"Tidal, King of Nations"

By George Sterling

Genesis xiv: 1-17

Tidal, king of nations, is it night and silence for thee —
    For all who smote by the slime-pits and were slain in the valley of kings?
Come there dreams to the bed of stone which none attaineth to see—
    Mirth of thy captains, moan of thy slaves or shadow of voiceless things?

Aunraphel and Arioch and Elam's over-lord,
    Hold they still the pact they held by the salt-sea's bitter breath?
Speak they yet of the battle's range when the nine kings drew the sword?
    Beck they now for a phantom wine in the sunless courts of Death?

Tidal, king of nations, the desert Is seal of thy tomb;
    He who breaketh that ashen seal may sell thy bones for a price.
Thy sceptre rotteth unheld and thy chariot in the gloom,
    And the ghosts of thy gods come not to the evening sacrifice

There, tho the twilight deepen, no harps are sad for thy sake;
    Thou with care for thy wraths alone hast seen how the captains fail.
Time for thy doves hath given dust, for thy melonvine the snake,
    The bittern's cry for thy viol's voice, and the bat for thy nightingale.

Tidal, king of nations, and traitor to each for pride,
    Thou wert no wall to thy people, nor guard in a narrow place;
Thy will it was on Admah and the hearths of Zoar to ride,
    Slaying beyond thy borders, till the arrow sang at thy face.

Treasure and flocks and women, and all things fair in thy sight,
    They for thine eyes were herded—and what do thine eyes discern?
Foeman and. friend are broken, and none remaineth to fight;
    They that supped with War hath War now eaten in turn.

Tidal, king of nations, could life be given again,
    For what thy sword uplifted in the battle that kings must use?
Would they heart give thought to the secret of man's unsearchable pain,
    Keeping thy trust with the orphan, and the widow's empty cruse?

The water-ways are broken that led to the com and grape:
    Thy steel was to other torrents, thy steeds to another goal
Alas for our faithless hands that mar whatever they shape—
    For the dusts made equal now in the palm of the groping mole!

Tidal, king of nations, the world is weary of strife;
    We Stand aghast by our engines, that wait for the trumpet's call.
Must man be brute forever and Hate be lord over Life?
    Nay! tho the midnight question, the morning answereth all!

Still wait the fields for the sower, tho the lords of Ur be not;
    The heavenly roads lie open to the horses of the sun;
And still the mighty Hands, unchangeable, unbegot,
    Test as of old the nations, till the many realms areone.

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