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Poem by Madison Julius Cawein


The King


A blown white bubble buoyed zenith-ward,
Up from the tremulous East the round moon swung
Mist-murky, and the unsocial stars that thronged,
Hot with the drought, thick down the empty West,
Winked thirstily; no wind to rouse the leaves,
That o'er the glaring road lolled palpitant,
Withered and whitened of the weary dust
From iron hoofs of that gay fellowship
Of knights which gat at morn the king disguised;
Whose mind was, "in the lists to joust and be
An equal mid unequals, man with man:"
Who from the towers of Edric passed, wherein
Some nights he'd sojourned, till one morn a horn
Sang at dim portals, musical with dew,
Wild echoes of wild woodlands and the hunt,
Clear herald of the staunchest of his knights;
And they to the great jousts at Camelot
Rode pounding off, a noise of steel and steeds.

Thick in the stagnant moat the lilies lay
Ghastly and rotting; hoarse with rusty chains
The drawbridge hung before the barbed grate;
And far above along lone battlements,
His armor moon-drenched, one great sentinel
Clanked drowsily, and it was late in June,
She at her lattice, lawny night-robed, leaned
Dreaming of somewhat dear, and happy smiled
From glorious eyes; a face like gracious nights,
One silent brilliancy of steadfast stars
Innumerable and delicate through the dusk:
Long, loosened loops and coils of sensuous hair
Rolled turbulence down naked neck and throat,
That shamed the moonshine with a rival sheen.

One stooped above her till his nostrils drank
Rich, faint perfumes that blossomed in her hair,
And 'round her waist hooped one strong arm and drew
Her mightily to him; soft burying deep
In crushed fresh linen warm with flesh his arm,
Searched all her eyes until his own were drugged
Mad with their fire, quick one hungry kiss,
Like anger bruised fierce on her breathless lips,
Whispered, "And lov'st but one? and he?"
"Sweet, sweet my lord, thou wotest well!" and then
From love's stern beauty writhen into hate's
Gnarled hideousness, he haled her sweet, white face
Back, back by its large braids of plenteous hair
Till her full bosom's clamorous speechlessness
Stiff on the moon burst white, low mocked and laughed,
"The King, I wot, adulteress!" and a blade
Glanced thin as ice plunged hard, hard in her heart.



Madison Julius Cawein


Madison Julius Cawein's other poems:
  1. The Wood God
  2. Poe
  3. Dogtown
  4. Love's Calendar
  5. Fall


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Rudyard Kipling The King ("Farewell, Romance!")

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