The Statesman and His Fool


THE

STATESMAN AND HIS FOOL.*

A MARVELLOUS TALE.


WHO ever heard that dumplings grew

Upon the points of rushes?

That syllabubs, and custards too,

Were plucked from bramble bushes?

Who can distill port wine from hops?

Or from a cabbage head cut mutton chops?

Who ever made a race horse of an ass?

Or golden image of a block of brass?

Who can refresh a stagnant pool?

Who make an hero of a slave?

Who make a christian of a knave?

Who make a wiseman of a fool?

Unanswered, to the ground, these questions

fall:

I’ll tell a story worth them all.

 

A famous minister of state,

As legendary tales relate,

Oppressed a foreign land:

He taxed and tythed, and tythed and taxed;

Greedy as death, he ne’er relaxed

His unrelenting hand.

From every sheep he tore the fleece,

The feathers plucked from living geese,

With his rapacious claws:

He spared not age, nor sex, nor beauty;

Noses and eyes themselves paid duty;

And grievous was the tax on jaws!

In eating, drinking, working, playing,

Sleeping, waking, swearing, praying,

The people were for ever paying!

With panniers of oppression loaded,

Kicked and pummelled, mauled and goad-

ed,

To the vilest slavery humbled,

Poor, patient souls! they neither growled nor

grumbled;

But wore as meek, submissive faces,

As grave philosophers, or graver asses.

Thus governed only by their fears,

They eat their thistles, drank their tears;

And for their country’s, or their monarch’s

good,

Were thankful even to shed their blood.

 

At length this minister, so formidably

great,

Who dropt from Jupiter to rule the state,

Caught cold one evening!–––––Pray, what

then?

He died—upon my soul, he died!—like com-

mon men!

Nay, gentle reader! do not wonder:

Tho’ statesmen seem the sons of thunder,

And strut like demigods to-day,

To-morrow, lo!— ah, sad reverse!

The pallid shroud, the pompous hearse,

Proclaim them sons of clay!

Yes, earthen vessels lords and bishops are:

Even kings and queens themselves are crockery

ware.

 

Our hero died, his corse was buried,

And o’er the Styx his soul was ferried.

His honour had not long been there,

When walking, pensive, by the river side,

In Charon’s boat, with solemn air,

Roger, his faithful fool on earth, he spyed.

Astonished stood

The statesman good,

And thought his eyes

Were telling lies,

‘Till Roger, stepping on the sable shore,

With equal wonder, knew his lord once more.

 

Not Martin Luther, at the sight

Of Satan, stared with more affright,

When musing upon things eternal,

In stalked his majesty infernal!

Not more astonished looked the Devil,

When Martin Luther, saint uncivil,

Hurled—O indelible disgrace!

A full-charged inkstand in his worship’s face;

His goodly nose to jelly crushed,

While blood, and tears, and ink, in mingled

torrents gushed.

 

So Roger stared, so stared his lord,

Full half an hour without a word.

The Fool, at length, reviving from the fit,

Which stole away his tongue and wit—

“By old Bartholomew’s thrice blessed hide!

“What brought your honour here?” he

cried:

“A saint you was, for all the world believed

“it:—

“The world’s a calf, thank heaven you have

“deceived it!”

“Ah, Roger, Roger!” said the master,

“How can’st thou laugh at my disaster?

“Roger, thou knew’st full well my virtuous

“wife,

“Chaste as the moon,

“And beautiful as noon,

“The pride— the comfort of my life!

“By her an only, yes, a matchless son, I had;

“Was ever father blessed with such a lad?

“For that dear spouse, that only son,

“I plundered and oppressed a nation;

“For them I forfeited my own salvation,

“And here am I, undone—undone!

“But, honest Roger, tell me, in thy turn,

“For what black crime art thou condemned

to burn?”

“Because,” quoth Roger, “now we’re

“dead and gone,

And each must suffer for what each has

“done—

“I was the father of your only SON!!!”

 

The fable ended, here the moral lies,

To punish folly—open folly’s eyes.

 

*The idea of this Story was borrowed from a French Anecdote.