The Fool's Prayer

          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 earth from heaven away.

          "These clumsy 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!"

[ By: Edward R. Sill -- from Aiken Drum ]


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