The Nation


tell it as it is

In celebration of His Majesty's 86th birthday: how do we love thee?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) penned one of the most beautiful poems of all time - her Sonnet 43 - "How Do I love Thee?"

"How do I love thee? Let me count

the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth

and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out

of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal


I love thee to the level of every day's

Most quiet need, by sun and


I love thee freely, as men strive for


I love thee purely, as they turn from


I love thee with the passion put to


In my old griefs, and with my child

hood's faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to


With my lost saints, - I love thee

with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life! - and, if

God choose,

I shall but love thee better after


In this sonnet, Browning purposely used a "How" instead of a "Why", as she did not feel she needed to rationalise, or measure, her sentiment. But it does not mean that the answers to the "why" questions are not there.

It is fair to say that for this writer and millions of other Thais, Browning captured exactly how we feel towards His Majesty the King. To quote Blaise Pascal, "The heart has its reasons that reason knows not".

But we live in the physical world, where metaphysical and spiritual concepts are often unjustly derided with jaded ridicule. So perhaps, by going through Browning sonnet, we can open some cynical eyes.

"My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight." This illustrates the faith that His Majesty is always by our side, on his peoples' side, even when we are not in his sight, nor he ours. This faith is not blind; His Majesty has proven time and again that no matter who we are, we take an equal share of his lifelong selfless dedication to our well-being and livelihood. He does not have to work as hard as he has done, nor does he have to lift a finger for anything. But for more than six decades, he has toiled tirelessly. Most of the time, we did not see the hardship he endured, and he has never recounted it to entice our gratitude. Every day, he went to work, because there was lots of work to be done for the country and for its people, and somebody had to do it. He put a lot of thought into projects for the public good that he initiated and undertook; he did not do them haphazardly.

"I love thee to the level of every day's most quiet need, by sun and candle-light." Even on the most uneventful moments in our life, His Majesty has left his mark. He has tried to teach us by example how to live our lives, not by command or demand. Prudence, civility and magnanimity are three of the many things we can learn from him. Whether or not we have in fact followed in his footsteps is another question.

"I love thee freely, as men strive for right." His Majesty has never done anything that was close to cajoling our adulation and reverence. He made no excuses, he admitted his flaws, he has never launched an attack on anyone, and he treated the descendants of those who had hurt and severely punished his family just the same as those who were loyal to the monarchy. We, the people, love him of our own volition, not as the result of deceitful political rhetoric, but because of good deeds he has carried out even when there was no one to see them. We love him because he represents the grace and goodness in which we can believe.

"I love thee with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints." In contrast to other public figures in whom we trusted, and by whom we were betrayed, His Majesty remains the real deal. At his coronation he gave us his solemn pledge that he would reign righteously, and he has never betrayed his pledge. Meanwhile, in our political and social circles, there are more Pinocchio's than we can count, and they don't even entertain any notion of shame. They are the "lost saints" who trample on our trust, and are proud of doing so.

They say no good deed goes unpunished, and that eaten bread is soon forgotten. We Thais have been fortunate to have His Majesty as an embodiment of all things good and civil. So good that it arouses suspicion, heresy and conspiracy theories among some Thais and foreigners. The term "royalists" has been used with contempt. They have been branded "the elite", and "the undemocratic hand" behind every political and social woe.

Today, we - the royalists - are proud to be named as such. We are proud because at least our eyes are not "wide shut". We are not ashamed to count the ways we love His Majesty; and we are not ashamed of being called the evil invisible hand behind everything wrong in this country. We are not perturbed by being called a bunch of fools. We know we are none of the above.

On this day, as we count the ways we love and revere His Majesty, we pray for his good health on his birthday anniversary. We pray with him for this country to wake up and stand for the virtuous things that cannot be bought and sold like commodities. We pray with him that this country chooses to maintain her dignity, civility and integrity, because of him, and in spite of ourselves.

We pray that more people learn from him, because not doing so would mean that we as a people do not deserve the man that he is.

Long Live His Majesty the King.

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