Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Russian, Scandinavian, etc.
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XIV: Russian—Scandinavian—Miscellaneous
 
The Lion’s Council of State
By Ivan Khemnitser (1745–1784)
 
From the “Fables”

A LION held a court for state affairs.
Why? That is not your business, sir—’twas theirs.
He called the elephants for councilors. Still
The council-board was incomplete,
And the king deemed it fit        5
With asses all the vacancies to fill.
Heaven help the state, for lo! the bench of asses
The bench of elephants by far surpasses.
“He was a fool, th’ aforesaid king,” you’ll say;
“Better have kept those places vacant, surely,        10
Than to have filled ’em up so very poorly.”
Oh, no, that’s not the royal way;
Things have been done for ages thus, and we
Have a deep reverence for antiquity.
Naught worse, sir, than to be, or to appear,        15
Wiser and better than our fathers were!
The list must be complete, e’en though you make it
Complete with asses—for the lion saw
Such had through all the ages been the law.
He was no radical to break it;        20
“Besides,” said he, “my elephants’ good sense
Will soon my asses’ ignorance diminish,
For wisdom has a mighty influence.”
They made a pretty finish!
The asses’ folly soon obtained the sway:        25
The elephants became as dull as they!
 
 
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