« PreviousContinue »
he was sure his father was a very good king, yet it seemed to him he had not done as much good as he might, , with such good troops, so much power, and such great resources ; fór, had he wished it, he might have made himself master of the world.
Now the king felt much pleased at this wise remark of his son. So when the time came for him to give his decision to the people, he told them that he should appoint his youngest son for their king. Although he would have wished to appoint his eldest son as his successor, he felt it his duty to select the one who seemed best fitted for the place.
THE WALLS OF SPARTA
ONE evening in the olden time, a Persian ambassador with his train was entering the city of Sparta. He had come from a nation of slaves, from a land whose cities were surrounded by huge walls of brick and stone.
He gazed around him in surprise ; there seemed
to be freedom everywhere. He saw no slaves, but every man was his own master. The city itself lay open to the free breath of heaven upon the fertile plain; there were no towers or battlements, and the hand of peace seemed resting over all..
Turning to the Spartan ruler, the Persian asked in voice of wonder, “0 king, where are your walls ? " A smile brightened the face of the leader of heroes as he answered, “Come to-morrow at sunrise, and climb with me the heights of yonder pinnacle, and I will show you the city's walls.”
The next day, just as the sun was rising in splendor over the eastern hills, they climbed to the top of a lofty temple. Beneath them upon the plain stood the young men of the city in battle array; their burnished arms shone in the morning sunlight, and their bosoms throbbed with hearts truer than steel. They gazed upon them for a moment, and the king, turning to the Persian, said proudly, “ Behold! yonder are the walls of Sparta, and every man's a brick.”
Centuries upon centuries have passed away, and still the saying lingers. It is spoken lightly and thoughtlessly by many, yet there lies beneath it a thought, for truth and beauty, unsurpassed.
THE ENCHANTED SHIRT
The king was sick. His cheek was red,
And his eye was clear and bright; He ate and drank with kingly zest,
And peacefully snored at night.
And the doctors came by the score.
And sent to the schools for more.
At last two famous doctors came,
And one was as poor as a rat;
And never found time to grow fat.
The other had never looked in a book;
His patients gave him no trouble ;
If they recovered, they paid him well ;
If they died, their heirs paid double.
Together they looked at the royal tongue,
As the king on his couch reclined ; In succession they thumped his august chest,
But no trace of disease could find.
The old sage said, “ You're as sound as a nut.”
“ Hang him up!” roared the king in a gale --In a ten-knot gale of royal rage;
The other leech grew a shade pale ;
But he pensively rubbed his sagacious nose,
And thus his prescription ran :" The king will be well, if he sleeps one night
In the shirt of a Happy Man.”
Wide o'er the realm the couriers rode,
And fast their horses ran, And many they saw, and to many they spoke,
But they found no Happy Man.
They found poor men who would fain be rich,
And rich who thought they were poor;
And men who twisted their waists in stays,
And women who short hose wore.
At last they came to a village gate,
A beggar lay whistling there;
On the grass, in the soft June air.
The weary couriers paused and looked
At the scamp so blithe and gay ; And one of them said, “ Heaven save you, friend !
You seem to be happy to-day.”
“Oh, yes, fair sirs,” the rascal laughed;
And his voice rang free and glad ; “ An idle man has so much to do,
That he never has time to be sad.”
“ This is our man,” the courier said;
“Our luck has led us aright. I will give you a hundred ducats, friend,
For the loan of your shirt to-night."
The merry blackguard lay back on the grass,
And laughed till his face was black;