Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE KING'S PICTURE, by HELEN LOUISE BARRON BOSTWICK



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THE KING'S PICTURE, by            
First Line: The king from the council chamber
Last Line: "the form of the god within."
Subject(s): Paintings & Painters


THE king from the council chamber
Came, weary and sore of heart;
He called to Iliff, the painter,
And spoke to him thus apart:
I'm sickened of the faces ignoble,
Hypocrites, cowards, and knaves;
I shall shrink in their shrunken measure,
Chief slave in a realm of slaves.

Paint me a true man's picture,
Gracious, and wise, and good.
Dowered with the strength of heroes
And the beauty of womanhood.
It shall hang in my inmost chamber,
That, thither when I retire,
It may fill my soul with its grandeur,
"And warm it with sacred fire."

So the artist painted the picture,
And it hung in the palace hall;
Never a thing so lovely
Had garnished the stately wall.
The king, with head uncovered,
Gazed on it with rapt delight,
Till it suddenly wore strange meaning --
Baffled his questioning sight.

For the form was the supplest courtier's,
Perfect in every limb;
But the bearing was that of the henchman
Who filled the flagons for him;
The brow was a priest's, who pondered
His parchment early and late;
The eye was the wandering minstrel's,
Who sang at the palace gate.

The lips, half sad and half mirthful,
With a fitful trembling grace,
Were the very lips of a woman
He had kissed in the market-place;
But the smiles which her curves transfigured,
As a rose with its shimmer of dew,
Was the smile of the wife who loved him,
Queen Ethelyn, good and true.

Then, "Learn, O King," said the artist,
"This truth that the picture tells --
That in every form of the human
Some hint of the highest dwells;
That, scanning each living temple
For the place that the veil is thin,
We may gather by beautiful glimpses
The form of the God within."





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