There was a wise man in Algiers
Who only spoke once, each two years.
The words thus spake were so profound
That pilgrims came from all world 'round
To hear what truth he would relate.
Then two years more they had to wait.
And so, at the appointed hour,
The throng did come from near and far.
"The world," he said, to all before,
"Is like a well," then said--no more.
As he departed to his tent,
They labored over what he meant.
What heady truth of life and death
Did concentrate in that one breath?
What glory in that metaphor
Could change one's life for evermore?
What ever-reaching thing of awe
To make one shout of life, "Aha!"
And thus they all went on their ways
To distant shores, to count the days
Until they might return again
And hear the explanation then.
In anguish did they bear the time
Till wisdom's secret they would find.
Then time again came two years hence.
They all came back at great expense.
They sold their homes, for one could call
Them naught, against the key to all.
For what meant money or careers?
The key to bliss was in Algiers.
They gathered there, the place renowned.
The old man came, and looked around.
He paced among them, old and young.
He brooded, sighed, and clicked his tongue,
And then, almost as afterthought,
He shrugged, and said, "Well, maybe not."