King Cole he reigned in Aureoland,
But the sceptre was seldom in his hand
Far oftener was there his golden cup–
He ate too much, but he drank all up!
To be called a king and to be a king,
That is one thing and another thing!
So his majesty’s head began to shake,
And his hands and his feet to swell and ache,
The doctors were called, but they dared not say
Your majesty drinks too much Tokay;
So out of the king’s heart died all mirth,
And he thought there was nothing good on earth.
Then up rose the fool, whose every word
Was three parts wise and one part absurd.
Nuncle, he said, never mind the gout;
I will make you laugh till you laugh it out.
King Cole pushed away his full gold plate:
The jester he opened the palace gate,
Brought in a cold man, with hunger grim,
And on the dais-edge seated him;
Then caught up the king’s own golden plate,
And set it beside him: oh, how he ate!
And the king took note, with a pleased surprise,
That he ate with his mouth and his cheeks and his eyes,
With his arms and his legs and his body whole,
And laughed aloud from his heart and soul.
Then from his lordly chair got up,
And carried the man his own gold cup;
The goblet was deep and wide and full,
The poor man drank like a cow at a pool.
Said the king to the jester–I call it well done
To drink with two mouths instead of one!
Said the king to himself, as he took his seat,
It is quite as good to feed as to eat!
It is better, I do begin to think,
To give to the thirsty than to drink!
And now I have thought of it, said the king,
There might be more of this kind of thing!
The fool heard. The king had not long to wait:
The fool cried aloud at the palace-gate;
The ragged and wretched, the hungry and thin,
Loose in their clothes and tight in their skin,
Gathered in shoals till they filled the hall,
And the king and the fool they fed them all;
And as with good things their plates they piled
The king grew merry as a little child.
On the morrow, early, he went abroad
And sought poor folk in their own abode–
Sought them till evening foggy and dim,
Did not wait till they came to him;
And every day after did what he could,
Gave them work and gave them food.
Thus he made war on the wintry weather,
And his health and the spring came back together.
But, lo, a change had passed on the king,
Like the change of the world in that same spring!
His face had grown noble and good to see,
And the crown sat well on his majesty.
Now he ate enough, and ate no more,
He drank about half what he drank before,
He reigned a real king in Aureoland,
Reigned with his head and his heart and his hand.
All this through the fool did come to pass.
And every Christmas-eve that was,
The palace-gates stood open wide
And the poor came in from every side,
And the king rose up and served them duly,
And his people loved him very truly.