The Palace

WhenI 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 plan - 
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 the 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 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 written 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, 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."

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."