- IN THE SCULLERY -

The king ignored the sodden guests,
 Awash in ale and mirth
Who'd gathered to commemorate
 Three decades since his birth.

Instead he gazed upon the moors,
 A goblet tipped in hand,
And contemplated secret thoughts
 Too deep to understand.

What happened to those merry times
 Since first becoming king?
When did the sound of clinking gold
 Deny his heart to sing?

Where were those vast exotic feasts
 Which tempted taste and smell,
Or clever winks from ladies fair
 Beguiling with their spell?

His goblet clattered to the floor,
 A symbol of his shame–
Adorned in gold and precious jewels,
 Yet empty all the same.

He sank defeated to his knees
 And bowed his throbbing head,
With anguished groans between his lips
 From prayers remained unsaid.

From somewhere close to heaven’s heart
 In answer to his plea,
A song sprang forth where shadows danced
 Down in the scullery.

It drifted up the kitchen stairs
 With clear and measured tones,
Whilst torches flickered in delight
 Against the blackened stones.

Despite the pandemonium
 Which howled beyond control,
The king caught snatches of the song
 Which soothed his troubled soul.

"What singing, this?" he mused aloud
 Amid the drunken din
As he listened o'er the strains
 Of flute and mandolin.

Determined to unearth the source,
 The king stalked forth alone
Through murky halls and corridors,
 Then down steep steps of stone.

The song grew sweeter with each step;
 The king increased his stride
Until he found the proper door–
 He stopped and peeked inside.

The scullery was dark and damp,
 The stench was quite acute;
A young girl bursting forth with song
 Was sorting vats of fruit.

She sang of profound happiness–
 The very thing he sought!
He must learn what this peasant knew
 Which he, the king, did not.

"You there!" called the tipsy king,
 "Have you a hidden flask?
Methinks you are too overjoyed
 For such a mundane task."


"Oh no, m'lord!" She curtsied low,
 "I have no taste for wine
This happiness within my soul
 Flows from a different Vine;

I would not see my Master's face
 With vision dim and blurred,
Or sing clear praises of His name
 With lyrics thick and slurred."


"How intrishting," replied the king,
 "Forgive my interruption..."
But quickly lost his fleeting thought
 Due to a brash disruption.

Outside the doorway in the hall
 A flock of maids appeared,
Their aprons filled with filthy plates
 From tables they had cleared.

They scorned and mocked the lowly girl
 The whole time they were there,
And heaped foul insults at her feet
 Among the tableware.

Asked the king, "Why do you stay
 Upon your own accord?
This is a drab and thankless job
 With no perceived reward;

I fear someday you’ll scheme to steal
 A golden cup or plate
And pawn it for a tidy sum
 To flee your hopeless fate."


A wave of horror bleached her face,
 "Oh no, m'lord!" she cried,
"I have no need to rob or steal
 My Master will provide;

Although my days are long and cruel,
 To leave would be remiss–
If this is where my Master wills,
 No grander place exists."


No sooner had she spoken thus,
 There came a plaintive cry;
A hungry cat limped through the door
 And caught the maiden's eye.

Without delay or second thought
 She scraped the scattered dishes
And soon produced a kitty meal
 Of mutton, fowl and fishes.

The king scowled at the feline fare,
 "Why waste food on that beast?
You could have kept it for yourself
 And had a fancy feast."


"Not me, m'lord," the girl replied,
 "I heed my Master's voice,
And help those weaker than myself

 I have no other choice;

For me to gorge while others starve
 Would seem a bit absurd–
I’d rather read aloud tonight
 And feast upon His Word."


The king reached out and took her hand,
 "You are what I desire
I've never seen such overflow
 Of virtues I require.

I beg you, teach me how to live
 A more abundant life
And help me be a better king
 By sitting as my wife."


"I'm truly flattered," she replied,
 "But I'm not whom you seek;
It is my Master who supplies
 These things of which you speak;

If you will give your heart to Him
 And for your sins atone,
My Master will abide within
 The man upon the throne."


She threw the king a gentle kiss
 Then like a dream was gone...

...And to his chambers he retired
    To learn the Master's song.