Swan King        

 
‘So all is false,’ the mad king said,

Plucking an orange made of glass,

Which shivered on the parquet floor

Into a thousand jagged lights.

Reality escaped him then,

As it had always done before,

Despite the greenness of the grass,

The blueness of the water there.

An island palace built by trolls,

Who laboured through his restless nights:

False French, but better made, it glowed -

The jewel which he had cast aside.

 

Signing his letters: ‘Yo, El Rey,’

This young deluded Wittelsbach

Perhaps acquired the scoffing way

With which a Spanish King dismissed

La Granja and its porcelain walls:

‘It cost three millions and it pleased

Me just three minutes.’ How they laughed,

The courtiers, pawning diamond clasps

To pay their Faro debts. For so

These sad-eyed rulers mock their age,

Which fades at dawn, as on a stage.

 

When all are dressed alike, both rich

And poor, and all are called the same,

Which of these ermine kings appears,

Despite his crown, more deeply false

Than mobs of youthful dreamers, decked

With rags, whose diamonds are their tears

Shed for themselves, who hate the past

Because they were not rulers then?

Mad Ludwig, riding through the night

With horsemen bearing torches, looks

Less fateful than these anarchs, ringed

With cameras focused on their furious eyes.

 

This plastic world in which we live

Amuses not one moment more

Than what it takes to laugh at it.

At Herrenchiemsee tourists throng,

And paid is every royal debt.

What young king builds its like today?

 

May,1973