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.


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