davidbrucehaiku: life of a scarecrow






Life of a scarecrow

Lots of sunshine and fresh air

Be a friend to birds


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s HENRY V: A Retelling in Prose — Act 1, Scene 1

— 1.1 —

In an antechamber in King Henry V’s palace — the Palace of Westminster in London — the Archbishop of Canterbury said to the Bishop of Ely, “My lord, I’ll tell you something important: that same bill is now being proposed that in 1410 — the eleventh year of the reign of our last King, Henry IV, was likely to have been passed, and indeed it would have been passed except that the violent and unruly times turned people’s attention to other, more urgent matters.”

“But how, my lord, shall we resist it now?” the Bishop of Ely asked.

“We must think about how to resist this bill,” the Archbishop of Canterbury replied. “If it passes against our wishes, we — the Church — lose more than half of our possessions. This bill, if passed into law, would strip away all the temporal and secular lands that devout men in their wills have given to the Church. These lands are valuable. The people who would strip these lands away from us believe that the lands’ value would pay for, to the King’s honor, fifteen Earls and fifteen hundred Knights, and also six thousand and two hundred good esquires; in addition, their value would maintain a hundred well-supplied almshouses to support lazars — the word comes from Lazarus the beggar and refers to chronically ill people who cannot work — and weak old people who cannot work with their bodies. Also, these lands’ value would add a thousand pounds annually to the treasury of the King. All of that wealth would be taken from the Church, which is exempt from paying taxes on its lands and wealth.”

“If our lands and wealth were a cup filled with wine, this bill would drink deep,” the Bishop of Ely said.

“This bill would drink all the wine from the cup,” the Archbishop of Canterbury exaggerated.

“How can we prevent this bill from passing and becoming law?”

“The King is full of grace and fair regard,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “He has Christian goodness, and he is respected.”

“He is a true lover of the Holy Church.”

“He is a good man, but his behavior when he was youthful was undisciplined and reckless and showed no promise of future excellence,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “At that time, he was commonly known by common men as Prince Hal. However, when the breath left the body of his father, King Henry IV, immediately Prince Hal’s wildness, subdued by him, seemed to die and leave his body. As soon as Prince Hal’s father the King died, spiritual contemplation and careful thought and awareness of his position came to the Prince. This spiritual contemplation, like an angel, came to the Prince and whipped the offending Adam out of him. Adam committed the first sin, and sin now departed from Prince Hal’s body. With sin gone, his body was like a paradise, one that could envelop and contain celestial spirits. It was like an angel took possession of the body of the person who then became King Henry V.

“Never has such a scholar so suddenly been made; Prince Hal immediately changed from a dissolute youth to a sober and serious King — one with a knowledge of theology. Never has reformation come in such a flood; the rush of flowing water scrubbed away Prince Hal’s faults. The thoroughness of the cleaning process was like that of Hercules cleaning the Augean stables. King Augeas had over a thousand cattle, and his stables had not been cleaned for over 30 years. Hercules cleaned the stables in a single day by diverting the course of a river so that it flowed through the stables and washed away the manure.

“Prince Hal had been filled with willfulness and with unworthy desires that he repeatedly satisfied. Never so quickly has Hydra-headed willfulness departed as it departed from the body of this King Henry V. The Hydra was a nine-headed serpent-like sea monster. Each time one head was cut off, two more heads sprung up in its place. Hercules was able to kill the Hydra with the help of his nephew Iolaus, who used a fire-torch to cauterize the stump left behind each time a head was cut off. Unworthy desires are like the heads of the Hydra. Each time a person gives in to one unworthy desire, two more unworthy desires spring up. King Henry V was able to kill each unworthy desire the way that Hercules killed the heads of the Hydra.”

“We are blessed in the change,” the Bishop of Ely said.

“Listen to King Henry V discuss matters of divinity, and you will admire his thoughts,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “You will even have an inward wish that the King would be made a prelate — a bishop or holder of some other high ecclesiastical office. Listen to him discuss the affairs of state, and you would say that he has long been making a deep study of government. Listen to him discuss warfare, and you shall hear a discourse that is so well spoken that it is like music. Ask him about any judicial argument involving politics, and he will know the pros and the cons and the intricacies. Even if the argument is like the Gordian knot — a knot so intricate that people thought that it was impossible to untie — King Henry V will untie that knot as easily as he unties the knot of his garter that keeps his stocking up. Alexander the Great ‘untied’ the Gordian knot by cutting it in two with his sword, but King Henry V is the superior of Alexander the Great. When King Henry V unties the Gordian knot of a political controversy, the air, which is free to go wherever it pleases, is still. The ears of men are filled with quiet wonder as they closely listen to his sweet and honeyed sentences.

“Practical life experience is more important than theory — he could not speak so wisely about these matters unless he applied such wisdom to his own life. We must wonder where King Henry V acquired such wisdom. After all, he filled his youth with inclinations toward foolish behavior. As a youth, he enjoyed companions who were uneducated and ignorant, without manners, and frivolous. He filled his hours with riotous revels, banquets, and entertainments. No one ever saw him engage in study, retire from company, and enjoy privacy so that he could reflect upon important matters. No, Prince Hal was always in public and in crowds of the common people.”

“Perhaps he is like the fruit of strawberry plants,” the Bishop of Ely said. “Our culture believes that most plants are affected by the plants of other species that grow near them. Therefore, we do not allow onions and garlic to grow near most fruit bushes. However, such plants as onions and garlic do not negatively affect strawberry bushes. Strawberry bushes grow underneath the nettle, and their wholesome strawberries thrive and ripen best when the bushes’ neighbors are vegetables of baser quality. Like the strawberry bushes, Prince Hal hid the seriousness of his thoughts; he kept them secret. In his case, the veil was one of wildness. But like summer grass, which grows fastest by night, Prince Hal’s seriousness and wisdom, although unseen by others, yet grew because it is their nature to grow.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury said, “What you say must be correct because otherwise we would have to say that the change of Prince Hal’s character to the character of King Henry V is the result of a miracle, and the only true miracles are those that are recorded in the Bible. Therefore, we have to find a natural cause for the change in his character and how he has been brought to perfection.”

“My good lord, what can we do now to stop or mitigate the effects of the bill that has been put forward to the House of Commons? We do not want to have more than half of the Church’s wealth seized by the government. Does his majesty favor this bill, or not?”

“He seems impartial,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “Or, rather, I should say that he leans more toward us than toward the people who support this bill. He leans more toward us because I have made an offer to his majesty, following my meeting with other clergy. This offer relates to important matters concerning France that are of concern now. To his grace the King, I have offered to give a greater sum than ever at one time the clergy has given to any of his predecessors.”

“What does King Henry V think about this offer?”

“He regards it favorably,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “However, there was not time enough then for him to hear, as I perceived his grace would have liked to have heard, the particular facts and the indisputable arguments that prove that he has true claims to particular Dukedoms in France and indeed to the crown and throne of France. Henry V, King of England, ought to also be the King of France; Henry V is directly descended from his great-grandfather, King Edward III of England, and this gives him a claim to be King of France. The mother of Edward III is the daughter of King Philip IV of France, and so Henry V of England is directly descended from King Philip III through the female line.”

“What happened to interrupt your conversation with King Henry V?” the Bishop of Ely asked.

“The French ambassador arrived and asked for an audience with the King to be scheduled. The hour, I think, has come for us to go and listen to the King. Is it four o’clock?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then let us go into the King’s presence so that we can hear the French ambassador’s message. I can guess the content of that message even before the Frenchman speaks a word of it.”

“I will go with you,” the Bishop of Ely said. “I long to hear the French ambassador’s message.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


David Bruce: Good Deeds Anecdotes

Zoe Green, a woman who also goes by the online name Pea Green Girl, lives in Bournemouth, England. She writes, “From my perspective, Shelbourne Road is just another long, fairly anonymous Bournemouth street. Nothing really happens here. Other than the occasional social gathering in the corner shop, we go about our daily routines side by side and yet our paths never seem to overlap. I only really know my next door neighbour Paul and his dog Foo. I don’t know who lives opposite, or 2 houses down, which really makes for quite a sad state of affairs. So how can I make a difference? One smile at a time.” On Happy Street Day, she rose early — 5 a.m. — and decorated the street. She wrote, “I don’t intend to change the world, but I know that if you brighten one person’s day they are highly likely to brighten someone else’s. Happy Street Day took place on Monday 15th April 2013. It was my personal mission to bring some unexpected cheer to my fellow Shelbournians, encouraging them only to stop for a moment and talk to one another. This project was about inspiring people. So take my ideas and share them with your community. Go on, spread a little joy.” Pea Green Girl pasted a “Good Morning!” sign on the bridge. She also stuck Post-Its with encouraging messages on a telephone pole, and she put balloons at a bus shelter, post-box, and telephone booth. Anthea Quay of Designtaxi.ocm wrote this about the project: “Green’s little project aimed to inspire people, and it must’ve brightened up someone else’s day—and it was her tiny step to changing the world, one smile at a time. […] If you left your house one morning and walked down the street to find it filled with lovely signs and motifs, [wouldn’t] you feel like nothing could get you down?”

Herman Autrey remembers a good deed that Fats Waller did for a bunch of kids during a theater engagement in Washington D.C. While Fats was taking a break in an alley early in the engagement, a kid approached him and asked to be let in the show free because he had no money. Fats told the kid to come back and bring a bunch of his friends with him. Lots of kids showed up, and Fats treated them to candy and let them in his show free. The owner of the theater was unhappy because the kids were taking up seats for free that other customers could have paid for, but the owner became happy at the next show and all the shows that followed because the kids told their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles how good Fats was, and the parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles bought tickets to hear Fats for themselves. By the way, Fats Waller was very creative musically, but he did not handle money matters well. Once, he was in a hamburger place with Fletcher Henderson and Fletcher’s musicians. Fats ate nine hamburgers and then discovered that he did not have any money. Fats offered to write nine songs for Fletcher if he would pay for the nine hamburgers that Fats had eaten. Fletcher accepted the offer, and Fats got manuscript paper and quickly wrote nine songs, including “Henderson Stomp,” “Hot Mustard,” “St. Louis Shuffle,” “Variety Stomp,” and Whiteman Stomp.” Fletcher was a good man, and he did more than just pay for the hamburgers—he gave Fats an additional $10 for each song.

In November 2012, Hager Elsayed, a teacher assistant, lost her princess-cut engagement ring at a New York City subway station. When she noticed that the ring was missing, she thought that she had left it at home, but she searched thoroughly and could not find it. That is when she realized that it must have slipped off her finger. She said, “I guessed that since I lost a few pounds, it slipped off.” Her fiancé, Juan Rivera, a fireproofer, had worked many hours of overtime to buy the ring for her. He said, “I was devastated. I was like, ‘I’m still paying for that ring. How could you do that!’” In January, Ms. Elsayed was at the Fort Hamilton Parkway N-train station. She saw the station agent who had been working there when she lost her ring and asked him, “Did anyone by any chance find an engagement ring?” The station agent, Anthony Tiralosi, said that an elderly Asian woman who spoke no English had found the ring and turned it in. Mr. Tiralosi said, “I knew it was an engagement ring because I used to sell jewelry. As soon as I saw it, I knew the ring was worth at least $4,000. It was a gorgeous ring. I said, ‘Gee, whoever lost this must feel sick.’” He added, “I told my kids that night about the ring. I wanted them to know the importance of returning something that didn’t belong to them.” Ms. Elsayed got the ring back after she provided proof that the ring was hers—including photographs and a proof of purchase from her fiancé. She is grateful to the anonymous Chinese woman who found and turned in the ring. She said, “The whole moral of the story is there are still good people out there.”

People sometimes write Ana Samways, author of the always entertaining column Sideswipe that appears almost daily in the New Zealand Herald. For example, Adrian wrote this about a good deed performed by the Ponsonby Fire Station: “I’m part of the Big Brother programme and my little brother Carlo and I were out for a walk along Ponsonby Rd when he saw some firefighters sitting in the fire truck. We stood there for a minute in case the fire truck was about to race off and the men on duty were nice enough to roll up the door and invite Carlo in to sit in the fire truck and tell us a bit about the station. Carlo was really stoked with it and even got a little goodie bag which he was excited to take home and rip into. It was an extremely nice thing to do.” Ponsonby is an inner-city suburb of Auckland City, New Zealand.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Edgar Lee Masters: Francis Turner (Spoon River Anthology)

I COULD not run or play
In boyhood.
In manhood I could only sip the cup,
Not drink—For scarlet-fever left my heart diseased.
Yet I lie here
Soothed by a secret none but Mary knows:
There is a garden of acacia,
Catalpa trees, and arbors sweet with vines—
There on that afternoon in June
By Mary’s side—
Kissing her with my soul upon my lips
It suddenly took flight.


Lao-Tzu #74: If you do not fear death, then how can it intimidate you?



If you do not fear death,

then how can it intimidate you?

If you aren’t afraid of dying,

there is nothing you can not do.


Those who harm others

are like inexperienced boys

trying to take the place of a great lumberjack.

Trying to fill his shoes will only get them seriously hurt.


Tao Te Ching

By Lao-Tzu

A translation for the public domain by j.h.mcdonald, 1996


Aesop: The Milkmaid and Her Pail

Patty the Milkmaid was going to market carrying her milk in a Pail on her head. As she went along she began calculating what she would do with the money she would get for the milk. ‘I’ll buy some fowls from Farmer Brown,’ said she, ‘and they will lay eggs each morning, which I will sell to the parson’s wife. With the money that I get from the sale of these eggs I’ll buy myself a new dimity frock and a chip hat; and when I go to market, won’t all the young men come up and speak to me! Polly Shaw will be that jealous; but I don’t care. I shall just look at her and toss my head like this. As she spoke she tossed her head back, the Pail fell off it, and all the milk was spilt. So she had to go home and tell her mother what had occurred.

‘Ah, my child,’ said the mother, 

‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.’


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