The King's Garments

by Isabella Valancy Crawford

Isabella Valancy Crawford

"SPEAK !" cried the King, "O seer, arise and speak,
For I am sick of revelry to-night;
Strange discords seem above the harps to break,
The wine itself hath lost its ruby light,
The dancers' feet are lead, the lutes but sigh;
"Arise, O seer, arise and prophesy!"

The ancient seer, with mild, majestic grace,
In the swift silence of the banquet halls
Rose white-robed, silver-bearded, in his place,
Gazed on the monarch, nobles, guests and thralls,
And clearly came his low and keen reply:
"O King, what wilt thou that I prophesy?

"For I am ready, but—thou give the theme."
Rolled round the hall the monarch's careless eyes.
"Well, since thou wilt not else, dream, seer—ay, dream
What garments wait on kings in Paradise—
If crowns await them, and the purple dye—
Kings, sacred here—now, old man, prophesy!"

The watchful harpers touched the sweetest strings
Their tall harps owned; such soothing, dream-like notes
As murmur in the cups of deep, dusk springs
In dreamy woods. The strain seductive floats
In trancing sounds, which, as they melting die
In ear and soul, breathe softly, "Prophesy!"

Loud cried the seer,—such passion thrilled his frame,
Half sprang the monarch from his rich divan,
And paled his nobles as the bold words came:
"I know no king to-night—thou art a man;
A man! and thou wert born and thou shalt die;
Of thy soul's garments must I prophesy.

"Doth Tyrian purple wait thy naked soul?
O crownèd fool, beyond the Stygian gloom
That rolls its bitter billows 'tween thy goal
In Paradise and thee I see a loom
And One who weaves thereat! I hear Him cry:
"Spare not, spare not, but loudly prophesy!'

"Yet, who shall name the terrors of His brow,
The awful might of His resistless hand,
His unstained garments, whiter than the snow
That crowns high mountains in a hilly land?
How shall a man dare raise his voice on high,
And of this flawless Weaver prophesy?

"To speak of that terrific loom who dare?
Clearer than crystal, without mote or flaw,
It stands eternal in celestial air.
And He who weaves thereat, His name is Law;
Star-like His fiery shuttles shoot and fly,
Weaving thy robes of which I prophesy.

"Whence come the warp, the woof? Behold, O King!
From every deed of thine I see arise
Long filaments, dusk as the raven's wing
That blots the melting azure of the skies;
Thy battles, murders, wine-red blasphemy
Yield warp and woof of which I prophesy.

"With hand that swerves not, just and most divine,
Law weaves from these the garments of thy soul,
Black, black as hell; and thine, O tyrant, thine
To wear them while remorseful ages roll,
Happy if in their mournful folds thou spy
One thread of gold! Thus, King, I prophesy.

"For Law immutable hath one decree,
"No deed of good, no deed of ill can die;
All must ascend unto my loom and be
Woven for man in lasting tapestry,
Each soul his own.' Now, tyrant, dare to die
And claim thy robes of which I prophesy!"

Last updated April 01, 2023