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: "0 Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
" 'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, 0 Lord, we stay;
'Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the 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, 0 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!"