The hour had struck; the prince rose fit for quest;
His horse neighed, saddled, rigged, and newly shod;
No gem shone brighter than his sword and shield;
His polished plate and helm in sunlight gleamed.
He'd bade farewell to hearth and loving kin;
He'd feasted well with all his faithful friends;
He'd placed white roses on his mother's tomb;
He'd spent the eve in silent, contrite prayer.
Now with the king he paused beside the gate
And asked: "Tell me, my liege--which way is best?"
This king, a man debauched by life's travail,
A traveler of roads both rough and smooth,
But wiser now, with wisdom built from pain,
Embraced his son with heart to heart, then said:
"That which a man will seek he often finds.
Take heed; for what you ask you may be given.
"The errant knight who craves the easy way,
The easy knight who seeks the painless path,
Who drops his manful weight for childish play,
The feckless youth who lusts for pleasure's sport,
Who seeks his rest before he seeks his work,
Who drinks his wine before he does the deed
That deed and wine deserve; the child of ease
Who seeks to please the flesh but not the soul--
This knight will find in ease a living death.
"His chosen path will form but half a man.
"The path for you, my blood, is not this path;
Seek out instead the path of thorn and flint,
The path that climbs a mountainside, the path
That rain and wind and bitter storm have flailed
Into a wilderness, where lions hunt
And blackguards lust for power and for pelf.
"On this harsh path you'll find the tools for life:
The strength of duty done, of honor kept,
Of true love given unto love. This path
Will slowly bare to you its ancient laws
Of prowess, justice, prudence, truth. Keep close
The One who serves as Father to us all;
Abide His laws, live in His loving heart,
And you will make a just and noble knight."
With fond farewells they parted at that gate.
The prince rode east toward dawn and rising sun
To seek the harder path and make his quest,
To play the man, to bear the cuts and blows,
To fight, to fall and rise, to lose or win,
To lift his sword for good and holy cause.
With love his father prayed him on his way,
That Christ and Heaven keep him all his days.
The Way Things Go
One Possible Reply
I’d like to raise some questions
For judgment as to fair,
Just some ordinary questions
Tossed to the public square.
Who gave the right to servants
To lock the chain and ball,
To hold us in your thrall?
Why must you go on preaching,
As if to a child of ten,
Of cigs and booze and diet,
When still the grave’s the end?
Why must we pay for junkets,
For trips to Timbuktu?
Why take such grand vacations,
As if no bills were due?
Why must we sweat and labor
To feed your honey-comb?
Why must we pay your taxes
To keep you drones enthroned?
You steal from Paul for Peter
With mirrors, lies, and smoke:
But tell me please what happens
When poor old Paul goes broke?
You love to wag your finger,
And order us to queue;
But we as well have fingers:
The middle one will do.