THE CROW THAT THOUGHT IT KNEW
ONCE upon a time, while Brahma-datta reigned as king in
Benares, the Bodhisatta became a marsh crow, and dwelt
by a certain pool. His name was Viraka, the Strong.
There arose a famine in Kasi. Men could not spare food
for the crows, nor make offering to goblins and snakes.
One by one the crows left the famine-stricken land, and
betook them to the woods.
A certain crow named Savitthaka, who lived at Benares,
took with him his lady crow and went to the place where
Viraka lived, making his abode beside the same pool.
One day, this crow was seeking food about the pool. He
saw how Viraka went down into it, and made a meal off
some fish; and afterwards came up out of the water again,
and stood drying his feathers. "Under the wing of that
crow," thought he, "plenty of fish are to be got. I will
become his servant." So he drew near.
"What is it, Sir?" asked Viraka.
"I want to be your servant, my Lord!" was the reply.
Viraka agreed, and from that time the other served him.
And from that time, Viraka used to eat enough fish to keep
him alive, and the rest he gave to Savitthaka as soon as
he had caught them; and when Savitthaka had eaten enough
to keep him alive, he gave what was over to his wife.
After a while pride came into his heart. "This crow,"
said he, "is black, and so am I: in eyes and beak and
feet, too, there is no difference between us. I donít
want his fish; I will catch my own!" So he told Viraka
that for the future he intended to go down to the water
and catch fish himself. Then Viraka said, "Good friend,
you do not belong to a tribe of such crows as are born to
go into water and catch fish. Donít destroy yourself !"
But in spite of this attempt to dissuade him, Savitthaka
did not take the warning to heart. Down he went, to the
pool, into the water; but he could not make his way through
the weeds and come out again—there he was, entangled
in the weeds, with only the tip of his beak appearing above
the water. So not being able to breathe he perished there
beneath the water.
His mate noticed that he did not return, and went to
Viraka to ask news of him. "My Lord," she asked,
"Savitthaka is not to be seen: where is he?" And as
she asked him this, she repeated the first stanza:—
"O have you seen Savitthaka, O Viraka,
have you seen
My sweet-voiced mate whose neck is like
the peacock in its sheen?"
When Viraka heard it, he replied, "Yes, I know
where he is gone," and recited the second stanza:—
"He was not born to dive beneath
But what he could not do he
needs must try;
So the poor bird has found a watery
Entangled in the weeds, and left
When Viraka heard When the lady-crow heard it, weeping,
she returned to Benares.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics