King Solomon and The Birds ~ from The Curious Book of Birds
KING SOLOMON AND THE BIRDS – Part 3
ING SOLOMON was ever seeking to grow even wiser. The better to know the wonders of God’s world and the ways of all creatures, he undertook many journeys,—not as we ordinary poor mortals travel, in heavy wagons or clumsy boats, by dusty roads or stormy waves. It was in no such troublous ways that Solomon the all-powerful traversed space and reached the uttermost corners of the earth. Thanks to his great knowledge, he had discovered a means of locomotion compared to which the most magnificent railway coaches and the richest palanquins of Indian princes would seem poor indeed. He had caused his Genii to make a silken carpet of four leagues in extent. In the midst of this carpet was placed a magnificent throne for the royal traveler himself; and around it were seats of gold, of silver, of wood, for the multitude of persons of different rank whom he took with him. There was also no lack of the most gorgeous furniture and the necessary provisions for a king’s traveling banquet.
When all was ready Solomon was wont to seat himself upon his throne, and would command the winds to do their duty. Immediately they gently lifted the carpet and bore it rapidly through the air to the appointed spot. During the journey, above the aerial caravan fluttered a cloud of birds, who with their wings formed a splendid canopy to shield their beloved lord from the sun’s heat, as the Hoopoes had first done.
One day, while on such a journey, Solomon was shocked to feel a ray of sunlight piercing through this plumy dais (raised feathers) which overhung his head. Shading his eyes, the King glanced up and perceived that there was an opening in the canopy. One bird was missing from its post. In great displeasure Solomon demanded of the Eagle the name of the truant. Anxiously the Eagle called the roll of all the birds in his company; and he was horrified to find that it was Solomon’s favorite, the Hoopoe, who was missing. With terror he announced the bird’s desertion to the most wise King.
“Soar aloft,” commanded Solomon sternly, “and find the Hoopoe that I may punish him. I will pluck off his feathers that he may feel the scorching heat of the sun as his carelessness has caused me to do.”
The Eagle soared heavenward, until the earth beneath him looked like a bowl turned upside down. Then he poised on level wings and looked around in every direction to discover the truant. Soon he espied the Hoopoe flying swiftly from the south. The Eagle swooped down and would have seized the culprit roughly in his strong talons, but the Hoopoe begged him for Solomon’s sake to be gentle.
“For Solomon’s sake!” cried the Eagle. “Do you dare to name the King whom you have injured? He has discovered your absence and in his righteous anger will punish you severely.”
“Lead me to him,” replied the Hoopoe. “I know that he will forgive me when he hears where I have been and what I have to tell him.”
The Eagle led him to the King, who with a wrathful face was sitting on his throne. The Hoopoe trembled and drooped his feathers humbly, but when Solomon would have crushed him in his mighty fist the bird cried,—
“Remember, King, that one day you also must give an account of your sins. Let me not therefore be condemned unheard.”
“And if I hear you, what excuse can you have to offer?” answered Solomon, frowning. But this was his favorite bird and he hoped that there might be some reason for sparing him.
“Well,” said the Hoopoe, “at Mecca I met a Hoopoe of my acquaintance who told me so wonderful a tale of the marvelous Kingdom of Sheba in Arabia that I could not resist the temptation to visit that country of gold and precious stones. And there, indeed, I saw the most prodigious treasures; but best of all, O King, more glorious than gold, more precious than rare jewels, I saw Queen Balkis, the most beautiful of queens.”
“Tell me of this Queen,” said Solomon, loosening his rough grasp upon the Hoopoe. So it was, say the people, that a bird told Solomon of the great Queen whose journey to Jerusalem is described in the Bible.
The Hoopoe told of her power and glory, her riches, her wisdom, and her beauty, until Solomon sighed a great sigh and said, “It seems too good to be true! But we shall see.”
So the King wrote a letter to Balkis, bidding her follow the guidance of fate and come to the court of the wise King. This note he sealed with musk, stamped with his great signet, and gave to the Hoopoe, saying,—
“If now you have spoken truth, take this letter to Queen Balkis; then come away.”
The Hoopoe did as he was bid, darting off towards the south like an arrow. And the next day he came to the palace of the Queen of Sheba, where she sat in all her splendor among her counselors. He hopped into the hall and dropped the letter into her lap, then flew away.
Queen Balkis stared and stared at the great King’s seal upon the mysterious letter, and when she had read the brief invitation she stared and stared again. But she had heard the fame of Solomon and was eager to ask him some of her clever questions to prove his wisdom. So she decided to accept his invitation and come to Jerusalem.
She came with a great train of attendants, with camels that bore spices and treasures of gold and precious stones, gifts for the most wise King. And she asked him more questions than any woman had ever asked him before, though he knew a great many ladies, and they were all inquisitive.
But Solomon was so wise that he answered all her questions without any trouble.
And she said to him, “It was a true report that I heard of you in my own land, of your wisdom and of your glory. Only that which now I know and see is greater than what I heard. Happy are thy men and happy are thy servants who stand continually before thee and hear thy wisdom.”
And she gave the King a hundred and twenty talents of gold, which was a very rich treasure, besides great store of spices, and the most precious gifts; no one had ever seen such gifts as the Queen of Sheba gave to Solomon.
But he in turn was even more generous. For he gave to the fair Balkis all that she desired and everything she asked, because he admired so much this splendid Queen of whom the Hoopoe had first told him.
And so, the Bible says, the Queen of Sheba turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. But the People’s tales say that in later days she married Solomon and they lived happily ever after. And it was all the work of that little Hoopoe with a yellow crown, whom after that we may be sure Solomon loved better than ever.
Now King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, much more than she had brought to the king. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. (2 Chronicles 9:12 NKJV)
And that ends our story of King Solomon and the Birds.
Hoopoes – Upupidae Family