I've Just Arrived From The Court Of Your Enemy And It Was So Meager – Unlike This Court, Which Is So Opulent

Ball at the Valois Court
Feast of Attila

Having so recently visited the court of your enemy, I thought it might please you to know just how scanty and inadequate his hall, how insubstantial and unadorned his retinue by comparison. Even as a new arrival to your court, who is scarcely acquainted with your customs and aromas, it is plain that yours is more opulent by far.

Insufficient! That is precisely the word, majesty – precisely the word I would have used. The mot juste. It was hardly a court at all! An assembly, maybe. A gathering of rude chieftains, with dogs and chickens and humble straw all strewn across a dirt floor. Of pomp there was very little. And no resplendence –  no resplendence at all. I wonder that he calls himself a king! But of course perhaps he doesn't. I would call him a popinjay, only where a popinjay is extravagant he is drab. Less than drab – bare! His dress was as bare as his cupboards, Lord, I assure you, if the scrimping board he set before me was any indication. Whereas it is plain to even the latest visitor to your kingdom that your cupboards and coffers are overflowing. You are familiar with the Horn of Plenty? I thought you must be. No sooner had I set foot into this part of the country did I mark the difference, and I said to myself, on my honor I did, even though I am not usually given to autoconversation, "This is just like the cornucopia!" Abundance, plenty, bounty, prosperity...things seem so ample here. Even the poor men in your kingdom sit down on velveted chairs for regular meals of hot white bread, ruddy apples, and fragrant nutmeats, and for this they must have occasion to thank you regularly, O plushest of kings.

Court of Two Sicilies

Lord, I would call it paltry! That is the precise word I would have used for the welcome your enemy gave me, although I scarcely like to call him your enemy, since it seems to imply an equality of situation between you two that I can hardly countenance but for laughing. Ha ha! He, your enemy – I should as soon call a toad in the graveyard your enemy!

I consider it a wonder that he thinks of himself thus! Does a toad in the mud consider the sun his rival? A toad in the mud is certainly no worse-dressed than the courtiers of your enemy, whom I have recently beheld with my own eyes, and had it not been for the testimony of those eyes, good sir, I would never have believed there existed on God's earth any royal attendants so badly turned-out. I wondered if they had been dressed by mice – but of course they could not have spared any mice to make valets of 'em, for they needed all they could for the king's table! Ha hah! And hah!

Ball at the Valois Court

Lord, I am but a newcomer in your green and brimming lands, and have no reason to tell you anything but the truth: The lowliest cupbearer in your sumptuous yet tasteful hall, the boy who scrapes the ashes from your hearth, are both themselves twelve times as splendid, as tall, and as well-dressed as the vizier of your enemy. It does not bear comparison! Your second junior steward would dazzle your enemy's Council of Twelve Dukes! Could they but behold the neat calfskin of his ordinary weekday shoes, they would scream and fall into fits, and choke on their own envious tongues.

And his sons! Emperor of kings, it nearly escaped my notice that he had any, so pale and attenuated and without style were the few scraps of offspring he had littered helter-skelter about the room (which I could scarcely tell whether it was his feasting hall, his reception chambers, or his chancery court, it was so ill-lit and badly-organized). And his daughters, if he had any – they may have been a band of thieves and murderers awaiting execution, I could scarcely say – no bearing! No dignity of carriage! And their deportment! I would have liked to have seen it, I should say, for they had none to speak of either.

Whereas your sons, O great heart, are more strapping than strapping, as graceful as they are husky, as sturdy and swollen with health as the mighty aurochs, and with beards like oiled waterfalls. What a legacy! What a triumph! A sea of marvelous sons, each more imposing and gracious than the last. Compared with you, great lord, and the great fleet of your mighty progeny, your enemy might rightly be compared to the night – absolutely sonless!

Fath Ali Shah with sons

If it please you, darling Papa, I will here pause my wanderings, and share with the rest of your glittering Court further details on the impoverished condition of the man you once called your rival, who is now as greatly reduced as an unwrapped cheese in winter. There are already so many places set for dinner – I shall simply sit myself here, where I cannot possibly be in anyone's way (truly our great bouncing Father, the king, is so generous in his wealth that he could feed a thousand beggars a day and never notice the change in his own table), and share what I have seen for the edification and enjoyment of all. I shall begin at once. The chairs in your enemy's court, my good baby of the world, are nothing to yours; they are rotted cabbages and pig bones, and there is no pleasing symmetry of design in their arrangement. His next failure of beneficence is this...

[Images via Wikimedia Commons]