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The Fool's Prayer

Words by Edward .R. Sill
Music © by Elizabeth Burnham

The royal feast was done; the king
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And too his jester cried; "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the monarch's silken stool;
His pleading voice arose; "O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

'Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'Tis by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
Our hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heartstrings of a friend.

The ill-timed truth we might have kept-
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say-
Who knows how grandly it had rung!

Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave and scourge the tool
Who did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The king, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"