At the king’s gate the subtle noon
Wove filmy yellow nets of sun;
Into the drowsy snare too soon
The guards fell one by one.
Through the king’s gate, unquestioned then,
A beggar went, and laughed, “This brings
Me chance, at last, to see if men
Fare better, being kings.”
The king sat bowed beneath his crown,
Propping his face with listless hand;
Watching the hour-glass sifting down
Too slow its shining sand.
“Poor man, what wouldst thou have of me?”
The beggar turned, and pitying,
Replied, like one in dream, “Of thee,
Nothing. I want the king.”
Uprose the king, and from his head
Shook off the crown, and threw it by.
“O man! thou must have known,” he said.
“A greater king than I.”
Through all the gates, unquestioned then,
Went king and beggar hand in hand.
Whispered the king, “Shall I know when
Before his throne I stand?”
The beggar laughed. Free winds in haste
Were wiping from the king’s hot brow
The crimson lines the crown had traced.
“This is his presence now.”
At the king’s gate, the crafty noon
Unwove its yellow nets of sun;
Out of their sleep in terror soon
The guards waked one by one.
“Ho here! Ho there! Has no man seen
The king?” The cry ran to and fro;
Beggar and king, they laughed, I ween,
The laugh that free men know.
On the king’s gate the moss grew gray;
The king came not. They called him dead;
And made his eldest son one day
Slave in his father’s stead.