Cicely Fox Smith
The King's Grief - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
The king was lonely, the king was sad,
Sad in his youth, when the world was glad:
Sick at heart on his lonely throne
For a friend and a brother to call his own;
There were wise old statesmen, and trusty lords,
And grey-haired prelates with saintly words,
Guiding and training his manhood's spring, -
Never a friend for a lonely king.
But a fair frank face that was void of guile
Won his heart with a song and smile,
And fearless laughter and reckless joy
Rang passing sweet to a weary boy;
Comrade in sport and comrade in play,
(Together sorry, together gay,)
Ready a jest and a laugh to fling, -
Brother and friend to the lonely king.
But faintly at first thro' the palace walls
Dark whispers came to the king's high halls;
Of a crushed realm bleeding for one man's gain,
And a people that called to their king in vain, -
Of licensed murder, and unbound shame,
And foul wrong wrought in a king's pure name, -
Fire and torment, to wrest and wring;
Alas! and alas for the lonely king!
King Ferdinand of Serena.
Ramon, his friend.
KING: Count Ramon, - since tomorrow thou must die,
And seeing thou hast been nearer to our heart
Than any other, - we have called you here
To bid thee farewell -
RAMON: Ferdinand, - my brother!
KING. Nay, Ramon! Not thy brother, but thy king, -
Who has so loved thee, - whom thou hast so wronged, -
Whom thou hast blinded with thy winning ways,
And led along false paths of carelessness, -
Glad roads that lead to ruin.
RAMON: O my king!
When have I wronged thee? When has not this heart
Been true as steel to thee? O wert thou lone,
Throneless, - forlorn, - with none to give thee aid, -
This hand should still be thine; this hand should bleed
To its last drop, to save thee!
KING: Ah, my Ramon!
If one should lead a shepherd from his flock,
And win his soul to sweet forgetfulness,
And while he slept, call up the ravening wolves
To pray upon his charge, - were this a friend?
Ramon, I am the shepherd of this realm,
And who wrongs this, wrongs me: there lies your sin;
O, were I throneless, saidst thou?
Were it so,
We might have lived together, happy boys,
And led rejoicing lives from day to day
And never dreamed of sorrow. But alas!
Thou hast come nigh and won a lonely king, -
After thy kind, thou has been true to me:
And yet I cannot save thee: if I could,
I would not.
RAMON: Yet this hand has lain in thine;
Thy lips have called me brother:
Look from the window yonder!
Dost thou not
See how the sunlight glances off the sea
Where we have sailed, such summer days as this,
And sworn strong vows of friendship: we have row'd,
Hawk'd, hunted, roamed together: in this room
We have play'd and feasted in the winter eves:
Ferdinand, I am young: - we both are young; -
You will not let me die.
KING: Ay, - so saw I
But yesterday: mine eyes are opened now:
There lies Serena with her thousand roofs,
And there my duty: where I used to see
A world made fair for me to revel in,
I see a thousand deeds and destinies
That I have fail'd to watch o'er: - broken laws
That I have fail'd to guard: - and trampled rights
That I have fail'd to keep: and this for thee:
Oh, Ramon, Ramon, you have taught a king
To make his realm a playground, - led away
Him who should be a guardian to his realm
To paths free lads may play in: and my people
Call'd me all vainly from my dalliance;
I am more theirs than they are mine: farewell,
Farewell for ever! I must let thee die:
Thou hast drunk of power and place, and sat with kings:
Thou hast duped me, - wronged my people bitterly:
RAMON: Hast thou not also sinn'd,
Who hast made merry with me, - given thy power
To me, and when the hour of reckoning comes
Puttest me by?
KING: Ah, bitter, bitter truth!
Mine, doubly mine, the sorrow and the sin, -
Who set a slight thing in the place of princes
Because his ways were winsome.
Thou who wast once my friend!
RAMON: False, false indeed!
Such is the faith of kings.
KING: Ah! such that soon
When they strike off that dear, dear head of thine,
My heart will go down bleeding to thy grave
Where I would fain lie with thee: and whene'er
I look on happy scenes we used to know,
My heart will ache for thee: and I shall hold
A silent sorrow on my lonely throne;
Such is the faith of kings: and such their grief.
The king grows old upon his throne, -
Steadfast in justice, strong of will,
Tender to hear a wrong'd one's moan,
And stern to ill;
None knows how, since his boyhood's day,
Old grief dwells 'neath that smile serene;
None knows how, in his heart, for aye
A grave is green.
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