There is a travelling man, In robes of purple and gold, Who sells the world's words like spices, For all the stories to be told.
He has baby words all sticky lipped, And cloying to the ear, That every father waits for desperately, And every mother longs to hear.
The travelling man has words of fire, That burn the throat and tongue, And softer, sympathetic words, From a well that pity sprung.
And trapped inside a genie's lamp, Cardamom words of lust. And like pressed brittle flowers, Archaic words gath'ring dust.
He has each and every word, Bottled in oil or merely dried, And a thousand, thousand coloured flasks, And bunches trussed and tied.
In tiny droppers he keeps by his chest, Are words of pious diction, Kept safe and sold, bought and told, 'Til holy fact is fiction.
The words of lies are kept as seeds, To sprout at the buyer's leisure, Until they grow beyond control, To spread beyond all measure.
In great heaping sacks are words of love, Sweet upon the plate, But the travelling man sells less of them, In these darker days of late.
Like asafoetida are words not born, Yet to be uttered aloud. And in oaken chests are words long dead, Wrapped in muslin shroud.
The travelling man has seen east and west, Every path has been his track, Dressed in robes of purple and gold, Carrying the world's words upon his back.