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Canute And Aelfgifu

King Canute

by Stephen Masty

Canute, the king of Englishmen,

Norwegians and the Danes,

Had glib courtiers, you may be sure,

Who soothed for every sinecure

Or privilege they might procure,

And caused him royal pains.

 

He bade them all take up his throne

Despite the morning damp,

And carry it into the sea,

With king and court into the sea,

And hoped such sycophants might be

Inflicted with a cramp.

 

Canute

King Canute

He ordered then the Seas to halt,

And Tides all in a minute;

His courtiers said, “As well you should!

“Your policy is very good!”

Such flattery, they understood,

Could turn some profit in it.

 

As he foresaw, the mighty Tide

Did tremble not with dread;

For soon did every wave begin,

From cloaks to underwear within,

To soak the courtiers to the skin;

And then their monarch said:

 

“Let all men know how worthless

Is the power of a king,

Apart from Him who made us all!”

Now damp and feeling rather small,

His chastened toadies heard the call

And felt the message sting.

 

With that from off his noble head

He took his golden crown,

And hung it on a Cross that day,

So there it evermore might stay

To help his subjects, that they may

Remember up from down.

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Published: May 19, 2013
Author
Stephen Masty
Stephen Masty (1954-2015) was a Senior Contributor to The Imaginative Conservative. He was a journalist, a development expert, and a speechwriter for three US presidents, British royalty and heads of government in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. He spent most of his adulthood working in South Asia including Afghanistan, and he was a writer, poet and artist in Kathmandu.
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