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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873–1904)

The Touching Tenderness of King Karl the First

FOR hunger and thirst King Karl the First

Had a stoical, stern disdain;

The food that he ordered consistently bordered

On what is described as plain.

Much trouble his cook ambitiously took

To tickle his frugal taste,

But all of his savory science and slavery

Ended in naught but waste.

Said the steward: “The thing to tempt the king

And charm his indifferent eye

No doubt is a tasty, delectable pasty—

Make him a blackbird pie!”

The cook at these words baked twenty-four birds,

And set them before the king,

And the two dozen odious, bold, and melodious

Singers began to sing!

The king in surprise said: “Dozens of pies

In the course of our life we’ve tried,

But never before us was served up a chorus

Like this that we hear inside!”

With a thunderous look he ordered the cook

And the steward before him brought,

And with a beatified smile, “He is satisfied!”

Both of these innocents thought.

“Of sinners the worst,” said Karl the First,

“Is the barbarous ruffian that

A song-bird would slaughter, unless for his daughter

Or wife he is trimming a hat.

We’ll punish you so for the future you’ll know

That from mercy you can’t depart.

Observe that your lenient, kind, intervenient

King has a tender heart!”

He saw that the cook in a neighboring brook

Was drowned (as he quite deserved),

And he ordered the steward at once to be skewered.

(The steward was much unnerved.)

“It’s a curious thing,” said the merciful king,

“That monarchs so tender are,

So oft we’re affected that we have suspected that

We are too kind by far.”


THE MORAL: The mercy of men and of kings

Are apt to be wholly dissimilar things.

In spite of “The Merchant of Venice,” we’re pained

To note that the quality’s sometimes strained.