The Richest Man on Earth
by Andrew Austin

"I beg you, Father," said the son,
"This war is wicked, wrong.
I wish to stay at home in peace,
Not toil in sieges long.
I am a simple country boy,
I know not why we fight.
Why should I hurt some other man
To prove that you are right?"

The Father bellowed at his boy,
"You worthless, wimpish whelp,
I shame to see the sight of you,
When like a pup you yelp.
You'll go, and gain me glory, boy.
You'll make me proud and hale.
You'll go and fight and prove your might,
And that you dare not fail."

"And when you've won, you'll bring back wealth,
For which I've longed since birth.
The fame you take, your father make
The richest man on earth!"
And so the son, he simply sighed,
And sadly he obeyed:
To foreign lands with sword in hands,
Just like his father bade.

The boy bemoaned the battles wake,
Bemoaned each life he took.
But fought because his father's shouts,
Impaled him like a hook.
And every night bewailed his plight,
And shed his futile tears:
"My friends and I and they we fight,
Are helpless 'gainst our fears."

For all his gentle kindliness,
For all his blood and pain,
For all his valor, all his strength,
In battle he was slain.
And when the victors came they home,
The word went far and fast:
"The seaships churn! The knights return!
The war is won at last!"

"The victors bring the wealth of war,
That earned they in the east!
For see, it's done, the fight is won,
And hence we make to feast."
The gathered throng was steeped in song,
It filled the festooned hall.
But in one corner sat one man,
Ignoring feast and all.

The Jester went and asked of him,
Who mourned and sat alone.
"Why do you look so sullen, sir?
Why is your heart like stone?
The people gather with their lords,
The banners fly they there.
The laughter grows, the mead, it flows,
And revel fills the air!"

"The spoils of war are handed out,
But care you not their worth?
Oh, care you not that you've been made,
The richest man on earth?"
The father's gaze was grim and gray,
Beneath his beaten brow.
"Where once I heard his music play,
I hear no music now."

"The lute unplayed, the lyre unplucked,
The cithern sitting still.
And all is owed to arrogance,
My irksome, iron will.
When he cried out, I shut my ears,
And turned my haughty head.
I should have said I loved my son,
But yelled at him instead."

"What good is gold? What worth is wealth?
I'll make no merry mirth.
Though I have wealth, I've made myself,
The poorest man on earth."

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