First, ape transcriptions weren't trustworthy.
Apes would tend to impose false gestalten
That interfered with God's intended word.
They reworked raw oracular output
In second and third and subsequent drafts
To resemble contracts, cookbooks, plays,
Reasoned philosophical arguments,
Novels with plausible characters and plots,
Abridged French-Assyrian dictionaries,
And other items of finely wrought prose
That substitute nicely for idle talk
But not for good, authentic clairvoyance.
An Oracle should produce neither fiction
Nor non-fiction, but rather signify
The Godhead's mysteries in cryptic verse
Unintelligible except to those
Recognized as members in good standing
Of the professional augur's guild.
Apes come, in time, to consider themselves
To be artists and intellectuals
And hang about in cappucino bars.
One prodigy among them, a large chimp,
With an eye on the literary prizes,
Typed a long and detailed description
Of slender fingers typing a description
Of slender fingers typing a description.
This was dismissed by most of the critics,
Because of erratic spacebar usage
Due to the lack of an opposable thumb.
And that's the first of three, with two to go.
Don't fret, Marguerite. I'm keeping count.
Second, it seems altogether beyond
Any human teacher's mortal patience
To urge an ape to type any faster,
Even when at an electric typewriter,
Than ten words per minute without mistakes.
And third, there occured a great tragedy
When an Oracle ape flew into a rage
And bit a young concubine on the thigh
After she quite tactlessly termed his work
Incoherent, shallow, boring and banal.
Rendered unfit for her duties by the bite,
The young concubine had to be destroyed,
An event that brought Quintus such regret
Use of apes was forthwith abandoned
And the ancient Oracle reinstated.
You see, parrot, she said, we could've skipped
That whole ape bit. Who needed that?
Certainly the unhappy apes themselves
Might have wished another, better outcome.
You can see them now down on the embankments
Begging for rotten fruit from passersby,
The King's harsh reward for failed prophecy.
And next to the apes, dressed in filthy rags
Rather than silken robes, is the High Priest,
Now reduced to panhandling for pennies,
Oroe his name, highest of Magi.
From ancient times it was his solemn duty
To perform traditional Oracle rites,
An undemanding task in normal times.
Novices would bring a deck of tarot cards,
Where each image on a card illustrates
A different letter of the alphabet,
And ask him to pick a card, any card.
And this he would do, repeatedly, until
The cards spelled out the message God sent.
But on this occasion, with every pick
Oroe drew the same card, the ninth,
That one that meant a loss in some games,
In some meant nothing, in some was trump.
Always the one-eyed parrot card was drawn,
And each time, with each draw, the same card.
This incredible run of bad luck
Has left Nineveh unclear on its error
And how to avert God's grim correction.
Liber Jonae Contents