Folklore encompasses the legends, myths, faerie tales, and lore of a local folk, community, village or country. They are stories or legends forming part of an oral tradition. Another folkloric medium were fables, mock epics and animal folk tales. Ignacy Krasicki, 1735 - 1801, was a master of fable writing.
Krasicki was born in Dubiecko, on southern Poland's San River, into a family bearing the title of count of the Holy Roman Empire. He was related to the most illustrious families in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and spent his childhood surrounded with the love and solicitude of his own family.
Fables and Parables (Bajki i przypowiesci, 1779), by Krasicki,is a noted work in a long international tradition of fable writing that reaches back to antiquity. Emulating the fables of the ancient Greek Aesop, the Macedonian Roman Phaedrus, the Polish Biernat of Lublin, and the Frenchman Jean de La Fontaine, and anticipating Russia's Ivan Krylov, Krasicki populated his fables with anthropomorphized animals, plants, inanimate objects and forces of nature, in masterful epigrammatic expressions of skeptical, ironic view of the world.
Critics generally prefer Krasicki's more concise Fables and Parables (1779), over his later New Fables, published posthumously in 1802. This is consistent with Krasicki's own dictum in On Versification and Versifiers that "A fable should be brief, clear and, so far as possible, preserve the truth."
In the same manner, Krasicki explained that a fable "is a story commonly ascribed to animals, that people who read it might take instruction from the animals' example or speech, it originated in eastern lands where supreme governance reposed in the hands of autocrats. Thus, when it was feared to proclaim the truth openly, simulacra were employed in fables so that (if only in this way) the truth might be agreeable alike to the ruled and to the rulers."
That view was formed by Krasicki's observations of humanity and of national and international politics in his day, notably the predicament of the expiring Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Just seven years earlier (1772), the Commonwealth had experienced the first of three partitions that would, by 1795, totally expunge the Commonwealth from the political map of Europe.
Following are samples of Krasicki's Fables and Parables (1779) in English translation by Christopher Kasparek.
The Blind Man and the Lame
A blind man was carrying a lame man on his back,
And everything was going well, everything's on track,
When the blind man decides to take it into his head
That he needn't listen to all that the lame man said.
"This stick I have will guide the two of us safe," said he,
And though warned by the lame man, he plowed into a tree.
On they proceeded; the lame man now warned of a brook;
The two survived, but their possessions a soaking took.
At last the blind man ignored the warning of a drop,
And that was to turn out their final and fatal stop.
Which of the two travelers, you may ask, was to blame?
Why, 'twas both the heedless blind man and the trusting lame.
The Eagle and the Hawk
Eagle, not wishing to incommode himself with chase,
Decided to send hawk after sparrows in his place.
Hawk brought him the sparrows, eagle ate them with pleasure;
At last, not quite sated with the dainties to measure,
Feeling his appetite growing keener and keener —
Eagle ate fowl for breakfast, the fowler for dinner.
The Lump of Ice and the Crystal
Begotten of a muddy puddle, a lump of ice
Resented a crystal's transparence and in a trice
Started praying to the sun. The sun began to shine,
The lump of ice glistered but proceeded to decline;
Thus, keen to mend its lot with inopportune trouble,
The lump melted away and returned to the puddle.
"Why do I freeze out of doors while you sleep on a rug?"
Inquired the bobtail mongrel of the fat, sleek pug.
"I have run of the house, and you the run of a chain,"
The pug replied, "because you serve, while I entertain."
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