Monday, December 10, 2007

Wayne Harrel, "The Camels Of Ancient Yore (As told by a forgetful Grandmother, c1600)"

And now, a story, if memory will me serve:
When, in ancient times, that brilliant star
o'er Bethlehem arose, three wise men marked
its strange ascent. This trio of sagacity
was named, as you well know, Franklin, Kent and Myrrh.
Nay, nay, Peter, James and John.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?
Faith, it matters not what names they held.
But being wise, and also hailing from the east,
they straightway journeyed west to find the bright
star's source. Or was it from the west they straightway
journeyed east? The scriptures speak of east,
but from the east or toward the east? Faith,
they passed 'twixt north and south, of that I'm sure.
And as they padded through the night upon
their sturdy beasts, the cows of ancient yore--
--camels...camels of ancient yore, the men discussed
among themselves what gift the king of kings
might grant. Not want, mind you, but grant.
And being men of great wisdom,
you might suspect their wishes to be wiser
far than ours. But wishes are a puzzling
thing, for when a man may have the world
he'll sometimes choose a fig. And so it was
with these, I'm sad to say. The first wise man,
suffering a cold, wished that his mortal frame
would never more be chilled. That was his wish,
complete. The second man, a wealthy lord,
desired sufficient wealth to never fear
for ruin. The third wise man, a grandfather,
prayed for a home where loved ones ne'er were lost.
Those were their wishes, complete.
But while the third man's wish
still hung upon the air, the camels stopped
and shook their shaggy chins. Then one by one
each brute inclined his head and spoke to his
own master thus.
Said the first, that is, the third:
You seek a home where loved ones ne'er were lost?
How if the king should grant thy wish by giving
thee a life alone, with loved ones ne'er
to lose? What then?
Said the second:
And you would gain sufficient wealth to never
suffer ruin? How if the king should grant
thy wish by making thee a pauper?
Ruin they fear not.
Then said the third, who was the first:
And you, you who would have a perfect frame
that never felt a chill - one man I know
feels no such pain, now that he is a corpse.
My apologies, but camels always speak
their mind, without gentility.
Did the wise men wish again?
Nay. Wisdom, they agreed, could not be found
in camels. And so straight on they travelled toward
the star, debating which request was worthiest
'til Bethlehem, a stabled inn, and last,
the Christ child they did see. But when the Prince
of Peace their eyes beheld, a change swept over
them. All wishes sped away, and in
their place, a simple prayer - to ne'er forget
the Savior's face. A prayer the tiny king did grant.