Survival

By George Sterling

The king came back from war with slaves and spoil,
    And said, "A vaster palace must there be
    Than where my fathers dwelt." So purposed he,
And set a captive nation to the toll.

And arch on arch and wall by nlghtless wall
    The royal aeries towered to the aim . . .
    The years were long before the task was done
And captains feasted in the banquet hall.

Then to his youngest poet said the king,
    "Behold the magnitude of mine estate!
    The courts, the lions graven at the gate,
The armies vassal to my ramparts! Sing!

"Sing the strong towers basaltic and sublime!
    Sing the high walls whose strength shall make my fame
    A star of legend and immortal flame,
And house my princes to the snows of Time!"

And the red lords kept silence for the lay;
    The sceptred king smiled proudly on the queen;
    But the mad poet, willful and serene,
Sang of a rose whose life was for a day ...

Of all the pomp abides nor gate nor tow'r;
    But o'er the ruins bloom the roses still,
    And desert folk, when the lone nights are chill.
Sing yet the song he fashioned for the flow'r.

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