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

The King’s Dust

By Harriet Prescott Spofford (1835–1921)

From ‘Titian’s Garden and Other Poems’

“THOU shalt die,” the priest said to the King.

“Thou shalt vanish like the leaves of spring.

Like the dust of any common thing

One day thou upon the winds shalt blow!”

“Nay, not so,” the King said: “I shall stay

While the great sun in the sky makes day;

Heaven and earth, when I do, pass away.

In my tomb I wait till all things go!”

Then the King died. And with myrrh and nard,

Washed with palm-wine, swathed in linen hard,

Rolled in naphtha-gum, and under guard

Of his steadfast tomb, they laid the King.

Century fled to century; still he lay

Whole as when they hid him first away.

Sooth, the priest had nothing more to say,—

He, it seemed, the King, knew everything.

One day armies, with the tramp of doom,

Overthrew the huge blocks of the tomb;

Swarming sunbeams searched its chambered gloom,

Bedouins camped about the sand-blown spot.

Little Arabs, answering to their name,

With a broken mummy fed the flame;

Then a wind among the ashes came,

Blew them lightly,—and the King was not!