The Prince and the Poet
©2007 Garrett Clevenger
“Poetry is dumb!” cried the King’s second son as he threw down the book of poems his sister gave him. Prince Stephan would have none of it!
“Why, oh, why do my subjects continue to rhyme their feelings with seasons, their desires with flowers, their fears with the waxing and waning of the moon? There is no room for similes when work is to be done! These subjects are like gravity, only working when pushed off the edge! They obviously have too much time on their hands, causing them to play with words, like a child plays with a toy, or a girl plays with a boy!”
He laid in his bed a little while longer, until hunger pulled him off of his comfortable mattress.
“Servant! Get me my slippers!” the Prince ordered. “And burn this rubbish of a book, immediately!”
The door to the dining hall was held open by the guard on duty, his eyes fixed straight ahead, unable to see the irritation, dancing like a devil, in Prince Stephan’s eyes. At the table sat his sister and older brother.
“Good of you to join us, dear Stephan! I was afraid you may have been nailed to your bed!” teased his sister, who so much enjoyed seeing her brother’s bother. "I see you look rather, annoyed."
“Nailed I was not, dear Joy! No, I just was reading the book of poems you gave me and as usual I don’seeet why you enjoy poems so much! I’ve never seen such a waste of paper, words and space! ‘Gilded irony’ this, ‘green with envy’ that! Who is it that has such time to convolute our language so much? It’s either too much wine or to little hard work! Give me reports on the war or receipts from the store. Tell me the state of the bank, not the simile of the moment. If I ever meet a poet, I’ll be sure to give him a piece of my mind, 'til he knows it, like his favorite poem!”
“Oh, brother! My bothered sibling! Why do you despise this art so? Is it because you’re barbaric little mind cannot wrap around the ideas these word arrangements represent, or are you so distant you cannot relate? Can’t you see the beauty of the simile? Don’t you desire more after reading a great metaphor? Why does language have to be so cut and dry, like the laundry our maids hang on the line? I, for one, like nothing more than passing time reading poems from a great mind. Even if I don’t understand right away, I can read it again and again as the meaning takes shape. Sometimes solving the puzzle is the reward, though often, just the feeling invoked in me from the lingual lover is more satisfying then ordering our servants around!”
“Oh, sister! My softer sibling! You have not tasted sweat after a battle! You have not felt the thrill of chopping the enemy’s head off! You have not experienced subjugating who you conquer with your rod of manhood, for you are of the weaker sex! You take great joy in unpuzzling mish-mashed words, for that is all you will ever solve! But I don’t feel sorry for you. You deserve to have your tenderness stroked by the wordsmith. Perhaps your poet is a seducer in disguise, his passion unable to lift a battle sword, only fancy, sharpened words. Perhaps I have more in common with these fore-lorn fellows then I imagine!”
“Such deep thoughts, brother! Perhaps you are on to something,” said his princess sister.
“I have an idea,” the older, silent brother finally offered. “Everyman uses the tools he is born with to insure his survival and sow his seeds. Perhaps we can perform an experiment of sorts? Can a Prince become a poet and a poet become a Prince? What if circumstances were different and Stephan could no longer rely on his princely means to insure conquest? Would he learn proficiently to manipulate words poetically, like he manipulates his sword violently? What if the greatest poet in our land was brought to our castle and treated like he was a member of our Royal Family. Would the gift of poetic gab be meaningless? Would he become a leader among men by his boldness? What say you, brother? In the name of science, would you surrender your position and seek your poetic self?”
“Brother Charles! You can’t be serious! I don’t want to become a poet! Would I have our father laugh at me as I write lines not even I understand? Would I leave our mother in tears, fearing for my well being as I live among the peasants? What man would give up his kingdom for a cause he has no belief in? I suggest you volunteer yourself. When you leave, though I may be sad, knowing I’m next in line will block any tears I may be tempted to shed!”
“Yes, you must really love your older brother to be so honest. Suerly, my offer was in jest. Who among the high class wants to attend the School of Hard Knocks? We most certainly could find a poet to take your place and perhaps he would learn to use less words. But to go from riches to rags to prove a point is as unrealistic as the moon lighting up the sun. Nature’s laws must be obeyed.”
With that final thought, the Royal siblings finished their meal, topping it off with the last of the wine.
That night, Prince Stephan soundly slept, content with a full belly and the warm glow from the evening wine. In his sleep, he had a dream, a dream so strange he would not have remembered it had the servant obeyed his order and burned the book of poems on his bedstand.
“That was odd,” the prince thought as the memory of the dream crept out of his brain into his awareness.
He was on a beach, all alone, under the sun, on top of the sand that absorbed the warmth from above. The tide was creeping in, lapping first his feet with each wave, then his legs and torso. The water was cold, but it was a nice complement to the heat he felt above and below.
When the waves were reaching his head, he thought he should move, for he did not want to get water up his nose. But he felt compelled to lie still, for the feeling of each wave was exhilerating. He let the tide rise higher and higher, until time between laps became shorter and shorter, until there was no gap at all. He was totally submerged by the icy water. He began to panic, for what Prince in his right mind would not fight death, would choose to drown instead? He tried to lift his head above the water, but the more he struggled to rise up, the further he sank into the sand.
At that point, he realized he was not drowning. He was not breathing either, but he could hear the beating of his heart that somehow was louder than the crashing of the water.
Sound under water was muffled, yet distinct. He tried to distinguish the different sounds he heard. There was the constant roaring that came from close and far away. The sand as it rushed to and fro, carried by the passing waves. The rocks tumbling and breaking apart into ever smaller fragments to become the countless sand grains he laid upon. He heard little fishies swm by, only to be chased, attacked and eaten by those higher up the food chain. Were they screaming and crying in their fatal agony?
If only the Prince knew the language of fish. He would know what they said, for in the distance he heard animal sounds, voices from these marine dwellers. The further he heard into the ocean, the stranger and more complex the language became.
“Is this communication I hear?” thought the Prince. “Surely they cannot be talking to each other. Why have I never heard of such a thing?”
The more he listened, the more convinced he became that there were, indeed, animals talking in the ocean. But what were they saying? The Prince would have to wait to find out the answer to that question, for he was awaken by his sister’s laugh as she walked past his bedroom.
We learned as children that there are no coincidences when higher learning is involved. That hammer that smashed your finger? Bad coordination that instantly gets better if you desire to not have sore fingers. That old lady needing help to cross the street? If you were not so kind you would find that in your haste to get to point B, you would have been laid to waste by the bus on Route A.
So it should come as no surprise that in his newly awoken state of mind, Prince Stephan would open up the book of poems to this:
Where little fishies swim.
Where primal life began.
Where our salty tears make their way
after living through another day.
Where waves originate.
Where whales get to mate.
Where coastlines fall away
after eroding everyday.
Larger than land.
Louder than a band.
Maker of sand.
Deeper than man.
Where horizon’s endless.
Where a Prince finds bliss.
Where ships sail away
into a new day.
Where survival is it.
Where there’s no time to sit.
Where poems are far away
for there is no time today.
The Prince smiled and laughed out loud. “Surely this is still part of my dream?”
No, it was a new day, in a place of leisure where a Prince can lay and plenty of reasons to enjoy some words instead of needing to sharpen swords, in the life of a Prince, where he was a poet, he just did not yet, but would soon, know it.