And in his place the River-god was seen.
“Thy vanity has brought thee in my power,
And thou must pay the forfeit at this hour:
For thou hast shown thyself a royal fool,
Too proud to angle, and too vain to rule,
Eager to win in every trivial strife,—
Go! Thou shalt fish for minnows all thy life!”
Wrathful, the King the magic sentence heard;
He strove to answer, but he only chirr-r-ed:
His royal robe was changed to wings of blue,
His crown a ruby crest,—away he flew!
So every summer day along the stream
The vain King-fisher darts, an azure gleam,
And scolds the angler with a mocking scream.
THE FOOLISH FIR-TREE
A tale that the poet
To German children, in days of old;
Disguised in a random, rollicking rhyme
Like a merry mummer of ancient time,
And sent, in its English dress, to please
The little folk of the Christmas trees.
A little fir grew in the midst of the
Contented and happy, as young trees should.
His body was straight and his boughs were clean;
And summer and winter the bountiful sheen
Of his needles bedecked him, from top to root,
In a beautiful, all-the-year, evergreen suit.
But a trouble came into his heart one
When he saw that the other trees were gay
In the wonderful raiment that summer weaves
Of manifold shapes and kinds of leaves:
He looked at his needles so stiff and small,
And thought that his dress was the poorest of all.
Then jealousy clouded the little tree’s mind,
And he said to himself, “It was not very kind
To give such an ugly old dress to a tree!
If the fays of the forest would only ask me,
I’d tell them how I should like to be dressed,—
In a garment of gold, to bedazzle the rest!”
So he fell asleep, but his dreams were bad.
When he woke in the morning, his heart was glad;
For every leaf that his boughs could hold
Was made of the brightest beaten gold.
I tell you, children, the tree was proud;
He was something above the common crowd;
And he tinkled his leaves, as if he would say
To a pedlar who happened to pass that way,
“Just look at me! Don’t you think I am fine?
And wouldn’t you like such a dress as mine?”
“Oh, yes!” said the man, “and I really guess
I must fill my pack with your beautiful dress.”
So he picked the golden leaves with care,
And left the little tree shivering there.