The Pleasure of the King

BEHOLD, that day came Pharaoh, and they cried,
“ O mightiest of the mighty, thou art Lord
And we are dust, but we can do no more.
Yon capstone toppled, and threescore were slain :
At this we murmur not, for they are dead,
Our comrades and our brothers, and at peace;
But mark, the sullen rock unfleshed our hands ;
Our arms are palsied, lifting; and our eyes
Behold not Pharaoh’s jewels, but a glare
That smites them sharply. We can do no more;
Have mercy, Pharaoh, we can do no more.”
Gazed he upon them steadfastly, and thus,
With half-shut eyes, gave answer: “ What are ye,
Vexing the lazy silence of my noon?
Last night to me an idle fancy came,
And ye shall shape it. Hew me now a lion,
Remorseless as my wakened wrath to ye,
Huge as a mountain, couchant, but the face
Shall be that woman’s who did please my dream.
Within three days I see this, or ye die.
Go, I have spoken.” But they cried, “ We die
If we fulfill this, Lord.” Then smiled the king :
“ None live but Pbaraoh ; I alone shall live.
Hew ye the lion couchant, and the face,
Like to the woman’s who did please my dream,
Ye shall set westward, with unpitying eyes,
To watch the sun go down, and view the stride
Of night and death to empires and to men, —
For so the idle fancy came to me.
Go, I have spoken.” And they did obey,
Hewing the lion couchant, with the face
Of her who pleased his dream; within three days
The cruel rock was graven, and the eyes
Unpitying stared upon the west, where came
To empires and to men both death and night.
The king beheld and smiled: “ This was my dream.
Applaud it, slaves! ” They spoke not, being dead.
Henry Guy Carleton.