The King’s Lesson

canuteKing Canute of England was as clever as he was brave, but many of his courtiers were foolish, and they sought to flatter him constantly reminding him of his dignity, wisdom and power.  They told him that nothing in the world was too hard for him to do if he really wanted to do it.  Canute tired of the flattery and decided to teach them a lesson.

One day when they were walking along the seashore with him, they told the king he was so great that even the waves should obey him.  Canute ordered a chair placed at the water’s edge and sat down.  “I command you,” he said to the waters, “come no farther.  I am King of England, and my word is law.:  The waves continued to roll in and they wetted the king’s feet and splashed up on the chair.

Then the king rose and went to the courtiers who were standing a little way off and talking in low tones about the king’s strange conduct. “Learn to keep your tongues from idle praise in the future,” he said in sternest tones.  “No king is great and powerful but God Almighty Himself.  He only can say to the sea: ‘Thus far shalt thou come, and no farther.’ “—The Roman Catholic Vol. VI, No. 2, February 1984