An ancient British king once saw
His closest followers believe
That he had godlike powers and so
He planned therefore to undeceive
Them, proving what he always knew
That kings were men and nothing more
And so he ordered them to bear
Him and his throne down to the shore.
They lugged the two down to the beach
And there he ordered them to set
The throne and him where, at low tide,
The sand was barely even wet
And there he bade them to abide
Until the day had passed and then
To watch as the approaching tide
Would soak the dried-out sand again.
Within an hour, the far-off sea
Began once more to move inland,
But while it came, the clever king
Commanded that his followers stand
Around him, anxious, while the waves
Came close and closer, till he chose
To lecture them on kingly power
And laughed while sea swirled round their toes.
“Now watch more closely!” then he said.
“And you will see wherein your fault
Has made you blind to where my might
Comes to an end. And so, Sea—HALT!”
He cried and waved his arms and still
Did spring tide listen? Not a bit!
“You see?” the king asked. “Learn from this!
I’m just a man! Now run for it!”
The king leaped up and all his men
Ran desperately to make landfall
And some were struck, when safe, to see
The king was there before them all.
He made his point: his followers
From that day on with clearer eyes
Could see the king for what he was—
But what if he were not so wise?
What if he thought, “I’m king—
That means I’m not at all like other men.
The tide belongs to me and so
I’ll tell it if to change and when!”?
And so, when brought down to the beach,
And facing the approaching tide,
He waved his arms and shouted HALT
yet didn’t help his men decide
That he was mortal, but instead
Kept shouting “HALT! You there, it’s ME!
Obey! I’m king! Now grovel, waves!”
Until, at last, the building sea
Swept him away with all his men,
Still shouting, till the waves hit shore
And no survivor, shaken, stood
To see the king and court no more.