Bryan the Insurance Agent's Tale
By: Mark Kodama

The Happiest Man


Once upon a time,

In ancient Lydia, there ruled King Croesus,
A man famed for his riches and power.
Now, Croesus lived in his palace in Sardis,
Renown for its crenelated towers.
And its shaded verdant mountain bowers.
Lydian gold known throughout antiquity
Was valued for its purity and consistency.

King Croesus swallowed local states and cities,
Overeager to find some flimsy excuse
To add them to his royal menagerie.
He used any kind of pretext or ruse
To subject them to his theft and abuse.
Croesus was like selfish holiday host
Who carved himself the best part of the roast.

Visitors traveled from near and from far,
To flatter the king perched on his gilded throne
For the ruler seemed an ascendant star
He thought there was nothing he should not own.
None could stop him from his Midian gold.
But Olympian gods on high are jealous
And good luck can make one's life perilous.

One day, two Greeks came calling to Sardis
Solon the Athenian and Aesop the fabler,
To see King Croesus at his mountain palace.
Solon was one of the seven sages, the lawgiver
Aesop was a famous storyteller.
The two Greeks asked for an audience
With the famous Lydian King Croesus.

Croesus dressed in the finest clothes he owned,
Mantled in gold crown and Tyrian robe,
Studded with the most rare and precious stones.
And sitting on his ostentatious throne.
Inlaid with gold and polished animal bone.
He displayed to them his vast treasury,
His military – cavalry and infantry.

They met Croesus's eldest son Atys.
The good crown prince with manners so refined
The spitting image of handsome Adonis,
Ensuring the King Croesus's royal line.
Croesus's patron god must be benign.
The king asked Solon the Athenian
"Who was the world's happiest man?"

Solon thought for a moment and said then:
"I once knew a man in Athens named Tellus.
He had a good life, health and great children.
But what I like best about good Tellus,
Is that his final death was glorious.
He died a hero fighting for Athens,
Much honored by his grateful countrymen."

This answer annoyed the king to no end,
Since he expected Solon to proclaim,
That he Croesus was the happiest man
But he humored wise Solon just the same.
So Croesus asked the Athenian to name
The world's penultimate happiest man.
So said wise Solon, the Athenian:

"Once upon a time I knew two young men
Their names were good Biton and Cleobis
They were definitely the next happiest men.
The men carried their mom by ox cart in Argos
To the Temple of Hera, queen of the goddesses.
So their mother asked Hera to reward them.
The men fell asleep, never to wake again."

At this, Croesus became very angry.
"What about me? These men were commoners.
If you are wise, how can you not judge me
As happy as they or not happier?"
Solon said: "A rich man is not happier
Than men of a more modest variety.
Beware of gods jealous of your prosperity.

People are subject to changing circumstance,
Many rich men have seen their fortunes fade.
Often the gods give a glimpse of happiness,
Before the unlucky man is betrayed.
Any man can be instantly unmade.
In a moment's flash a man can lose all
In the most cataclysmic type of fall.

Until a man dies, he is only lucky.
It is not until he is dead and gone,
That we can truly call a man happy.
To call a living man a happy man,
Is like declaring the front runner
Of a foot race the winner
Before the competition is over.

At that, King Croesus dismissed the two men,
Annoyed that upon his court they had called,
Finally concluding the sage Solon
Was not really very wise at all.
As the two men left Croesus's great hall
Aesop told Solon his lion and fox fable,
Of his stories, one of his most able.

"There was once a lion and a fox
Who hunted as a pair
Sheep from the shepherd's flocks
They did share,
Eating their meals in the lion's lair.
The fox would find their victims,
And the lion would kill them.

"But the lion always got the lion's share
And the fox ate the rest
And the fox thought this was not fair.
He was tired of being second best
So at his own behest,
He hunted alone
So back to the shepherd's field he did return.

"He came upon and flock of sheep.
He spied a stray lamb
And at its throat he did leap
Realizing too late it was a trap set by man
And was slain in the scam.
Know your place Solon," Aesop said.
"With mighty kings much is unsaid."

"You need to either keep quiet
Or say what they want to hear."
Solon replied: "With mighty kings, you either keep quiet
Or say what they need to hear."


Now, as said before, Croesus had two sons.
Atys, the eldest son, the crown prince,
Was an offspring second to none
The model of courage and intelligence
Greatness, generosity and eloquence.
His second son, however, was unfit
A deaf mute, a half wit.

Morpheus visited the king in a dream
Warning Atys was to be killed by iron blade.
King Croesus awoke with a start and scream.
After his dream all iron weapons he forbade
And his son's position in the army stayed.
He prohibited Atys from hunting game
And sporting contests all the same.

One day, denizens from the mountain of Zeus,
Petitioned the crown prince Atys to engage
To save them from a wild boar on the loose.
No hero could stop the beast in its rage.
Atys promised to end the boar's rampage.
Atys was by iron spear accidentally killed
And thus King Croesus's dream was fulfilled.

Across the desert sand, Cyrus the Great
Was building his own spear–won empire It was decided by the hand of fate That Cyrus and is army should acquire By siege engine, war horse, sword and fire The storied cities of the Middle East Land of Babylon and the caravans east.

Croesus feared for the freedom of his own land. The king met with his closest advisers To initiate an action plan The War Council sent an ambassador To the Delphic oracle to decipher What defensive measures they should take To stop the Persian King Cyrus the Great.

So the Lyndians went to Mount Parnassus
To consult the oracle at Delphi
They inquired if they attacked Cyrus
Would the venture be fated in disaster – would they die?
To which the Priestess did reply:
Uttering in a trance in the great hall:
"A mighty empire will fall."

So Croesus led his veteran Army,
Across the desert sands to Syria
To meet Cyrus the Great and his Army
At the Cappadocian town of Pteria
The Lydian army was superior.
Croesus had the finest cavalry
And a professional hoplite infantry.

But wily Cyrus knew horses feared camels
So he attacked King Croesus's horsemen
With his wift moving humped backed animals,
Causing the horses to panic and run.
The cavaliers fought as infantryman
And these brave men were defeated in the fight
And slain in great numbers in their flight.

King Cyrus followed Croesus to Lydia
And besieged King Croesus in Sardis
And captured his capital in 14 days,
By climbing by goat path up the precipice
And impossibly capturing his fortress.
And the unassailable mountain town
Was seized and razed to the ground.

Hapless Croesus was bound to a wood post
And set atop a sacrificial pyre.
King Cyrus said his prisoner would roast
The wood from the pyre was set afire.
Croesus's circumstances seemed dire
He thought about his misfortune, his dead son,
He cried aloud: "Solon, Solon and Solon."

Cyrus asked Croesus what was his lament.
When Croesus told Cyrus about Solon
And all that his meeting had meant.
Cyrus the Great's heart was won.
He ordered the execution undone.
But the fire was now a blaze
And could not be stayed.

So Croesus, in desperation, lifted his eyes to sky
And called to the sun god for deliverance
For his infinite mercy he did apply
To save himself from ignominious deaths,
King Croesus said through parched lips.
"If you ever enjoyed one my fattened cows,
Then please save me now."

From nowhere, great nimbus storm clouds appeared
And then rain water began to pour down,
And the seemingly fatal fire cleared.
And now that the fire was drown
Cyrus made Croesus adviser to the crown
Croesus first advice as first counsel to Cyrus
Was to have his soldiers stop looting Saridis.
Now, that the city belonged to Cyrus
All the possessions of the city were his.

Cyrus the Great in a great battle was slain
By Scythian horsemen on the Russian plain.
A dictator threw Aesop, the fabler and seer,
Off a cliff for telling him what he needed to hear.
Solon returned to Athens where he lived in prosperity
And died peacefully of old age, very happily,
Much admired by his friends, family and posterity.


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