Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
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Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
 
The Dead King
 
(Edward VII.)

1910

WHO in the Realm to-day lays down dear life for the sake of a land more dear?
  And, unconcerned for his own estate, toils till the last grudged sands have run?
        Let him approach. It is proven here
Our King asks nothing of any man more than Our King himself has done.
 
For to him above all was Life good, above all he commanded Her abundance full-handed.        5
The peculiar treasure of Kings was his for the taking:
All that men come to in dreams he inherited waking:—
 
His marvel of world-gathered armies—one heart and all races;
His seas ’neath his keels when his war-castles foamed to their places;
The thundering foreshores that answered his heralded landing;        10
The huge lighted cities adoring, the assemblies upstanding;
The Councils of Kings called in haste to learn how he was minded—
The Kingdoms, the Powers, and the Glories he dealt with unblinded.
 
To him came all captains of men, all achievers of glory,
Hot from the press of their battles they told him their story.        15
They revealed him their lives in an hour and, saluting, departed,
Joyful to labour afresh—he had made them new-hearted.
And, since he weighed men from his youth, and no lie long deceived him,
He spoke and exacted the truth, and the basest believed him.
 
And God poured him an exquisite wine, that was daily renewed to him,        20
In the clear-welling love of his peoples that daily accrued to him.
Honour and service we gave him, rejoicingly fearless;
Faith absolute, trust beyond speech and a friendship as peerless.
And since he was Master and Servant in all that we asked him,
We leaned hard on his wisdom in all things, knowing not how we tasked him.        25
For on him each new day laid command, every tyrannous hour,
To confront, or confirm, or make smooth some dread issue of power;
To deliver true judgment aright at the instant, unaided,
In the strict, level, ultimate phrase that allowed or dissuaded;
To foresee, to allay, to avert from us perils unnumbered,        30
To stand guard on our gates when he guessed that the watchmen had slumbered;
To win time, to turn hate, to woo folly to service and, mightily schooling
His strength to the use of his Nations, to rule as not ruling.
These were the works of our King; Earth’s peace was the proof of them.
God gave him great works to fulfil, and to us the behoof of them.        35
We accepted his toil as our right—none spared, none excused him.
When he was bowed by his burden his rest was refused him.
We troubled his age with our weakness—the blacker our shame to us!
Hearing his People had need of him, straightway he came to us.
 
As he received so he gave—nothing grudged, naught denying,        40
Not even the last gasp of his breath when he strove for us, dying.
For our sakes, without question, he put from him all that he cherished.
Simply as any that serve him he served and he perished.
All that Kings covet was his, and he flung it aside for us.
Simply as any that die in his service he died for us!        45
 
Who in the Realm to-day has choice of the easy road or the hard to tread?
  And, much concerned for his own estate, would sell his soul to remain in the sun?
        Let him depart nor look on Our dead.
Our King asks nothing of any man more than Our King himself has done.
 
 
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