Verse > Anthologies > Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. > Yale Book of American Verse
Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse.  1912.
Edward Rowland Sill. 1841–1887
206. 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,         5
  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;  10
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,  15
  Be merciful to me, a fool! 
"'T is not by guilt the onward sweep 
  Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay; 
'T is by our follies that so long 
  We hold the earth from heaven away.  20
"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—  25
  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;  30
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,  35
  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!"  40

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