A song by Pete Seeger
, available on Waist Deep In The Big Muddy And Other Love Songs
(1993). From the album's liner notes:
..."Seek And You Shall Find," is a great old spiritual. But no verses to it are half as great as the chorus. So I interspersed a few old folk stories, and dedicated the whole to all students. And to all teachers. Locked in eternal combat. The third story, about the maggots, I got from Carl Sandburg, and the fourth, about Columbus, is from Don Sherwood, the rakish San Franciscan.
Seek and you shall find
Knock and the door shall be open
Ask and it shall be given
When the love come tumblin' down
There was once a king in the olden days. He had three sons and he wanted to give them a good education. He called in his wise men. He said, "I wish you'd boil down the world's wisdom into one book, and I'm going to give it to my sons and have them learn it."
So the wise men went away. Took them a whole year, and they came back with a beautiful leather-bound volume, trimmed in gold. The king leafed through it, "Hmm... Very good. Hmm... Yes! This is it!" And he gives it to his sons and he says, "OK, learn it!"
Then he turned to the wise men and he said, "You know, you did such a good job with that, I wonder if you couldn't boil down all the world's wisdom into one sentence."
Well, the wise men went away. It took them five years. When they came back their beards must've been dragging on the ground. They said, "Your Majesty, we have decided upon the sentence."
"What is it?" says the king.
"This too shall pass."
I guess the king didn't have anything better to do with his wise men. He said, "I wonder if you couldn't boil down all the world's wisdom into one word?"
The poor men must've groaned. They went away. It took them ten years. When they came back they were all bent over. The king said, "Oh yes, what was that word?" He'd forgotten all about his little whim.
They said, "Your Majesty, the one word is: Maybe."
There was another king, in another country, in the olden days. He was sitting in his palace one day, and a messenger came:
"Your Majesty! Your Majesty! A sea captain has landed on your coast, and in the hold of his vessel is a strange animal called an elephant!"
Well, the king was busy enjoying himself. He said to his wise men, he said, "I wish you'd go down and bring me back a report."
So the wise men got in the carriages and they were all taken down to the coast, and they went on board the ship. But you know, they'd all been reading books so long they were blind as bats.
And the first wise man, he felt the leg of the elephant. And he says, "Hm."
And the next one feels the side of the elephant. "Hmm," says he.
The next one felt the ear of the elephant. "Hmmm," says he.
The next one felt the tusk of the elephant, and the next one felt the trunk, and the last one pulled on the tail.
Well, they all got back in the carriages, and they all went back to the king. And the king says, "Now, what manner of beast is this elephant?"
And the first wise man bowed low and said, "Your Majesty, this elephant is very like unto the trunk of a small tree."
"You're completely wrong!" said the next one. "I felt it myself, it's like the side of a building."
"Oh you're both wrong!" says the third. "It's like a... a big - a big leaf of a large plant!"
The third says, "No no no! You're all wrong! It's like a smooth spear."
"No no no!" says the next, "It's like a big snake."
And the last one says, "Your majesty, you know I'm right. It's like a rope hanging down from heaven. You pull on it, and the heavens open up with waste."
I got a story about two little maggots. You know, little worms. They were sitting on the handle of a shovel. The shovel was in a workshop, and early in the morning, a workman came, put the shovel on his shoulder, and started down the street to work.
Well, the two little maggots held on as long as they could, but finally they jiggled off, and one fell down into a crack in the sidewalk, and the next fell off onto the curb. And from the curb, he fell into a cat. A very dead cat.
Well the second maggot just started in eating. And he ate and he ate and he ate for three days. He couldn't eat anymore. He finally said, "*Yawn* I think I'll go hunt up my brother."
And the second maggot humped himself up over the curb, humped along the sidewalk, came to the crack. He leaned and said, "Hello! You down there, brother?"
"Yes, I'm down here all right! I've been here for three days without a bite to eat or a drop to drink. I'm nearly starved to death! But you... you're so sleek and fat. To what do you attribute your success?"
"Brains and personality brother, brains and personality."
I got one more story. It's about Columbus, Christopher Columbus. 1492 sailed the ocean blue and all that. Forty days and forty nights and they almost starved to death and almost had a mutiny. And they were ready to give up and go home, when they saw land. Green land!
Columbus ordered the little boat to anchor offshore, and he got into a still smaller boat, a little lifeboat I guess, and he went in through the surf. Threw himself on his knees in the sand. Then he planted the big yellow and red flag of King Ferdinand and Isabella.
Then looking up, Columbus saw two brown faces looking at him from the bushes. Columbus says, "Buenos días, señores!"
And one Indian said to the other, "Well, there goes the neighborhood."