Shakespeare was one of my earliest writing influences. It was while reading his work that I discovered the wonders of iambic pentameter and blank verse. It was revolutionary for me, really—discovering the wonders of rhythm and rhyme in verse. I wrote my first sonnet in an attempt to imitate the master:
If gentle rain was meant to fall,
If dawning meant for dew,
If love the greatest gift of all,
Then mine was meant for you.
If little birds sing pretty songs,
Though they receive no pay,
To you my loving heart belongs,
To cherish more each day.
I cannot give the world to you,
Nor take the pain from life,
But can with love your heart imbue,
Till you become my wife.
If men were meant to love unwise,
I feel a fool in mine own eyes.
I began with short poetry and prose, and with the expansion of my concepts and ideas, poetry and prose became short stories, short stories became novellas and plays, novellas and plays became full-length novels and screenplays, and so here I am.
The Love Tragedies were at an intermediate part of the process. They were written at a time when I began becoming proficient at writing blank verse. They are all short stories and fables written in iambic meter. There are seven stories that I have shared, while I am still tinkering with stories eight and nine.
I wrote them at a time before I ever had kids, but I knew that they would be important lessons I would share with my children that would deepen in meaning as Mark and Natsumi grew into adulthood. The seven stories are:
A Story for Those False and Greedy Girls, Here Writ for Those Who’ve Taken Bad Advice, The Tragedie of Those Who Dare to Think, Libretto for an Operatic Piece, The Man Who Wore a Splendid Coat of Black, The Crab Who Ruled a Patch of Mud and Sand, Here Told the Story of the Birth of Man and a seventh story about religion, which is extant.
My ambition is to continue these stories, writing most of them in my led (if I eventually arrive at my eld). I hope they are stories that make readers think, seeming fables with lessons that age and mature with readers. The single story I decided to include on this page is very personal to me—The Man Who Wore a Splendid Coat of Black—a tale by a judge who was gifted “a coat of black” from his father (think black skin), and who endures persecution for refusing to take it off. Ultimately, his insistence wear the splendid coat black teaches him the insights required to become a wise judge, and for that reason, many judges wear black. Enjoy!
HERE TOLD THE STORY OF
The Man Who Wore a Splendid Coat of Black
For once upon a time within an ancient world there lived a royal, princely man who, for his noble and judicious mind, was chosen by the King to judge a land so vast and wide as minds could see, for he did arbitrate in all the cases that the King himself was slack of time and age to rightfully adjudge. He was a man who always wore a splendid coat of black and one whose piercing eyes were seeing deep into the hearts and minds of men.
It happened that one day, e’en while the princely judge was resting with some honoured guests within his home, his children came to him: They had been speaking with the children of his guests and so it seemed they were disturbed by differences betwixt the many youth who roamed about the place. It seemed the other children were disturbed as much by them, and so the oldest son belonging to the judge at once spoke his complaint aloud.
“My father and his honoured guests: Now we who are the children of a father who is judge in all the land are different than the others here and do not like them much at least, for some do wear no clothes and others wear too much. Some say they eat the things which are to us unclean, while others say our food is fit for none but animals. Thus all these youth are different than we are and thus the Judge’s children hate them all, but not so much as they hate us for reasons much the same.”
Well now, the Judge at once did call the other children forth to ascertain if what his son had spoke was true in ev’ry case, and so it was that when each youth had spoken up, there seemed to be divisions based on slightest differences from youth to youth. Much grieved by this, the Judge remembered that these were but youth who thought this way, and so he did recall a plot to bear consideration otherwise.
“Come up!” he said, “Yes, all of you!” with gentle kindness in his speech, and all the children crowded ‘round with open ears and hearts. “Come take a place by me, and let me tell a story that will surely teach you how to see as I have learned to see.”
Then earnestly the children did incline their hearts to listen to the judge as so he spoke:
For there was once a boy I knew who had no father, mother, sister, brother, cousin, kinsman, neighbor nor yet friend—no house, no home, no land, no servant man, no wealth that could be touched with human hand. This seeming worthless naked boy would sleep in any place where warmth was found, for sometimes did he make a bed out in a field and other times he’d find a cave that was not by another occupied. In all the land the people knew of him and pitied him and gave him food and threads so he might piece together rags to cover his indecent nakedness.
Well then, it came about one day that as this nearly naked boy was sleeping in a field of hay, here was an envoy from the King! This stately servant read pronouncements that were surely royal and magniloquent, for there were ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and ‘whereuntos’ in what was read. So splendid was the style and lyric verse of what the man did read that brilliant-coloured flowers blossomed all while stunning, graceful butterflies began to dance about the two.
Alack, unlettered that he was, this naked vulgar boy, he could not understand a word of what was spoke, but yet at last he understood that he should follow after this so noble servant of the King. All while he walked he thought, “What evil have I done, to be so called to stand before the mighty King? What would he want of such a lowly, vulgar, insubstantial peasant such as I?” He thought to run or hide away or cover what he was: He was a nearly naked boy who owned not pride, nor any item that could make him proud.
‘Twas noble to be brave and so he put on fearlessness to march into the court awaiting entrance of the mighty King, when much to his surprise, yes, when this magistrate arrived, the King himself was but a boy, and younger than the humble naked child! And deep within, he laughed and thought,
“Is this a king? This boy who seems too small for even his so royal clothes! Who seems to be unlearned by virtue of his tender age, whose head does tremble and seems foolish under such a royal, golden, weighty crown?”
But even more amazed was he that when this child-like king did speak, the composition that did flourish forth was eloquent and indeed wise. He was not what he seemed to be! Then next this youthful king, whose piercing eyes did see into the mind of that astonished naked boy, he called him forth. Ashamed for being quick to judge, the nearly naked boy went up and humble bowed before the King who smiled and helped him to his feet. As all the court looked on, the King spoke to this humble naked boy:
“I am a child, but will not always be. Still I was born and I will always be a king, for kings are kings for what they are, and not for what they wear or seem to be, and it should be the same for any man in spite of what he seems or wears or does. I’ve called you here because my father knew your father well and promised that you would receive a splendid coat of black when you had reached a proper age.
“Your father seemed as poor as you, but he was rich in other ways that only princes understood. He sacrificed to give to you his legacy. He had no thing to leave you but this splendid coat of black. For it is said that if you wear it all your life and never take it off, you’ll benefit in wisdom far beyond the best of ordinary man. If you are brave enough, son of my father’s friend, take please this splendid coat of black and put it on and go into the world. Then when you’ve gained this wisdom e’er profound, return to me, and, on my word, I’ll honour you and put to use your wisdom even in the farthest reaches of the Earth.”
The royal boy had spoken like a king, for in those days what made a king was greatness in his viewing things, for kings were searching into matters, weighing them and rendering decisions that were best for all, not for the seeming privileged few, for they were meant to rule in areas where it was ruinous for man to rule himself. The child-like King called forth the naked boy and put into those dirty, trembling hands that splendid coat of black.
“Do you accept this gift from me?” so said the youthful King.
Well now, the nervous naked boy had never spoken to a king before, and so the best that he could do was nod his head in the affirmative. He took the handsome coat and put it on, and, after bowing low to thank the King, he gladly went his way into the world. All while he walked away he thought,
“How is it that a simple coat of black can make me wise? For I was wise enough with nothing on, yes, wise enough to find me food and drink and place to rest myself in sleep. What other wisdom should I need?”
He stopped a while, and, after thinking there, he finally remarked,
“O well, it is a handsome coat of black, and given by my humble father through a winsome king. I’ll test it out to see if I shall benefit for wearing it.”
Not minutes later, as he walked about the city of the King, the former naked boy was stopped by several other youth who took exception to his splendid coat of black.
“Now cast it off!” they said, “lest we should do to you not what we ought. Take off at once that horrid coat of black!”
Well now, this boy, who never owned a thing until he had this handsome coat, he quickly answered them to say,
“It is a seemly coat of black and it is mine! What right have you to think to make me take it off?”
“We have no coats of black to wear!” they said, “And so it seems that you should not, for wearing such a coat may seem to make you better than we are, but we shall heed to that: we’ll make you take it off or find such fault in black that you will seem the worse for wearing it. Now you must take it off or suffer injury!”
Well now, the boy who wore the coat seemed still surprised.
“It is a coat, no more! What difference does it make? I am a youth no less or more than any one of you! Are we so full of ignorance that we are judged for what we wear?”
On hearing this, at once the other youth grew full of rage, for they believed that he had called them ignorant, though he had not. They beat this boy with heavy hands and rigid sticks and other instruments of pain until he called out, “Please, no more!” yet never could he be persuaded to remove his hated sable-coloured coat.
As years went by and he became a man, the hate that others held for him because he wore the coat of black grew ever more profound, for he was not allowed to eat or drink or visit publicly in places where no others wore such coats of black, and since it seemed that only he was given such a coat to wear, he was without companionship in all the world.
Alone with saddened, heavy, mocking thoughts, that wisdom which the King had spoke the coat would bear began to grow, and, thinking on unfounded fear and hate that he’d been shown since he put on the coat, he came to this:
“When I was young I did not fully ascertain the value of my coat, but wore it as it was the only thing I owned. The others tried to make my coat a wicked, worthless thing, that I, for shame or to conform, might cast it off, but this is where the wisdom of the coat began: I learned to love myself for who and what I am… in spite of what the others say or make me seem to be. For what we wear is never so important as that which we are within.”
As time continued in its ceaseless gait, the man in black grew wiser still. Alack, wise as he was, he dared to love a woman fair in all the world, yet she was wise and fair. For she was sought as wife in courtyards of the greatest princes of the world and spoke in depth at length with prominent philosophers. O how at first she loved her handsome man in coat of black! O how he loved this woman fair!
But in the world were those who would not let them so profoundly love, who simply did not like the man for what he wore and seemed to say by wearing such a coat. With subtle poisons was this woman gradually persuaded to detest the colour that he wore. To his dismay, before she perished she was speaking as the thoughtless world did speak. At last, unto her splendid man in black she spoke,
“I am a dying entity!” she cried. “I realize I am undone by worldly ignorance, and yet ‘tis said that if you on this day remove your wretched coat of black, at once my face will be restored. If not, I’ll perish, never seeing you again. O stubborn man! Why must you keep it on? Is wisdom such a better thing than earthly happiness? Please now remember me. If ever you have loved me, you’ll forsake that horrid coat of black—you’ll take it off for me!”
Well now, this man, he loved this woman very much, and so at once he went about removing it, but then he chanced to see his nakedness and he remembered then a life before he donned the hated coat, a life of insubstantiality and void of higher purposes. With saddened heart he stopped and to the woman fair in all the world he said “goodbye,” confessing his great love a final time. The woman fair in all the world did strangely disappear as he leaned close to kiss her pouting lips and she was gone.
Alone again and saddened more than e’er before, this man set out to change the hearts and minds of ign’rant men who never gave him rest, but as it was in ev’ry case, they did not hear him but they saw and e’er despised his splendid coat of black.
At last, this tortured man, he brought his case before the King to sue for peace all while he wore the coat. The King, since last the man in black did look upon his face, had grown to be a handsome personage whose royal bearing was by earthly man unmatched.
The man in black bowed low to look on such a king, who, noting who he was, commanded him to stand. How full of wisdom seemed the eyes of King! O how his stature ‘spoke a mighty confidence! But how he seemed to scowl and frown a mighty frown when in his court he saw this man in coat of black. At once the royal ruler whispered something to a learned counsellor who, after seeming searching through a book of law, he spoke these words:
“The law is clear: You cannot come before a king and wear that coat of black. That you have sought the audience of King so dressed is sure a sign of disrespect; it seems to bode not well with him. If you were wise, you would at once cast off that foolish coat of black! It seems the King, who wears not such a coat, despises you for what you seem to say by wearing it. Take now it off!”
The man in black remembered then the words the King had spoke when but a boy, the weighty words of promised wisdom e’er profound for wearing such a coat of black.
“Will even kings forget themselves,” he thought, “to legislate against the truths they surely know by virtue of their being kings? I’ll take my chances with this king!”
At once the man in black approached the royal magistrate but was by frightful, fearsome guards with bloodied swords and sharpened spears restrained. The learned counsellor to King looked in the legal book again and seemed to read these words:
“If any man in foolish coat of black should come to make a case before the king, the law provides that he may speak, but only after putting off the awful coat. When asked to put it off, if he should dare to keep it on, then he should be imprisoned all his life at best, or with his fam’ly killed at worst.”
And looking up, this learned counsellor addressed the fellow there:
“What will you do, O foolish man in coat of black?”
Determined even more to make his case, the man called out and spoke directly to the King.
“So many years ago when we were young, you, for my father, gave to me this precious coat of black to wear, and yet before that time I never understood just why I had no family. For in your world and mine are ever foolish men who seem to fear all what they do not understand, who’ve learned to hate a boy or man for simply being different than they are. To let them carry on this course would be unjust, for there are differences in all of us: Some on their foreheads wear a mark, while others pass their lives with ever bloody hands; some serve their flesh or soul for who can pay the highest price, while there are some who are emasculate for God, and still, within the world, are even seeming women living in the frames of men. How we are different all!”
With nod from learned counsellor, a guard withdrew his blade to slaughter violently this man in coat of black, but quick the King called to the guard these words:
“You must not murder him, for fairness does proclaim that he must speak his piece!”
This being said, the guards released the man who spoke again with such authority as he had never spoke before.
“The reason that I have no family is sad indeed, for each of us were given coats of black to wear. At cause of pressure from the fearful, senseless world, my brothers cast their coats away, and I will never know just who they are, for they were weak. Yet sadly still they are not loved by that same fallow world they sought to please; they sacrificed their splendid coats for naught. My sisters either for their husbands or a seeming higher place disguised the coats of black they wore. I do not know them, cannot see them, neither do they know and cannot see themselves. At last, my father and my mother were destroyed by laws that were unjust, by seeming learned counsellors who wrote those laws, by judges who had eyes but could not see. O greatest pity in the wicked world! That they were killed for simply wearing coats of black!”
He wiped the tears that issued from his face.
“My father had a friend who was a noble king, who tried as would a goodly king to change those laws, but even he for all his royal might could not for ignorance and fear that seems to rule the world. My father left to me a coat of black to make me wise and O what wisdom I have learned: Unfit is common man to judge another man, for in this world there is no better or no worse. But we must make the best of what we wear and what we are; we must appreciate and seek to understand the differences from man to man. O King! I’ve learned that as for judging man, ‘tis best to look into the crimes so charged for what they are, not into the so-charged man for what he wears and merely seems to be.”
The King sat back and thought a while, and he remembered all the things that passed before his ever-searching eyes. And after many hours sitting thinking there, he stood to greet this seeming lowly man in coat of black. Well now, all precedent aside, he hugged him long and hard and finally proclaimed first to his learned counsellor:
“For many years you’ve been my royal counsellor, and many years before were counsel to my father King, but throw away your book of Law, for it is old and is to truly honest men unfair. This man in black was brave enough to challenge, yes, and even change the Law. And thus I’ll have him write another book, and one inspired by the wisdom he has learned.”
And finally, these words were for the man in black:
“Your father was my father’s dearest friend and you’ll be mine, O man in splendid coat of black! For truly wearing such a coat has made you truly wise. Just as I promised as a boy, I’ll use your wisdom well. The duty even of a judge is not to judge, but first to hear a matter fully through, to spy behind those sometime false appearances, to think with careful mind, decide upon a matter for the matter that it is, not what it merely seems to be or was a time or times before. For from this day, you’ll be the greatest judge in all the world, to rule for man who cannot rightly rule himself. For from this day, a judge will always wear a coat of black. And from this day, your story will be told to teach our youth to see and understand, but, being youth, not but a few will pay attention so to hear the wisdom being spoke. And now, come let us join our hands and hearts and souls as friends!”
And so the story has been told for many years for generation after generation born, for this is how was told the story of the man who loved to wear a splendid coat of black!”
Well now, the story being done, the Judge looked out and Lo! Behold! The children were asleep; not one had heard the story fully through. And there, beside the place he sat, his grown-up friends were all asleep as well. With saddened heart and soul he stood and stroked his splendid coat of black a moment there.
“How vain!” he cried and O so sad began,
“How vain are all the earthly works of man!”