Saturday, August 9, 2014

illustration friday (king)

King Crab
You know by now how often the poetry of Robert Frost inspires my etegami. But, this week, I had an encounter with a Frost poem I'd never heard of before. It's titled (yes, titled) How Hard It Is To Keep From Being King When It's In You And In The Situation. It tells a story, and it's pretty long. It has a very different feel from his better-known work, at least from my inexpert perspective.

This is how it starts out:

The King said to his son: “Enough of this!
The Kingdom’s yours to finish as you please.
I’m getting out tonight. Here, take the crown.”

But the Prince drew away his hand in time
To avoid what he wasn’t sure he wanted.
So the crown fell and the crown jewels scattered.
And the Prince answered, picking up the pieces,
“Sire, I’ve been looking on, and I don’t like
The looks of empire here. I’m leaving with you.”
So the two making good their abdication
Fled from the palace in the guise of men.

The ex-king and his son, the ex-prince, go on to have some interesting adventures and conversations, and the ex-king ends up as a slave in the service of the Great King, who is well-pleased with him and frequently rewards him with food. In the end, the Great King sort of forces the ex-King to become king in his place. At least that's the best I can figure out. The story is told in a playful, tongue-in-cheek sort of way, with references and (apparently) private jokes that sometimes baffle me. But it also has some really insightful social criticism and some lovely phrases that I enjoy rolling around on my tongue.

I have a tendency to express love through cooking, so this exchange between the ex-King (the slave) and the Great King caught my particular attention:

"I'll bet you anything that's all as King
You think of for your people-- feeding them."

But the King said, "Haven't I read somewhere
There is no act more kingly than to give?"

"Yes, but give character and not just food.
A King must give his people character."

"They can't have character unless they're fed."

"You're hopeless," said the slave.

There are loads more interesting dialogues and monologues on themes like Progress and Freedom and Language and oh! oh! oh! ...please read it for yourself. I'm busy trying to illustrate more lines from this poem that I just can't get out of my head.

Royal Albatross


  1. Wow...!!! This was very deep! I haven't read the entire poem yet, but as you mentioned, it seems to have meanings within meanings, lots of layering. I didn't know Frost ever wrote that way, either. Your king crab looks real, and the quote goes well with him.
    I also like very much the albatross one: the only true freedom is departure. That's pretty heavy, too. And yet the albatross(es) are happy -- they can fly away at will, after all!

  2. It brought me such a smile on my face!

  3. Everything that Mary said. Now I'm thinking deep thoughts too :)