The clever poet and the wise poet

In a particular region there were two noteworthy poets. One was extremely clever and popular. His poems were very witty and amusing. The other one had much more depth, but his poems were not widely known. Once it happened that the local zamindar wanted to honour all the poets, and so he said that they should come to his palace on a particular day and read their poems.

The serious poet said, “So many poets will join this competition. I know that my clever poet-friend has been flattering the zamindar constantly of late. Naturally the zamindar will make him stand first, so it is useless for me to go.”

The competition took place. Many poets came and, as the serious poet had predicted, the clever poet won. He was showered with tremendous adulation and lots of material riches. Soon afterwards, the clever poet visited the serious one. He said, “Did you hear that I have won a huge sum of money? In front of so many other poets, the zamindar appreciated and admired my poems the most. I am now the most revered poet of the land!”

The serious poet felt sorry, but not because he had not joined the competition. He felt sorry because he knew that the clever poet’s poems were not all that good. It was only by flattering and flattering the zamindar that he had won first place in the competition. “I have to find a trick to make this boastful fellow learn some humility,” he said to himself.

After the clever poet had finally finished bragging, the serious one said to him, “I will recognise your talent only if you get appreciation from a particular zamindar.”

The clever poet said, “Definitely! Just tell me his name and I will go and read my poems to him. I am sure he will be deeply impressed by my command of language, my striking images, my use of metre and so on. I may even be inspired to write a special poem just for him!”

The serious poet continued, “I am telling you, if he says that you are an excellent poet, only then will I feel that you are really superlative. He is the only one whose opinion I value. He is a great person and he is very well educated.”

Full of confidence and self-assurance, the clever poet went to the zamindar that the serious poet had mentioned. This zamindar agreed to listen to a selection of his poems. So the clever poet started to read them out in a ringing voice. Now and then he glanced at the zamindar to get a little appreciation. On and on he went, until he had read out thirty poems, but still the zamindar did not offer any appreciation. Then, at one point, the poet got a faint smile.

He said to himself, “I have read out so many poems and all I have received in return is a faint, fleeting smile! What kind of man is this?”

He continued reading a little longer, but it was obvious that the zamindar was not impressed in the least. Finally, the poet stopped reading and said to the zamindar, “That concludes the poems that I brought with me. I have read out so many for you. Will you not do anything for me?”

The zamindar reached for a piece of paper and wrote “fifty rupees.” Then he gave the note to his secretary. The secretary handed the poet the sum that the zamindar had indicated. When the poet received the small sum of coins, he was badly insulted. The zamindar whom he had flattered had given him so much money and this one had given him next to nothing.

He said to the secretary, “Can you not give me some more? After all, I have travelled quite a distance to come here and read my poems.”

The secretary answered, “It is not up to me. I can only do what the zamindar commands me to do.”

So the clever poet went back to see the serious poet. He was filled with depression. He said to this other poet, “I read out all my best poems for him. They are all so nice. But he gave me only fifty rupees in payment for my trouble! I tried so hard to get an iota of appreciation from him, but he did not utter even one word.”

The serious poet said, “I told you, if you get appreciation from him, only then will I admire you. Otherwise, I will not. I hold his appreciation in very high esteem.”

Humbly, the clever poet asked the serious one, “Did you ever get appreciation from this particular zamindar?”

“No,” replied the serious poet, truthfully.

“Then why did you send me?” asked the clever poet.

The serious poet said, “I sent you because you think that you are the greatest poet of all.”

The clever poet said, “Now I do not feel that I am the greatest. Had I been really great, then surely I would have received some genuine appreciation and admiration from that zamindar. No, I have come to realise that I am only an ordinary poet or even a budding poet. I was clever enough to fool our zamindar with my empty flattery. But flattery is not poetry. This zamindar has opened my eyes. According to him, my poems were worth only fifty rupees. I am grateful to you, my friend, for illumining me in this way.”

Then the serious poet embraced the clever poet and said, “My friend, I beg you to forgive me. I have fooled you. There is a very simple reason why the zamindar to whom I sent you did not speak: he is mute. He can not utter a word, so that is why he did not appreciate you!”

Instead of getting angry, the clever poet laughed and laughed. He said, “You have really opened my eyes this time! You have defeated my cleverness with your wisdom. I promise that I will give up my silly flattery and try to write poetry that is beautiful, deep and meaningful in every way.”