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THE KING, THE ANGEL, AND THE JESTER.
A moment speechless, motionless, amazed,
The throneless monarch on the angel gazed,
Who met his looks of anger and surprise
With the divine compassion of his eyes;i
Then said, "Who art thou? and why com'st thou here?
To which King Robert answered with a sneer,
"I am the king, and come to claim my own
From an impostor who usurps my throne!"
And suddenly, at these audacious words,
Up sprang the angry guests and drew their swords.
The angel answered, with unruffled brow,
"Nay, not the king, but the king's jester; thou
Henceforth shalt wear the bells and scalloped
And for thy counsellor shalt lead an ape:
Thou shalt obey my servants when they call,
And wait upon my henchmen 20 in the hall."
Deaf to King Robert's threats and cries and prayers,
They thrust him from the hall and down the stairs;
A group of tittering pages ran before,
as they opened wide the folding-door,
His heart failed, for he heard, with strange alarms,
The boisterous laughter of the men-at-arms,
And all the vaulted chamber roar and ring
With the mock plaudits 21 of "Long live the king!"
Next morning, waking with the day's first beam,
He said within himself, "It was a dream!"
But the straw rustled as he turned his head,
There were the cap and bells beside his bed;
Around him rose the bare, discoloured walls,
Close by the steeds were champing in their stalls,
And in the corner, a revolting shape,
Shivering and chattering, sat the wretched ape.
nō dream; the world he loved so much
Had turned to dust and ashes at his touch!
Days came and went; and now returned again
To Sicily the old Saturnian reign; 22
Under the angel's governance benign 23
The happy island danced with corn and wine,
And deep within the mountain's burning breast 24
Enceladus, the giant, was at rest.
Meanwhile King Robert yielded to his fate,
Sullen and silent and disconsolate,
Dressed in the motley garb 25 that jesters wear,
With looks bewildered and a vacant stare,
Close shaven above the ears, as monks are shorn,
By courtiers mocked, by pages laughed to scorn,
His only friend the ape, his only food
What others left, he still
And when the angel met him
And half in earnest, half in jest,
Sternly, though tenderly, that he might feel
The velvet scabbard held a sword of steel,
"Art thou the king?" The passion of his woe
Burst from him in resistless overflow,
And lifting high his forehead he would fling
The haughty answer back, "I am, I am the king!"
Almost three years were ended; when there came
Ambassadors of great repute and name
From Valmond, emperor of Allëmaine,
Unto King Robert, saying that Pope Urbane,
By letter summoned them forthwith to come
On Holy Thursday to his city of Rome.
The angel with great joy received his guests,
And gave them presents of embroidered vests,
And velvet mantles with rich ermine lined,
And rings and jewels of the rarest kind.
Then he departed with them o'er the sea
Into the lovely land of Italy,
Whose loveliness was more resplendent 26 made
By the mere passing' of that cavalcade,27
With plumes, and cloaks, and housings,28 and the stir
Of jewelled bridle, and of golden spur.
And lo! among the menials, in mock state,
Upon a piebald steed with shambling gait,29
-His cloak of foxtails flapping in the wind,--
-The solemn ape demurely 30 perched behind,-
King Robert rode, making huge merriment
In all the country towns through which they went.
The Pope received them with great pomp, and blare
Of bannered trumpets 81 on Saint Peter's Square,
Giving his benediction and embrace,
Fervent and full of apostolic grace.32
While with congratulations and" with prayers
He entertained the angel unawares,
Robert, the jester, bursting through the crowd,
Into their presence rushed and cried aloud:
"I am the king! Look and behold in me
Robert, your brother, king of Sicily!
This man who wears my semblance 33 to your eyes,
Is an impostor in a king's disguise.
THE KING, THE ANGEL, AND THE JESTER.
Do you not know me? Does no voice within
Answer my cry, and say, we are akin?"
The pope in silence, but with troubled mien,34
Gazed at the angel's countenance serene;
The emperor, laughing, said, "It is strange" sport
To keep a madman for thy fool at court!"
And the poor baffled jester in disgrace
Was hustled back among the populace.
In solemn state the holy week went by,
And Easter Sunday gleamed upon the sky;
The presence of an angel, with its light,
Before the sun rose, made the city bright,
And with new fervour filled the hearts of men,
Who felt that Christ indeed had risen again.
Even the jester on his bed of straw,
With haggard eyes the unwonted 35 splendour saw ;
He felt within a power unfelt before,
And kneeling humbly on his chamber floor,
He heard the rushing garments of the Lord
Sweep through the silent air, ascending heavenward.
And now the visit ending, and once more
Valmond returning to the Danube's shore,
Homeward the angel journeyed and again
The land was made resplendent with his train,
Flashing along the towns of Italy
Unto Salomo and from there by sea.
And when once more within Palermo's 36 wall,
And seated on his throne in his great hall,
He heard the Angelus 37 from convent towers,
As if the better world conversed with ours,
He beckoned to King Robert to draw nigher,
And with a gesture bade the rest retire;
And when they were alone the angel said:
"Art thou the king? Then bowing down his head,
King Robert crossed both hands upon his breast,
And meekly answered him: "Thou knowest best!
My sins as scarlet are; let me go hence,
And in some cloister's school of penitence,38
Across those stones that pave the way to heaven
Walk barefoot till my guilty soul is shriven ! " 39
The angel smiled, and from his radiant face
A holy light illumined all the place,
And through the open window loud and clear,
They heard the monks chant in the chapel near,
Above the stir and tumult of the street:
“He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
And hath exalted them of low degree!"
And through the chant a second melody
Rose like the throbbing of a single string:
an angel, and thou art the king!"
King Robert who was standing near the throne,
Lifted his eyes, and lo! he was alone!
But all apparelled as in days of old,
With ermined mantle and with cloth of gold;
And when his courtiers came they found him there,
Kneeling upon the floor, absorbed in silent prayer.
CAUTIONS: a. Chant-the-Magnificat must be regarded as one word; and there is no accent on the. b. The Latin words may be difficult to read to those who do not know Latin. They may be thus divided: Depos-uit potent-es; de sed-e, et exalt-avit humil-es. c. The verse-accent on hath must be carefully avoided. To do this, the reader must hasten on to the pút down, both of which words have an accent. d. Avoid the verse-accent on was. Read, There-wasNo-light. e. There is an accent on some, though the verse does not allow it. Make a very slight pause at before. f. Avoid the accent on from, and hurry on to seat. g. Place an accent on dead. h. Avoid the accent upon on, and read on-the-angel as one word. i. This line must be read slowly, and with much feeling. j. Avoid the accent upon from. k. Read almost-three-years as one word. 1. Avoid the verse-accent on the, and read, by-the-mére-passing as one word. m. Avoid the accent upon and. n. The emphasis falls upon strange. o. Avoid the verse-accent on of, and hurry on to angel. p. Avoid the accent on with; there is an emphasis on new.
MEANINGS: 1. Allemaine, Germany. 2. With retinue, attended by. Vespers, evening service. 4. Magnificat, a chant founded on Luke, chap. i. verse 46, beginning, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." 5. Burden or refrain, the lines which are repeated at the end of every verse of a song. 6. Clerk, priest. 7. Monotonous, all in one tone of voice. 8. Imprecations, curses. 9. Stalls, seats. 10. Portal, door. 11. Haggard, looking worn-out and miserable. 12. Despoiled, robbed. 13. Besprent, spattered. 14. Seneschal, an officer belonging to a king's household. 15. Dais, raised platform. 16. Transfigured, changed in face. 17. Effulgence, bright light. 18. Exaltation, greatness. 19. Scalloped, with the edge or border cut out in curves. 20. Henchmen, serving men. 21. Plaudits, shouts. 22. Saturnian reign, when Saturn was king of Sicily the people were very happy and contented. 23. Governance benign, kind and wise rule. 24. This refers to Mount Etna, a volcano in Sicily. 25. Motley garb, dress of many colours. 26. Resplendent, shining with a bright light. 27. Cavalcade, a number of persons on horseback. 28. Housings, ornamental harness for horses. 29. Gait, manner of walking. 30. Demurely, with a show of modesty. 31. Blare of bannered trumpets, the loud ringing sound of trumpets with banners hanging from them. 32. Apostolic grace, kindness and favour of an apostle. 33. Semblance, likeness. 34. Mien, face. 35. Unwonted, more than usual. 36. Palermo, the capital of Sicily. 37. Angelus, a bell. 38. Cloister's school of penitence, the school of repentance which is found in the cloister of a monastery. 39. Shriven, cleansed from sin.
PART II.-VERSE PRINTED AS PROSE.
BLANK VERSE. DIALOGUES.