Alfonso X of Castile: The Treasury

THE strange intelligence then reached my ears
That in the land of Egypt lived a man,
Who, wise of wit, subjected to his scan
The dark occurrences of uncome years;
He judged the stars, and by the moving spheres
And aspects of the heavens unveiled the dim
Face of futurity, which then to him
Appeared, as clear to us the past appears.
A yearning towards this sage inspired my pen
And tongue, that instant, with humility
Descending from my height of majesty;
Such mastery has a strong desire o’er men;
My earnest prayers I wrote—I sent—with ten
My noblest envoys, loaded each apart
With gold and silver, which with all my heart
I offered him, but the request was vain.
With much politeness the wise man replied,
“You, sire, are a great king, and I should be
Most glad to serve you, but in such a fee
Of gold and silver gems I take no sort of pride;
Deign, then, yourself to use them; I abide
Content in more abundant wealth; and may
Your treasures profit you in every way
That I can wish, your servant.” I complied;
But sent the stateliest of my argosies,
Which reached, and from the Alexandrian port
Brought safe this cunning master to my court,
Who greeted me with all kind courtesies;
I knowing well his great abilities,
And learning in the movement of the spheres,
Have highly honored him these many years,
For honor is the birthright of the wise.


Translation by J. H. Wiffen (1792-1836)

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