A Puzzlement

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A Puzzlement

Lyrics By Oscar Hammerstein II  Music By Richard Rodgers

In this powerful soliloquy, the King grapples with what he knows and does not know. Faced with teaching a son whose inherited beliefs are challenged by European ideas, he struggles to find a way to guide his son confidently toward the truth.

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“A Puzzlement” LYRICS

When I was a boy,
World was better spot.
What was so was so,
What was not was not.

Now I am a man—
World have change a lot:
Some things nearly so,
Others nearly not.

There are times I almost think
I am not sure of what I absolutely know.
Very often find confusion
In conclusion I concluded long ago.

In my head are many facts
That, as a student, I have studied to procure.
In my head are many facts
Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!

[spoken] Is a puzzlement. What to tell a growing son?

[sung] What, for instance, shall I say to him of women?
Shall I educate him on the ancient lines?
Shall I tell the boy, as far as he is able,
To respect his wives and love his concubines?

Shall I tell him every one is like the other,
And the better one of two is really neither?
If I tell him this, I think he won’t believe it—
And I nearly think I don’t believe it either!

When my father was a king,
He was a king who knew exactly what he knew,
And his brain was not a thing
Forever swinging to and fro and fro and to.
Shall I then be like my father
And be willfully unmovable and strong?
Or is better to be right?
Or am I right when I believe I may be wrong?

Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak, am I not best alone?
If allies are strong with power to protect me,
Might they not protect me out of all I own?

Is a danger to be trusting one another,
One will seldom want to do what other wishes…
But unless someday somebody trust somebody,
There’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes!

There are times I almost think
Nobody sure of what he absolutely know.
Ev’rybody find confusion
In conclusion he concluded long ago,

And it puzzle me to learn
That though a man may be in doubt of what he know,
Very quickly will he fight,
He’ll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!

Oh-h-h, oh-h-h!
Sometimes I think that people going mad!
Ah-h-h, ah-h-h!
Sometimes I think that people not so bad!

But no matter what I think
I must go on living life.
As leader of my kingdom I must go forth,
Be father to my children,
And husband to each wife—
Et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.

If my Lord in Heaven, Buddha, show the way,
Ev’ry day I try to live another day.
If my Lord in Heaven, Buddha, show the way,
Ev’ry day I do my best for one more day,
But…
Is a puzzlement!