The king from the council chamber came weary and sore of heart;
He called to Cliff, the painter, and spoke to him thus apart:
"I'm sickened of faces ignoble, hypocrites, cowards, and knaves;
I shall shrink to their shrunken measure, chief slave in a realm of slaves.
Paint me a true man's picture, gracious and wise and good,
Dowered with the strength of heroes and the beauty of womanhood.
It shall hang in my inmost chamber, that, thither when I retire,
It may fill my soul with its grandeur, and warm it with sacred fires."
So the artist painted the picture, and it hung in the palace hall;
Never a thing so lovely had garnished the stately wall.
The King, with head uncovered, gazed on it with rapt delight,
Till it suddenly wore strange meaning - baffled his questioning sight.
For the form was the supplest courtier's, perfect in every limb;
But the bearing was that of the henchman who filled the flagons for him;
The brow was a priest's who pondered his parchment early and late;
The eye was the wandering minstrel's who sang at the palace gate.
The lips, half sad and half mirthful, with a fitful trembling grace,
Were the very lips of a woman he had kissed in the market place;
But the smiles which curves transfigured, as a rose with its shimmer of dew,
Was the smile of the wife who loved him, Queen Ethelyn, good and true.
"Then learn, O King," said the artist, "this truth that the picture tells-
That in every form of the human some hint of the highest dwells;
That scanning each living temple for the place that the veil is thin,
We may gather by beautiful glimpses the form of the God within."
by Helen Bostwick