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"For The King"
by [?]


As you look from the plaza at Leon west
You can see her house, but the view is best
From the porch of the church where she lies at rest;

Where much of her past still lives, I think,
In the scowling brows and sidelong blink
Of the worshiping throng that rise or sink

To the waxen saints that, yellow and lank,
Lean out from their niches, rank on rank,
With a bloodless Saviour on either flank;

In the gouty pillars, whose cracks begin
To show the adobe core within,–
A soul of earth in a whitewashed skin.

And I think that the moral of all, you’ll say,
Is the sculptured legend that moulds away
On a tomb in the choir: “Por el Rey.”

“Por el Rey!” Well, the king is gone
Ages ago, and the Hapsburg one
Shot–but the Rock of the Church lives on.

“Por el Rey!” What matters, indeed,
If king or president succeed
To a country haggard with sloth and greed,

As long as one granary is fat,
And yonder priest, in a shovel hat,
Peeps out from the bin like a sleek brown rat?

What matters? Naught, if it serves to bring
The legend nearer,–no other thing,–
We’ll spare the moral, “Live the king!”

Two hundred years ago, they say,
The Viceroy, Marquis of Monte-Rey,
Rode with his retinue that way:

Grave, as befitted Spain’s grandee;
Grave, as the substitute should be
Of His Most Catholic Majesty;

Yet, from his black plume’s curving grace
To his slim black gauntlet’s smaller space,
Exquisite as a piece of lace!

Two hundred years ago–e’en so–
The Marquis stopped where the lime-trees blow,
While Leon’s seneschal bent him low,

And begged that the Marquis would that night take
His humble roof for the royal sake,
And then, as the custom demanded, spake

The usual wish, that his guest would hold
The house, and all that it might enfold,
As his–with the bride scarce three days old.

Be sure that the Marquis, in his place,
Replied to all with the measured grace
Of chosen speech and unmoved face;

Nor raised his head till his black plume swept
The hem of the lady’s robe, who kept
Her place, as her husband backward stept.

And then (I know not how nor why)
A subtle flame in the lady’s eye–
Unseen by the courtiers standing by–

Burned through his lace and titled wreath,
Burned through his body’s jeweled sheath,
Till it touched the steel of the man beneath!

(And yet, mayhap, no more was meant
Than to point a well-worn compliment,
And the lady’s beauty, her worst intent.)

Howbeit, the Marquis bowed again:
“Who rules with awe well serveth Spain,
But best whose law is love made plain.”

Be sure that night no pillow prest
The seneschal, but with the rest
Watched, as was due a royal guest,–

Watched from the wall till he saw the square
Fill with the moonlight, white and bare,–
Watched till he saw two shadows fare

Out from his garden, where the shade
That the old church tower and belfry made
Like a benedictory hand was laid.

Few words spoke the seneschal as he turned
To his nearest sentry: “These monks have learned
That stolen fruit is sweetly earned.

“Myself shall punish yon acolyte
Who gathers my garden grapes by night;
Meanwhile, wait thou till the morning light.”

Yet not till the sun was riding high
Did the sentry meet his commander’s eye,
Nor then till the Viceroy stood by.

To the lovers of grave formalities
No greeting was ever so fine, I wis,
As this host’s and guest’s high courtesies!

The seneschal feared, as the wind was west,
A blast from Morena had chilled his rest;
The Viceroy languidly confest