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Darius the Great

An Essay on Forgiveness,_Persepolis.JPG

I realized one day that it was very difficult for me to remain angry at anyone. Concerned by this, I immediately examined the cause of my agreeability, and arrived at several theories:

My memory is very poor, or my nature is very amenable, or conflict I disdain. Therefore a wrong I have suffered remains not long in my heart. Often the offender is startled to find my returning to them, in all good graces, as though the offense had not been, bringing happy greetings and gifts to boot.

Of course I was aghast at this amenable quality of my Self! I’d therefore resolved to alter it. I would be a grudge-bearer! But life, as often happens, has other plans. As an old knight once said to me:

‘It is a good thing for a man to bear himself with equanimity, for one is constantly keeping appointments one never made.’

In this spirit I set out for the court of King Darius the Great. I’d heard from my friend, Michel de Montaigne, of a practice this King employed by which He held onto his grudges. I knew not the method. I was intent to find out.

Getting there was quite simple: Another friend of mine, Herodotus, was on intimate terms with one Durias, a cupbearer to the King. I was to be snuck into the court, under wine-jugs, in a wicker basket, which Durias offered to do if I gave him three aspirin, his job being, it would seem, prone to headaches.

Well of course that was no trouble to me, as I carry several with me at a time (for I often read political news). I arrived at the Court of the King of Kings that very night.

How strange and mystic was that Tacharan sight, where Zoroastrian chimeras bannered above the dais, and cherubim winged the royal faces and the court like stars on a cloudy night covered in silks and silver and lapis in shimmer.

Tall white hats, masted above pleated silks of many colors, sailed through the incensed hall, through stately door and glory gate, like perfume rivers to waterfall. Instruments – harps and drums and fluting sorna – like the seawinds – moved these barques all the Court afloat around crowned islands of Satraps and Dancers Sárapis and the bounteous table of the Old King.

For a time I could not measure I forgot me my mission, and was lost in the procession of lotus fevers of my mind awed by the court of the King of Kings.

Reader, pity me, for there I was aslumber when I should have been angry!

I floated to the table of the King. I took the first open seat. The King sat at the head of the table. I studied him closely. Seeing Him, I remembered myself.

For He looked like a very old King, and quite tired of it too. He dipped his food in wine to soften it. He talked to none but was talked to by everyone. Servants brought Him food and gifts and gossip and a head of an unheard enemy.

One servant whispered in His waxy grey ear a sentence repeated thrice. What did he say? After each, the King would slam His old ruling claw down on the table, scattering plate and prickett and morsels to the dogs at his feet. Next, He’d mutter and frown a dreary face. Lastly, into his goblet He’d hollowly sigh.

I inquired of the Satrap next to me the meaning of these Kingly gestures. From my incomplete understanding of Ariya, I understood the following:

The servant was tasked with stating to the King thrice each night: ‘King, O King, the Athenians, remember the Athenians…’

The Athenians. That rather learned group of Greeks had defeated the King at Marathon. Darius had sworn revenge but was yet to fulfill. To remember His anger, He had tasked the servant to restoke it, like a billows, long into the night, each night, until His anger might be consummated with a martial nuptial.

Here was the method I was seeking! Now, at last, I could hold a grudge!

I approached the servant and told him of my dilemma, how I could not remain angry with an offense, and asked him to work for me.

– Oh sir, no wise man would want such a burden as I must bring. Said the servant, in a Persian manner. I’d rather drink a poisoned cup of the King than deliver such deadly ire, to stoke and re-stoke such dry old fire!

– Why is this, servant?

– Look upon my burnt out King! Could age alone have withered His greatness? Nightly thrice I pass the bitter cup of memory unto Him. And like the greedy bark beetle in vulnerable pine, the venom gnaws and feeds upon the soft phloem of this stoutest Tree, Falling fruit and flaking bark, making Him the King all a husk. The Tree does not fall yet still it dies! Our Tree of Trees is Dead!

That rather articulate fellow then fled from me, fading back into the haze of the Court… I could not find him again. Nor, I suspect, could I afford him… Dejected, I left the palace of that sad and frowning and wrinkling old king.

And I went on forgiving everyone of everything. 

Cheers to your Sunday morning…

~J Christian Lawrence

Herodotus Hist.. V, cv.

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ‘The Knight’s Tale’

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