The poet and the King17

There was once a King who used to appreciate poets and learned men in his kingdom. He would always shower gifts upon them and hold various contests in which he would give them awards.

There happened to be a poor poet who was poor not only in his outer life but also in his poetry. Everybody used to go to the palace and recite poems they had written about the King, and appreciate and flatter the King. But this particular poet would not or could not go.

His wife was very upset over this, and she kept telling him, “One day you have to go. How long can we remain poor? We have children, and we cannot meet with our expenses. You must go!”

The poet did not want to anger his wife because she had a bad temper and he was afraid she might do something drastic. So he went to the King and said, “I have written an excellent poem on you.”

The King said, “All right, leave it here and come back tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” the poet asked. “You won’t read it today?”

“No, tomorrow,” the King said.

The following day, when the poet returned to the palace, the King was giving away alms to the poor. Many people were standing in line, and each one came up and received something from the King. Then the King started calling the poets to come to him. But the King did not call out the name of this particular poet. The poet was puzzled and surprised, but he did not know what to do.

At long last the King turned to this particular poet and said, “I have given my alms for today. It is all over. We have had a wonderful meeting and everything is all over. You go home and take a shower and have something to eat.”

The poet said, “When shall I come again?”

The King said, “Why will you have to come again? Don’t you have a copy of the poem which you have left me? When I have time, I just read the poems. I have already read your poem. It is not necessary for you to come back.”

The poet said, “Lord, Lord, I am very poor.”

The King said, “I know you are very poor. You told me some sweet words in your poem, and I am also telling you some sweet words: please go home, take a shower and eat.”

The poet said, “I have come here not to have appreciation for my poems, O great and rich man. I have come for something else.”

“O poet,” the King said, “your poem was beautiful, the metre was perfect, everything that a good poem needs your poem had in every way. Your poem about me was perfect. You have tremendous capacity, but you should not waste your capacity in writing such beautiful poems about a human being. You must write about God. He is the Creator, the Almighty. You have got divine capacity so you have to utilise it only for God. This kind of flattery I don’t deserve. If it is sincere then I don’t deserve it. If it is flattery, I don’t need it. Only God deserves this kind of praise, and infinitely more. Since you have the capacity, you write about God; write about the Supreme Poet Himself. By writing about Him, you will get more capacity and you will write infinitely better poems.” The King then threw away the poem which the poet had written about him.

The poor poet said to himself, “Alas, alas what am I going to tell my wife? To please her I came. To make her rich, I came. Now I have not got a rupee from the King. O God, bad luck is everywhere. He who is cursed with bad luck will have the same fate everywhere, for bad luck knows how to dog a human’s fate.”

GIM 97. 24 January 1979