Verse > Rudyard Kipling > Verse: 1885–1918
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936).  Verse: 1885–1918.  1922.
The Palace

WHEN I was King and a Mason—a Master proven and skilled—
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.
There was no worth in the fashion—there was no wit in the plan—        5
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran—
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known.”
Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew.        10
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.
Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder’s heart.
As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand        15
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.
*        *        *        *        *
When I was a King and a Mason—in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness—They whispered and called me aside.
They said—“The end is forbidden.” They said—“Thy use is fulfilled.
“Thy Palace shall stand as that other’s—the spoil of a King who shall build.”        20
I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber—only I carved on the stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known!”

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