The Old King

painting by Rouault

Sit then, holding the white flowers.
In your mind a clean river runs.
You are near sleep.

O you with a crown of fairground colours,
black-bearded, thick-necked, with red kingly clothes,
shut your eyes, but not yet sleep.

This rest is in keeping with your powers.
Step aboard all your ships, wheel up the shining guns
but sit holding the flowers. You know the river is deep.

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