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The Humbled King

From the Rock Island Argus, February 10, 1914. By Henry Howland.

A king who long had worn his crown,
    Whom lesser kings beheld with awe,
Who from his high throne handed down
    What served his people as their law
Stepped forth in simple garb one day,
    And in the fields and crowded marts
Beheld his subjects toil away
    And learned what hopes were in their hearts.

He stroked the curls of many a child,
    And many a sad complaint he heard,
And here and there benignly smiled
    Or paused to speak a cheering word;
Gray-bearded, bent old men he hailed
    As fellows of his brotherhood,
And where the stricken widow wailed
    He left such solace as he could.

The king, all powerful and great
    To whom the haughtiest princes bowed,
Before a petty magistrate
    Was elbowed by the motley crowd;
Among the humble ones he gazed,
    Each moment wondering more and more
Upon the man whom he had raised
    To office but the day before.

He saw the puny tyrant swell,
    And heard him threaten and advise;
Before him timid people fell,
    Stunned by the proud look in his eyes;
He had the manner of a god,
    And, stepping down, he gravely passed
As if the ground whereon he trod
    Had been made hallowed ground, at last.

Deserting those whose heads were bared,
    The king whom lesser kings obeyed
Back to his castle humbly fared
    And knelt beside his throne and prayed:
“Oh, let me be as great,” he cried,
    “As he believes himself to be
Who holds with childish, foolish pride
    A little brief authority.”

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