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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Ivan Khemnitser (1745–1784)

The Lion’s Council of State

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

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,

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,

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;

“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:

The elephants became as dull as they!