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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885)

I SMILE to hear the little kings,

When they count up their precious things,

And send their vaunting lists abroad

Of what their kingdoms can afford.

One boasts his corn, and one his wine,

And one his gold and silver fine;

One by an army, one by a fleet,

Keeps neighbor kings beneath his feet;

One sets his claim to highest place

On looms of silk and looms of lace;

And one shows pictures of old saints

In lifelike tints of wondrous paints;

And one has quarries of white stone

From which rare statue-shapes have grown:

And so, by dint of wealth or grace,

Striving to keep the highest place,

They count and show their precious things,

The little race of little kings.

“O little kings!” I long to say,

“Who counts God’s revenues to-day?

Who knows, on all the hills and coasts,

Names of the captains of his hosts?

What eye has seen the half of gold

His smallest mine has in its hold?

What figures tell one summer’s cost

Of fabrics which are torn and tost

To clothe his myriads of trees?

Who reckons, in the sounding seas,

The shining corals, wrought and graved,

With which his ocean floors are paved?

Who knows the numbers or the names

Of colors in his sunset flames?

What table measures, marking weight,

What chemistries, can estimate

One single banquet for his birds?”

Then, mocked by all which utmost words

And utmost thoughts can frame or reach,

My heart finds tears its only speech.

In ecstasy, part joy, part pain,

Where fear and wonder half restrain

Love’s gratitude, I lay my ear

Close to the ground, and listening hear

This noiseless, ceaseless, boundless tide

Of earth’s great wealth, on every side,

Rolling and pouring up to break

At feet of God, who will not take

Nor keep among his heavenly things

So much as tithe of all it brings;

But instant turns the costly wave,

Gives back to earth all that it gave,

Spends all his universe of power

And pomp to deck one single hour

Of time, and then in largess free,

Unasked, bestows the hour on me.