Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  The King

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The King

By Charles Lotin Hildreth (1856–1896)

[Born in New York, N. Y., 1856. Died there, 1896. From The Masque of Death, and Other Poems. 1889.]

AN ERMINED spectre on a shaking throne,

That sits with with stony eyes, unmoved and cold,

While round about the people curse and groan:

An old, wan, withered shape, brow-bound with gold.

Long live the king!

Dark relic of the blind, benighted years,

Last of a race defiled by shame and crime

And stained with centuries of blood and tears,

Abhorrèd in the searching eye of time.

Long live the king!

Thine is the bitter heritage of hate;

Thy fathers’ heavy deeds are on thy head;

They load thee down as with a leaden weight,

They cry upon thee from the nameless dead.

Long live the king!

They haunt thy fevered couch in haggard dreams,

They mock thy greatness with a secret fear;

They write upon the wall in fiery gleams—

“Belshazzar, thou art weighed, thy doom is near!”

Long live the king!

In thee the long, ancestral sin shall cease;

What place hast thou among the sons of men?

Pass on and give the warring nations peace;

The like of thee shall not be seen again.

Long live the king!

Pass on, thou ancient, immemorial lie!

Thy power is broken in thy feeble hands;

Behold! the long night lifts along the sky,

The new day rises fair in many lands.

Long live the king!

And lo! with clash of brass and clang of drums,

And thunder of the world’s advancing tread,

The heir of time, thy strong successor comes

To pluck the crown from thy dishonored head.

Long live the king!

Man! meant of God to be sole king of men,

Whose birthright is the broad, unbarriered earth,

Whose chariot is the plough, whose sword the pen,

Whose crown the majesty of truth and worth.

Long live the king!

Ay, man! born thrall to gold and place and pride,

Back-bent with burdens, beaten with sharp rods,

Self-sold to vice and fear, creed-crucified,

Patient of power and prostrate to false gods.

Long live the king!

Rerisen from world-old darkness and despair,

Fire-purified, baptized in agony;

Behold! this is indeed the king and heir,

Wise, great, and good, well worthy to be free!

Long live the king!