Monday, February 6, 2012

Speaking of time and tide...

I am reminded of King Canute or Cnut or whatever you want to call him.

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago as though I were he. [Editor's note. Notice my use of the subjunctive mood, which indicates that my being King Cnut is an impossibility. Notice also my use of the possessive pronoun to modify the gerund in the preceding sentence. Finally, notice far fewer exclamation points in the poem below than it contained the other two times I posted it on this blog. --RWP]

Canute (994?-1035)
by Robert H. Brague

I, King of all the Britons, and Denmark mine as well.
My star approaches zenith. In Caesar’s train I dwell.
More kingdoms to be conquered, and all shall be laid low.
And feudal lords shall bear me liege wherever I may go.

And shall I stop at kingdoms? Nay, tarry here and see:
The winds and waves shall hearken, and both bow down to me.
No more shall raging ocean erode this harried shore.
But it shall do my bidding, as Christ’s in days of yore.

No more shall sea advance upon the gray and shifting sand.
Now cease your endless churning! Subside at my command!
It is Divinely ordered. You must obey my will.
In God’s name I command you. Hear and hearken: “Peace! Be still!”

But can I be mistaken? And can I be denied?
My words have no effect! Still onward comes the tide!
The swirling eddy rises! The tide attacks my knees!
It hears commands more regal than this lowly creature’s pleas!

God’s kingdom is eternal, mine but of measured span.
What foolishness emerges from the haughty heart of man.
I am but mortal monarch -- oh, hear my fool’s heart cry --
‘Tis chastened by the deafness of a greater king than I.

I don’t know, somehow it loses something without those exclamation points. Falls flat. Feel free to disagree. [Editor’s note. Click on the Labels section below to view the other two posts. --RWP]

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