The Lord of the Castle of Indolence

A poem by James Thomson (BV)


Nor did we lack our own right royal king,
The glory of our peaceful realm and race.
By no long years of restless travailing,
By no fierce wars or intrigues bland and base,
Did he attain his superlofty place;
But one fair day he lounging to the throne
Reclined thereon with such possessing grace
That all could see it was in sooth his own,
That it for him was fit and he for it alone.


He there reclined as lilies on a river,
All cool in sunfire, float in buoyant rest;
He stirred as flowers that in the sweet south quiver;
He moved as swans move on a lake’s calm breast,
Or clouds slow gliding in the golden west;
He thought as birds may think when ’mid the trees
Their joy showers music o’er the brood-filled nest;
He swayed us all with ever placid ease
As sways the throned moon her world-wide wandering seas.


Look, as within some fair and princely hall
The marble statue of a god may rest,
Admired in silent reverence by all;
Soothing the weary brain and anguished breast,
By life’s sore burthens all-too-much oppressed,
With visions of tranquillity supreme;
So, self-sufficing, grand and bland and blest,
He dwelt enthroned, and whoso gazed did seem
Endowed with death-calm life in long unwistful dream.


While others fumed and schemed and toiled in vain
To mould the world according to their mood,
He did by might of perfect faith refrain
From any part in such disturbance rude.
The world, he said, indeed is very good,
Its Maker surely wiser far than we;
Feed soul and flesh upon its bounteous food,
Nor fret because of ill; All-good is He,
And worketh not in years but in Eternity.


How men will strain to row against the tide,
Which yet must sweep them down in its career!
Or if some win their way and crown their pride,
What do they win? the desert wild and drear,
The savage rocks, the icy wastes austere,
Wherefrom the river’s turbid rills downflow
But he upon the waters broad and clear,
In harmony with all the winds that blow,
’Mid cities, fields and farms, went drifting to and fro.


The king with constant heed must rule his realm,
The soldier faint and starve in marches long,
The sailor guide with sleepless care his helm,
The poet from sick languors soar in song:
But he alone amidst the troubled throng
In restful ease diffused beneficence;
Most like a mid-year noontide rich and strong,
That fills the earth with fruitful life intense,
And yet doth trance it all in sweetest indolence.


When summer reigns the joyous leaves and flowers
Steal imperceptibly upon the tree;
So stole upon him all his bounteous hours,
So passive to their influence seemed he,
So clothed they him with joy and majesty;
Basking in ripest summer all his time,
We blessed his shade and sang him songs of glee;
The dew and sunbeams fed his perfect prime,
And rooted broad and deep he broadly towered sublime.


Thus could he laugh those great and generous laughs
Which made us love ourselves, the world, and him;
And while they rang we felt as one who quaffs
Some potent wine-cup dowered to the brim,
And straightway all things seem to reel and swim,—
Suns, moons, earth, stars sweep through the vast profound,
Wrapt in a golden mist-light warm and dim,
Rolled in a volume of triumphant sound;
So in that laughter’s joy the whole world carolled round.


The sea, the sky, wood, mountain, stream and plain,
Our whole fair world did serve him and adorn,
Most like some casual robe which he might deign
To use when kinglier vesture was not worn.
Was all its being by his soul upborne,
That it should render homage so complete?
The day and night, the even and the morn,
Seemed ever circling grateful round his feet,
“With Thee, through Thee we live this rich life pure and sweet!”


For while he loved our broad world beautiful,
His placid wisdom penetrated it,
And found the lovely words but poor and dull
Beside the secret splendours they transmit,
The Heavenly things in earthly symbols writ:
He knew the blood-red sweetness of the vine,
Yet did not therefore at the revel sit;
But straining out the very wine of wine,
Lived calm and pure and glad in drunkenness divine.


Without an effort the imperial sun
With ever ample life of light doth feed
The spheres revolving round it every one:
So all his heart and soul and thought and deed
Flowed freely forth for every brother’s need;
He knew no difference between good and ill,
But as the sun doth nourish flower and weed
With self-same bounty, he too ever still
Lived blessing all alike with equal loving will.


The all-bestowing sun is clothed with splendour,
The all-supporting sun doth reign supreme;
So must eternal justice ever render
Each unsought payment to its last extreme:
Thus he most rich in others’ joy did seem,
And reigned by servitude all-effortless;
For heaven and earth must vanish like a dream
Ere such a soul divine can know distress,
Whom all the laws of Life conspire to love and bless.

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