfied, nor do the rich strike the back of their hands on the supplicating foreheads of those—whoever they may be—who seek their portals; and I have taken refuge, at this threshold, from the vicissitudes of fortune, and have made these doors my asylum and retreat from the chances of revolving time.

Thy sheltering door alone I safe can tread,
And at thy threshold only rest my head.

Now that I have made the dust of this thoroughfare the place of my attendance, and consider my honor pledged to the service of this sanctuary, no ill-treatment will make me turn back, nor any contumely drive me elsewhere.

Smite me with thy vengeful sabre, sovereign power rests with thee,
Or I bow in willing service, if this honor thou decree.’

The Mouse rejoined, ‘O Crow! desist from those artifices, nor scatter the grain of deceit before the net of dissimulation, for I well know the disposition of those of thy race, and since our natures are different, I shrink from thy society

’Tis anguish to the spirit with a different race to dwell.

Nothing can now make me secure with thee, and whoever chooses the companionship of one with whom he can never be secure, will meet with what the Partridge met with.’ The Crow asked, ‘How was that?’