Louis le Grand and Louis le Bien Aimé

Here, strolling on their bored adulterous way,

Scattered with scarlet heels the gravel, when

They bowed, hat raised, to less celestial men.

And, following after, came their women, plumed

With diamanté ostrich feathers, doomed

Later to linger in a marble house

Like miniatures that jewelled an old carouse;

Who glided with the swans; who curtsied to

The Queen, as though her Dames d’Honneur might do

Evil without remorse, who swept on to death.

Their scent was wafted on each torpid breath

From water-lilied water, as douce voice

Cried out to the imperious peacock, lest his choice

Fall elsewhere in this glazed and gilded run,

And all their pride and glory be undone.

Cold as the columns made of malachite;

Cold as the mirrors giving back the night

Which shadowed every step in that pavane;

Those kings continued, as the colours ran

Round them in flower-beds; then faltered, and

Watched as the courtiers sifted off like sand

In hour-glasses emptied of their time.

They saw the lace-edged prayers of cardinals climb

Like smoke expiring from a candle gone,

And in those shuddering whispers were alone

With God’s forgiveness and a hated throne.