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King Cole   By: (1878-1967)

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First Page:

KING COLE

By

JOHN MASEFIELD

Rosas Gallipoli Right Royal The Faithful Selected Poems Lost Endeavour A Mainsail Haul Captain Magaret Reynard the Fox The Daffodil Fields The Old Front Line Multitude and Solitude Collected Poems and Plays Salt Water Poems and Ballads Good Friday and Other Poems The Tragedy of Pompey the Great Philip the King and Other Poems The Tragedy of Nan and Other Poems Lollingdon Downs and Other Poems The Story of a Round House and Other Poems The Locked Chest; and The Sweeps of Ninety eight The Everlasting Mercy and the Widow in the Bye Street

KING COLE

BY

JOHN MASEFIELD

WITH DRAWINGS IN BLACK AND WHITE

BY

JUDITH MASEFIELD

New York

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1921

All rights reserved

COPYRIGHT, 1921,

BY JOHN MASEFIELD.

Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1921.

To

MY WIFE

KING COLE

[Illustration]

King Cole was King before the troubles came, The land was happy while he held the helm, The valley land from Condicote to Thame, Watered by Thames and green with many an elm. For many a year he governed well his realm, So well beloved, that, when at last he died, It was bereavement to the countryside.

So good, so well beloved, had he been In life, that when he reached the judging place (There where the scales are even, the sword keen), The Acquitting Judges granted him a grace, Aught he might choose, red, black, from king to ace, Beneath the bright arch of the heaven's span; He chose, to wander earth, the friend of man.

So, since that time, he wanders shore and shire, An old, poor, wandering man, with glittering eyes Helping distressful folk to their desire By power of spirit that within him lies. Gentle he is, and quiet, and most wise, He wears a ragged grey, he sings sweet words, And where he walks there flutter little birds.

And when the planets glow as dusk begins He pipes a wooden flute to music old. Men hear him on the downs, in lonely inns, In valley woods, or up the Chiltern wold; His piping feeds the starved and warms the cold, It gives the beaten courage; to the lost It brings back faith, that lodestar of the ghost.

And most he haunts the beech tree pasturing chalk, The Downs and Chilterns with the Thames between. There still the Berkshire shepherds see him walk, Searching the unhelped woe with instinct keen, His old hat stuck with never withering green, His flute in poke, and little singings sweet Coming from birds that flutter at his feet.

Not long ago a circus wandered there, Where good King Cole most haunts the public way, Coming from Reading for St. Giles's Fair Through rain unceasing since Augustine's Day; The horses spent, the waggons splashed with clay, The men with heads bowed to the wester roaring, Heaving the van wheels up the hill at Goring.

Wearily plodding up the hill they went, Broken by bitter weather and the luck, Six vans, and one long waggon with the tent, And piebald horses following in the muck, Dragging their tired hooves out with a suck, And heaving on, like some defeated tribe Bound for Despair with Death upon their kibe.

All through the morn the circus floundered thus, The nooning found them at the Crossing Roads, Stopped by an axle splitting in its truss. The horses drooped and stared before their loads. Dark with the wet they were, and cold as toads. The men were busy with the foundered van, The showman stood apart, a beaten man.

He did not heed the dripping of the rain, Nor the wood's roaring, nor the blotted hill, He stood apart and bit upon his pain, Biting the bitter meal with bitter will. Focussed upon himself, he stood, stock still, Staring unseeing, while his mind repeated, "This is the end; I'm ruined; I'm defeated."

From time to time a haggard woman's face Peered at him from a van, and then withdrew;

[Illustration: Within the cowboy's van the rat eyed wife, Her reddish hair in papers twisted close... Continue reading book >>




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