“I give him Wit,”
the eldest said,
And stooped above the little bed,
To touch his forehead round and red.
“Within this bald, unfurnished head,
Where wild luxuriant locks shall spread
And wave in years hereafter,
I kindle now the lively spark,
That still shall flash by day and dark,
And everywhere he goes shall mark
His way with light and laughter.”
The fairies laughed to think
That such a rosy, wrinkled bit
Of flesh should be endowed with Wit!
But something serious seemed to hit
The mind of one, as if a fit
Of fear had come upon her.
“I give him Truth,” she quickly cried,
“That laughter may not lead aside
To paths where scorn and falsehood hide,—
I give him Truth and Honour!”
“I give him Love,”
exclaimed the third;
And as she breathed the mystic word,
I know not if the baby heard,
But softly in his dream he stirred,
And twittered like a little bird,
And stretched his hands above him.
The fairy’s gift was sealed and signed
With kisses twain the deed to bind:
“A heart of love to human-kind,
And human-kind to love him!”
“Now stay your giving!”
cried the Queen.
“These gifts are passing rich I ween;
And if reporters should be mean
Enough to spy upon this scene,
’Twould make all other babies green
With envy at the rumour.
Yet since I love this child, forsooth,
I’ll mix your gifts, Wit, Love and Truth,
With spirits of Immortal Youth,
And call the mixture Humour!”
The fairies vanished with their glittering
But here’s the Prince with all their gifts,—Mark Twain.
THE BALLAD OF THE SOLEMN ASS
Recited at the Century Club, New York: Twelfth Night. 1906
Come all ye good Centurions and wise men
of the times,
You’ve made a Poet Laureate, now you must hear his rhymes.
Extend your ears and I’ll respond by shortening up my tale:—
Man cannot live by verse alone, he must have cakes and ale.
So while you wait for better things and
muse on schnapps and salad,
I’ll try my Pegasus his wings and sing a little ballad:
A legend of your ancestors, the Wise Men of the East,
Who brought among their baggage train a quaint and curious beast.
Their horses were both swift and strong,
and we should think it lucky
If we could buy, by telephone, such horses from Kentucky;
Their dromedaries paced along, magnificent and large,
Their camels were as stately as if painted by La Farge.
But this amazing little ass was never
He made more trouble every day than all the rest beside:
His ears were long, his legs were short, his eyes were bleared and dim,
But nothing in the wide, wide world was good enough for him.