The Lute Player and the Grand Inquisitor

Some are good with the harp, some with the guitar, some with the lute. They say that Mozart had the gift of music. The same thing was said of Seamus O’Shaunessy. He too had the gift of music and he had it with the lute. From the very day he was born, he strummed his Da’s lute and gave the strings a golden voice.

How did he come by such a fine gift? One story went that his Da made a deal with the leprechauns in the days when the lad was no lad. His Da chased that proverbial pot of gold all the way to the end of the rainbow. He hid it, leaving the leprechauns without a pot to piss in. For when the leprechauns pissed, they pissed gold.

“As soon as you give the lad-to-be the fingers of Apollo,” his Da laid down the law to the fairies, “I will release your pot of gold.

What choice did the wee folk have? So they surrendered to the bribery. They gave the man’s lad-to-be his gift. And he released their pot.

When Seamus played his music, women swooned. Men thought they had died and gone to heaven. And his Da was as proud as Saint Patrick was when he chased the snakes off the Emerald Isle and converted the Irish.

The rumor went about that Seamus had the fingers of an angel when he played that lute. Kings and Emperors begged him to play.

“Just for a little while,” he told each.

As the old wise women used to say, “T’ain’t nary a free ride.” With the blessing of music came a curse. Seamus had wandering boots. He did his two week run at one court, then he was on to other parts unknown.

Then the pope asked if he would play for his court. “Of course, Your Holiness, I would be honored.”

The first night he stood before the pope and he strummed his lute. The pope and the cardinals were all enchanted. They believed it was an angel come down to earth. That is, until the Grand Inquisitor pointed out, “He is bewitching you. He is a witch.”

“It can’t be,” one of the cardinals responded to the acquisition. “This is a holy place.”

The Grand Inquisitor was adamant. “I believe it is Satan himself.”

The pope intervened, “There’s only one way to find out.”

The court knew what that meant. They would throw him into a lake. If he floated, he was the devil. If he sank and drowned, he was innocent.

Well, the lute player was not the devil or a witch. He was not innocent either. He was a foxy chap, being an Irishman. So the next morning, the papal court gathered at the lakeside. The Grand Inquisitor brought the lute player before the court.

“Your Holiness, I am innocent,” Seamus pleaded. “I only want to bring beauty into the world.”

“It is true,” His Holiness pronounced, “that your music is beautiful. But it enchants. It makes us forget ourselves. It takes us to places we have never been.”

“That is the mission of music,” the lute player answered the great man. “To enchant us. To give us a little piece of heaven.”

“Blasphemy,” the Grand Inquisitor screamed.

“I am afraid that Grand is right,” the pope pronounced. “I am sorry, my son.”

Then the lute player came back with the unexpected. “If music is not from God, why does the Scriptures say different of David. ‘So whensoever the evil spirit from the Lord was upon Saul, David took his harp, and played with his hand, and Saul was refreshed, and was better, for the evil spirit departed from him.’” Then the lute player asked the Grand Inquisitor, “Are you saying that King David, the Lord’s own anointed, was truly a disciple of the devil, or a witch?”

All the court looked at the Grand Inquisitor. His Holiness then asked, “Well?”

The Inquisitor in all his days of inquisitioning had never come across a question of Scripture he could not answer. It had taken an Irishman to corner him into a quandary. If he answered that he was a witch or a devil, he would be condemned as a blasphemer. If he answered nay, then it must be true that the Irishman was not a witch or a devil.

“Your Holiness, it is obvious he is a son of Satan,” Mr. Inquisition said.

“Obvious to whom?” the Irishman asked. “It is obvious that you are the son of the devil, are you not?”

“I am not a son of that demon,” Inquiz responded.

“I think you’re lying,” the Irishman said. “Why don’t we find out?”

Grand looked at the Pope, His Holiness looked at Grand. The Pope shook his head and beckoned the Swiss Guard to do their thing.

The Swiss Guard seized the Grand Inquisitor and threw the man into the lake. The Grand Inquisitor did not float. He sank and drowned.

The pope rose, shook his head in sorrow and pronounced, “Too bad. We are going to have to come up with a better test. I lose more cardinals that way.”

Here’s wishing one and all a happy St. Patrick’s Day.



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