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The Emperor Has No Clothes

I

I’m often told ‘twas a lovely day,

No doubt the sun was warm the air was clear.

In preening pride he stepped out the way,

The crowds ready primed to raise fine cheers.

II

On his way he went, basking in the praise

“Such beauty” and “such marvellous sewing”

He heard on this most wonderful of days,

So much they loved his colours glowing.

III

Those who admired with the finest of taste

Agreed that such style they had never known.

Their own fashions, clothes, all were now but waste,

Tomorrow they would wear what he had worn.

IV

The Emperor knew ‘twas but a noble eye

Could see so fine and then appreciate,

He knew that this they knew, he ambled by

As weavers unseen left the city gate.

V

While all could see what they all said they saw

Alone in the crowd it was one small boy

Who cried out, “look, but he is in the raw?”

His tiny voice burst false deceiving joy.

VI

First in horror to open mouths hands flew

Now being caught none knew where to look.

The boy said what he saw and it was true,

Thus self-deceit became an open book.

VII

Far better now to laugh, to point the finger,

Not at themselves, of course, but at their king.

So now the poor man could no more linger,

Tears filled his eyes, they began to sting.

VIII

They jeered, they sneered, they drove him away

Their own role, the pompous part they played

Was something they could never admit or say,

All hoped that with time all this would fade.

IX

The mother and father of that young boy

Had worries and cares and fears of their own

As those who tell the truth must often cry

Unwanted by the crowd or by the throne.

X

For he is not welcome who shows the truth,

And cannot stay long in his native land.

Like prophets of old they will him pursue,

Exile is the only card in his hand.

XI

In the dark of that night when soldiers came

Searching and seeking out a voice to still,

They played their own part in life’s cruel game

Fulfilling their own master’s wicked will.

XII

To save face all round for all concerned

The boy and his family they now would seize.

Dangerous truth had punishment earned,

Simple words those in power did not please.

 

XIII

He was gone like the weavers far away,

His parents knew what would come, what to do.

Truth meant here was a place they could not stay,

Lingering a choice they would surely rue.

XIV

Going over the hills and far away,

A difficult dangerous road they took.

Among those people they could no more stay

Safe now they’d write their lives as their own book.

 

Original painting by Iris Meade, Wexford based artist, used with kind permission.