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King Canute and His Nobles
ANUTE was by his nobles taught to fancy,
That, by a kind of royal necromancy,
He had the power Old Ocean to control.
Down rushed the royal Dane upon the strand,
And issued, like a Solomon, command, --
"Go back, ye waves, you blustering rogues," quoth he;
"Touch not your lord and master, Sea;
For by my power almighty, if you do -- "
Then, staring vengeance, out he held a stick,
Vowing to drive Old Ocean to Old Nick,
Should he even wet the latchet of his shoe.
The Sea retired, -- the monarch fierce rushed on,
And looked as if he'd drive him from the land;
But Sea, not caring to be put upon,
Made for the moment a bold stand:
Not only made a stand did Mr. Ocean,
But to his honest waves he made a motion,
And bid them give the king a hearty trimming.
The orders seemed a deal the waves to tickle,
For soon they put his majesty in pickle,
And sat his royalties, like geese, a swimming.
All hands aloft, with one tremendous roar,
Sound did they make him wish himself on shore;
His head and ears most handsomely they doused, --
Just like a porpoise, with one general shout,
The waves so tumbled the poor king about, --
No anabaptist e'er was half so soused.
At length to land he crawled, a half-drowned thing,
Indeed more like a crab than like a king,
And found his courtiers making rueful faces:
But what said Canute to the lords and gentry,
Who hailed him from the water, on his entry,
All trembling for their lives or places?
"My lords and gentlemen, by your advice,
I've had with Mr. Sea a pretty bustle;
My treatment from my foe not over nice,
Just made a jest for every shrimp and muscle:
A pretty trick for one of my dominion! --
My lords, I thank you for your great opinion.
You'll tell me, p'rhaps, I've only lost one game,
And bid me try another -- for the rubber;
Permit me to inform you all, with shame,
That you're a set of knaves, and I'm a lubber."
John Wolcot ("Peter Pindar")
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