The Palace

When I was a King and a Mason—

A Master Proven and skilled—

I cleared me ground for a Palace

Such as a King should build.

I decreed and dug down to my levels;

Presently, under the silt,

I came upon the wreck of a Palace,

Such as a King had built.

 

There was no worth in the fashion—

There was no wit in the plan;

Hither and thither, aimless,

The ruined footings ran.

Masonry, brute, mishandled,

But carven on every stone,

“After me cometh a Builder;

Tell him I, too, have known.”

 

Swift to my use in my trenches,

Where my well-planned groundworks grew,

I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars,

And cut and rest them anew.

Lime I milled of his marbles;

Burned it, slacked it, and spread;

Taking and leaving at pleasure

The gifts of the humble dead.

 

Yet, I despised nor not gloried

Yet, as we wrenched them apart,

I read in the razed foundation

The heart of that builder’s heart.

As he has risen and pleaded,

So did I understand

The form of the dream he had followed

In the face of the thing he had planned.

 

When I was a King and a Mason,

In the open noon of my pride,

They sent me a Word from the Darkness—

They whispered and called me aside.

They said, “The end is forbidden.”

They said, “Thy use is fulfilled.

Thy Palace shall stand as that other’s—

The spoil of a King who shall build.”

 

I called my men from my trenches,

My quarries, my wharves, and my sheers;

All I had wrought I abandoned

To the faith of the faithless years.

Only I cut on the timber—

Only I carved on the stone:

“After me cometh a Builder;

Tell him I, too, have known!”

— Rudyard Kipling