When I was a King and a Mason — a Master proved and skilled —
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.
There was no worth in the fashion — there was no wit in the plan —
Hither and hither, aimless, the ruined footings ran —
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone;
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known.”
Swift to my use in the trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew.
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.
Yet I despised not nor glorified; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder’s heart.
As he had risen and pleaded, do did I understand
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.
When I was a King and a Mason — in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside.
They said — “The end is forbidden.” They said — “Thy use is fulfilled.”
“Thy Palace shall stand as that other’s — the spoil of a King who shall build.”
I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber — only I carved on the stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell, I too have known!”
Bro. J. Rudyard Kipling, 1902