Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 385. The Stricken King
Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
385. The Stricken King
By Horace Holley
O WHAT am I that the cold wind affrays,
O What am I the ocean could confound
A fort so open to the rebel days
And nature’s mutiny and human wound?
O What am I so weak against the world,        5
Yea, weaker in my heart that should be strong,
On whom this double warfare is unfurled,
Of outer violence first, then inward wrong?
I am a fair, a fleeting glimpse of God
One moment visible in mortal state,       10
A bit of heaven caught i’ the prison-clod,
That I nor nature’s self may violate;
  Ev’n as a jewel lost from kingly crown
  That’s royal still, though fingered by a clown.…
We of the world who shuffle to our doom,       15
Who dull with common lead the gold of time,
Despoiling where we may the tender bloom
Of all unworldly souls that rise sublime;
Still scourging wisdom nobler than our use
And scorning pity bent on our despair,       20
Fouling earth’s seldom beauty by abuse
In rage at strength too strong, at fair too fair;
Nathless we suffer pain with them we slay,
And more than they, as we their death survive.
Weep not for them so glorious in decay,—       25
Weep thou for us, inglorious and alive:
  Stricken ourselves in their destruction, till
  That inward Saviour come we cannot kill.…
Yet, longer dwelling in that ruined court
Where man, the stricken king, so ill does reign       30
I find his folly wiser than report
And his defilement daughter of his pain.
He’s like a king who never knew repose
But lives in constant dread to be o’erthrown,
Buying a half-obedience from his foes       35
And half-a-king to them who would have none.
And so his robe is stained, his front dismayed,
His court a mock, himself but half a king;
And so his magnanimity’s arrayed,
So foully gowned, a self-impeaching thing.       40
  ’Tis so his royalty would be a scorn
  If it were not too piteous and forlorn.
Himself his foe and bitter regicide,
Himself the faction risen in his state,
Himself his spy and minister, to chide       45
Himself to wrath, and nourish his own hate;
Himself his fool that can himself beguile,
Himself his scullion, foul to that degree,
Himself his beggar, skilled in cunning wile
Himself to plead in his necessity;       50
Yet king withal, and proved by future act
When all that baser self he may resign,
Leagued with himself and firm in his own pact
To live a monarch, noble in his line!
  A king withal, and nowise made more clear:       55
  His knavish self his lordly self does fear.



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