By Helen Fiske Jackson
At the king's gate the subtle noon
Wove filmy yellow nets of sun;
Into the drowsy snare too soon
The guards fell one by one.
Through the king's gate, unquestioned then,
A beggar went, and laughed, "This brings
Me chance at last, to see if men
Fare better, being kings."
The king sat bowed beneath his crown,
Propping his face with listless hand,
Watching the hour-glass sifting down
Too slow its shining sand.
"Poor man, what wouldst thou have of me?"
The beggar turned, and, pitying,
Replied like one in dream, "Of thee,
Nothing. I want the king."
Uprose the king, and from his head
Shook off the crown and threw it by.
"O man, thou must have known," he said,
"A greater king than I."
Through all the gates, unquestioned then,
Went king and beggar hand in hand.
Whispered the king, "Shall I know when
Before His throne I stand?"
The beggar laughed. Free winds in haste
Were wiping from the king's hot brow
The crimson lines the crown had traced.
"This is his presence now."
At the king's gate, the crafty noon
Unwove its yellow nets of sun;
Out of their sleep in terror soon
The guards waked one by one.
"Ho here! Ho there! Has no man seen
The king?" The cry ran to and fro;
Beggar and king, they laughed, I ween,
The laugh that free men know.
On the king's gate the moss grew gray;
The king came not. They called him dead;
And made his eldest son one day
Slave in his father's stead.
We had a quiet morning with people getting up at different times and doing various chores -- Daniel has finished college applications, Adam was editing photos, I had laundry to fold, Paul was organizing in the kitchen -- then we all had lunch together and went to see The King's Speech. I am going to run out of superlatives talking about how much I enjoyed it. The cast is phenomenal -- Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Claire Bloom, all playing historical characters, some whose appearances and mannerisms are very familiar (Edward VIII, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Winston Churchill). I knew little of the story -- I knew about the abdication crisis, of course, but not about George VI's personal background, and I found it a surprisingly moving story considering that I've never felt very sorry for the current Queen's poor little rich children. Firth is terrific as the reluctant king, though Pearce's turn as his pathetic older brother is memorable -- I've generally noticed a higher degree of sympathy for Edward and Wallis, not such contempt -- and the movie really belongs to Rush, whose moment in King Edward's Chair is one of my favorites in film history. (And if you've not been planning to let your tweens see it because of the R rating, please note that that rating reflects two uses of the F word and nothing else objectionable.)
After the movie (at which I ended up sitting next to someone I've known since elementary school and her family, though I'd mostly seen her on Facebook in the past decade), we stopped in several stores near the theater to take advantage of post-holiday sales, then drove to Seneca Creek State Park for the Gaithersburg Winter Lights Festival which we've seen every year for the past many. There aren't a lot of new displays, but it's always fun to see the penguins sliding off igloos, the squirrels and fish diving over the road on arches, the ice skating rink made of white bulbs, the large North Pole mansion with a reindeer ski jump, and the swans and boats set up on the water (which this December is frozen over). After a late dinner we watched what I imagine will be the final episode of Undercovers, which started to open up some of the larger mysteries surrounding the Blooms that we will never see resolved. Sigh. Then we watched a bit of the Alamo Bowl and a mediocre Star Trek episode that I need to review by the end of the week. We missed Maryland playing East Carolina in the Military Bowl, but considering that the Terrapins won 51-20 in Ralph Friedgen's last game, it doesn't sound like it was a nail-biter. Here are some photos of the winter lights and one of the sunset that we saw from the roof of the parking lot after the movie: