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Prester John Born of Magi, one of three wise men,
His distant rumblings now the hopeful hear,
A king to save poor Christendom again;
From heathen troops without, from death and fear
Is God’s own mercy surely drawing near.
Whence comes our rescue scholars do not know,
From Africa, along the trade-routes here,
Or somewhere east where dawn begins to glow,
But, sputtering and gasping, parlous slow,
You sicken from the plague now everywhere;
The tumbrils full of corpses daily go,
While adding to sufferings we bear
God’s test continues; black rats swarm ahead;
Our trials deepened as we mourn our dead.

(NB: Thirteenth-century Europe prayed for rescue by the mysterious Christian king, Prester John, by legend a descendant of one of the biblical magi who some thought would come from furthest Central Asia and others from Coptic Ethiopia. The distant rumblings of change turned out to be the invading Mongol armies of Genghis Khan, as along the same trade routes from Central Asia to the Middle East and Christendom came smaller hordes; rats and their fleas bringing the Black Death or Bubonic Plague.)

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1 reply to this post
  1. Lovely sonnet, Mr. Masty. Quick correction, though: Edmund Spenser spelled his name with an “s”–probably to make sure he would not be confused with that rascal Herbert Spencer.

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