Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KING AND THE COTTAGER; A PERSIAN LEGEND, by JOHN GODFREY SAXE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE KING AND THE COTTAGER; A PERSIAN LEGEND, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Pray list me unto a legend
Last Line: "has propped a monarch's throne!"
Subject(s): Courts & Courtiers; Iran; Persia


PRAY list unto a legend
The ancient poets tell;
'T is of a mighty monarch
In Persia once did dwell;
A mighty queer old monarch
Who ruled his kingdom well.


"I must build another palace,"
Observed this mighty king;
"For this is getting shabby
Along the southern wing;
And, really, for a monarch,
It is n't quite the thing.


"So I will have a new one,
Although I greatly fear,
To build it just to suit me
Will cost me rather dear;
And I'll choose, God wot, another spot,
Much finer than this here."


So he traveled o'er his kingdom
A proper site to find,
Where he might build a palace
Exactly to his mind,
All with a pleasant prospect
Before it, and behind.


Not long with this endeavor
The king had traveled round,
Ere, to his royal pleasure,
A charming spot he found;
But an ancient widow's cabin
Was standing on the ground.


"Ah! here," exclaimed the monarch,
"Is just the proper spot,
If this woman would allow me
To remove her little cot."
But the beldam answered plainly,
She had rather he would not!


"Within this lonely cottage,
Great Monarch, I was born;
And only from this cottage
By Death will I be torn:
So spare it in your justice,
Or spoil it in your scorn!"


Then all the courtiers mocked her,
With cruel words and jeers: --
"'T is plain her royal master
She neither loves nor fears;
We would knock her ugly hovel
About her ugly ears!


"When ever was a subject
Who might the king withstand?
Or deem his spoken pleasure
As less than his command?
Of course he'll rout the beldam,
And confiscate her land!"


But, to their deep amazement,
His Majesty replied:
"Good woman, never heed them,
The King is on your side;
Your cottage is your castle,
And here you shall abide.


"To raze it in a moment,
The power is mine, I grant;
My absolute dominion
A hundred poets chant;
For being Khan of Persia,
There's nothing that I can't."


('T was in this pleasant fashion
The mighty monarch spoke;
For kings have merry fancies
Like other mortal folk:
And none so high and mighty
But loves his little joke.)


"But power is scarcely worthy
Of honor or applause,
That in its domination
Contemns the widow's cause,
Or perpetrates injustice
By trampling on the laws.


"That I have wronged the meanest
No honest tongue may say:
So bide you in your cottage,
Good woman, while you may;
What's yours by deed and purchase
No man may take away.


"And I will build beside it,
For though your cot may be
In such a lordly presence
No fitting thing to see,
If it honor not my castle,
It will surely honor me!


"For so my loyal people,
Who gaze upon the sight,
Shall know that in oppression
I do not take delight;
Nor hold a king's convenience
Before a subject's right."


Now from his spoken purpose
The king departed not;
He built the royal dwelling
Upon the chosen spot,
And there they stood together, --
The palace and the cot.


Sure such unseemly neighbors
Were never seen before;
"His Majesty is doting,"
His silly courtiers swore;
But all true loyal subjects,
They loved the king the more.


Long, long he ruled his kingdom
In honor and renown;
But danger ever threatens
The head that wears a crown,
And Fortune, tired of smiling,
For once put on a frown.


For ever secret Envy
Attends a high estate;
And ever lurking Malice
Pursues the good and great;
And ever base Ambition
Will end in deadly Hate.


And so two wicked courtiers,
Who long had strove in vain,
By craft and evil counsels,
To mar the monarch's reign,
Contrived a scheme infernal
Whereby he should be slain.


But as all deeds of darkness
Are wont to leave a clew
Before the glaring sunlight
To bring the knaves to view,
That sin may be rewarded,
And Satan get his due, --


To plan their wicked treason,
They sought a lonely spot
Behind the royal palace,
Hard by the widow's cot,
Who heard their machinations,
And straight revealed the plot!


"I see," exclaimed the Persian,
"The just are wise alone;
Who spares the rights of others
May chance to guard his own;
The widow's humble cottage
Has propped a monarch's throne!"

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