When I was a 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 planHither and thither, aimless, The ruined footing 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. Lime I milled of his marbles:
Burned it, slaked it, and spread, Taking and leaving at pleasure The gifts of the humble dead.
Yet I despised not nor gloried;Yet, as we wrench 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
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 I called my men from my trenches,
My quarries, my wharves and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned "After me cometh a Builder,
Tell him, I, too, have known." In the open noon of my pride,
To the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber
Only I carved on the stone: 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."