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Skipwith Cannéll

(1887–1957)

The King


SEVEN full-paunched eunuchs came to me,
Bearing before them upon a silver shield
The secrets of my enemy.

As they crossed my threshold to stand,
With stately and hypocritical gesture
in a row before me,
One stumbled.
The dull, incurious eyes of the others
Blazed into no laughter,
Only a haggard malice
At the discomfiture
Of their companion.

Why should such T h i n g s have power
Not spoken for in the rules of men?

i would not receive them.
With my head covered i motioned them
To go forth from my presence.

Where shall i find an enemy
Worthy of me as him they defaced?

As they left me,
Bearing with them
Lewd shield and scarlet crown,
One paused upon the threshold,
insolent,
To sniff a flower.

Even him i permitted to go forth
Safely.
. . . . . .

Therefore
i have renounced my kingdom;
in a little bronze boat i have set sail
Out
Upon the sea.

There is no land, and the sea
is black like the cypresses waiting
At midnight in the place of tombs;
is black like the pool of ink
in the palm of a soothsayer.

My boat
Fears the white-lipped waves
That snatch at her,
Hungrily,
Furtively,
As they steal past like cats
into the night:
And beneath me, in their hidden places,
The great fishes talk of me
in a tongue i have forgotten.

Submitted: Saturday, September 21, 2013
Edited: Saturday, September 21, 2013
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