John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

Poet's Corner: Norton Imperator

Norton Imperator

No more through the crowded streets he goes,
With his shambling gait and shabby clothes,
And his furtive glance and whiskered nose—
      Immersed in cares of state.
The serpent twisted upon his staff
Is not less careless of idle chaff,
The mocking speech or the scornful laugh,
      Than be who bore it late.
His nerveless grasp has released the helm,
But ere the Lethean flood shall whelm
The last faint trace of his fancied realm,
      Let us contrast his fate
With other rulers and other reigns,
Of royal birth or scheming brains,
And see if his crazy life contains
      So much to deprecate.
No traitorous friends, or vigilant foes,
Rippled the stream of his calm repose;
No fear of exile before him 'rose,
      Whose empire was his pate;
No soldiers died to uphold his fame;
He found no pleasure in woman's shame;
For wasted wealth no well-earned blame
      Turned subjects' love to hate.
No long and weary struggle with pain;
One sudden throe in his clouded brain
Closed forever his bloodless reign,
      With every man his friend.
For Death alone did be abdicate.
What Emperor, Prince or potentate,
Can long avoid a similar fate
      Or win a better end!

George Chismore (1840 – date of death unknown)

By some accounts, today is the birthday of Joshua A. Norton, better known to San Franciscans and readers of The Sandman as Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. (Other sources say he was born on February 14.) This poem was written shortly after his death in 1880.

Tags: poet's corner
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