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The Vain King
by [?]

Then to Prince John, a sober soul, sedate
And slow, King Martin left the helm of State,
While to the novel game with eager zest
He all his time and all his powers addressed.
Sure such a sight was never seen before!
In robe and crown the monarch trod the shore;
His golden hooks were decked with feathers fine,
His jewelled reel ran out a silken line.
With kingly strokes he flogged the crystal stream;
Far-off the salmon saw his tackle gleam;
Careless of kings, they eyed with calm disdain
The gaudy lure, and Martin fished in vain.
On Friday, when the week was almost spent,
He scanned his empty creel with discontent,
Called for a net, and cast it far and wide,
And drew–a thousand minnows from the tide!
Then came the angler to conclude the match,
And at the monarch’s feet spread out his catch–
A hundred salmon, greater than before.
“I win!” he cried: “the King must pay the score.”
Then Martin, angry, threw his tackle down:
“Rather than lose this game I’d lose my crown!”
“Nay, thou hast lost them both,” the angler said;
And as he spoke a wondrous light was shed
Around his form; he dropped his garments mean,
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.

April, 1904.