The princes of men have always lived
In fear—without this secret, nothing
In history makes sense. Though
Since men must outnumber princes,
Here is never a purely irrational fear,
In the greenhouse of the high mind
It flowers wildly. It throws off
Grand fruits and petals of fantasy,
Black pearls of paranoid romance.
Your prince (or princess) is persecuted:
A carbonaro, a gutter-thief,
A Jew in Germany, a Moor in Spain.
When like Prince Hal he cavorts
Nightly with genuine guttersnipes,
Only his princely conscience knows
The difference—not even the police.
What a version of oneself! Immensely
Rich and entertaining—your life, as
The picaresque of some noble rogue.
And who shall deny the rank stink
Of the pigman? The goat-butcher,
Brewer, or prosperous tanner of hides?
Such men, foes of Old Pistol
And Plantagenet alike, these
Fat and common simple men,
Would eat guttersnipe or prince
Raw, no salt—if once they could—
And in strict mountain of muscle—
Not even to return to their odor—
Do betower all the world’s princes.
“Uneasy is the head that wears the crown.”
Power is not actually about arm-wrestling,
Except when it is. This precious jewel,
Power, which makes a prince a prince,
Must be shielded in lead and velvet
From the uncircumcised pigman
And his fat army of armed arms.
Yet our prince is prince of pigmen too!
His head, vast and ecumenical, contains
Multitudes—rules multitudes, selah—
Since to contain all, is to reign over all,
Is to tolerate all. Yet one mind-flea
Perturbs his peace: to tolerate all—
When not all tolerate him? His mind,
Open, but not so open his brain
Falls out, finds a clever correction:
He tolerates all that tolerate him.
This prince assumes his final form
Of contempt for the hateful, revolting
Pigman—who from spite resents him.
He does love all who do respect him…
The paradox of tolerance is no paradox.
There is no such thing. No power ever
Tolerated its enemies, or had trouble
Tolerating its friends, fans, and donors.
The one difference: not every regime
Is ready to market this brazen brand…
Yet is not the ideal sound? No regime
May tolerate its enemies. A person can.
Not against a knife on the street! Yet
Few enemies appear with such arms,
And fewer still enemies like these—
Though I admit I did get death threats
For a poetry reading last month—
But nothing happened, nor is any blade
Of use against any such foe—no,
When we look upon these princes,
Foolish and arrogant as they parade,
Risen from the taverns now to ride
Splendent in their glorious clothes,
We see that we must tolerate them.
First, because they are there. Second,
Because they are not always wrong.
And third, to tolerate is to understand
And arms are hopeless to the humble:
Only in wisdom did the Christ prevail—
A meek motto for a new intelligence.