Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Russian, Scandinavian, etc.
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XIV: Russian—Scandinavian—Miscellaneous
The Musicians
By Ivan Krylov (1768–1844)
From the “Fables”

THE TRICKSY monkey, the goat, the ass, and bandy-legged Mishka, the bear, determined to play a quartet. They provided themselves with the necessary instruments—two fiddles, an alto, and a bass. Then they all settled down under a large tree, with the object of dazzling the world by their artistic performance. They fiddled away lustily for some time, but only succeeded in making a noise, and no music.
  “Stop, my friends!” said the monkey, “this will not do; our music does not sound as it ought. It is plain that we are in the wrong positions. You, Mishka, take your bass and face the alto; I will go opposite the second fiddle. Then we shall play altogether differently, so that the very hills and forests will dance.”  2
  So they changed places, and began over again. But they produced only discords, as before.  3
  “Wait a moment!” exclaimed the ass; “I know what the matter is. We must get in a row, and then we shall play in tune.”  4
  This advice was acted upon. The four animals placed themselves in a straight line, and struck up once more.  5
  The quartet was as unmusical as ever. Then they stopped again, and began squabbling and wrangling about the proper positions to be taken. It happened that a nightingale came flying by that way, attracted by their din. They begged the nightingale to solve their difficulty for them.  6
  “Pray be so kind,” they said, “as to stay a moment, so that we may get our quartet in order. We have music and we have instruments; only tell us how to place ourselves.”  7
  To which the nightingale replied:  8
  “To be a musician, one must have a better ear and more intelligence than any of you. Place yourselves any way you like; it will make no difference. You will never become musicians.”  9

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