minstrel: Fool's Prayer

Edwin Hewitt brogoose at pe.net
Sat Aug 9 12:21:00 PDT 1997

I've always loved this "poem" and it has a special place in my heart -
especially when I act like I'm king, rather than my real part.

            The Fool's Prayer

     by Edward Rowland Sill (1841-87)

 The Royal feast was done; the King
   Sought some new sport to banish care,
 And to his jester cried, "Sir Fool,
   Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

 The jester doffed his cap and bells,
   And stood the mocking court before;
 They could not see the bitter smile
   Behind the painted grin he wore.

 He bowed his head, and bent his knee
   Upon the monarch's silken stool;
 His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
   Be merciful to me, a fool!

 "No pity, Lord could change the heart
   From red with wrong to white as wool:
 The rod must heal the sin; but, Lord,
   Be merciful to me, a fool!

 "'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
   Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
 'Tis by our follies that so long
   We hold the earth from heaven away.

 "These clumsey feet, still in the mire,
   Go crushing blossoms without end;
 These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
   Among the heart-strings of a friend.

 "The ill-timed truth we might have kept-
   Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung!
 The word we had not sense to say-
   Who knows how grandly it had rung!

 "Our faults no tenderness should ask,
   The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
 But for our blunders - oh, in shame
   Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

 "Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
   Men crown the Knave, and scourge the tool
 That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
   Be merciful to me, a fool!"

 The room was hushed, in silence rose
   The King, and sought his gardens cool,
 And walked apart, and murmured low,
   "Be merciful to me, a fool!"

Full-time Idealist, Part-time Realist.

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