From Spring to Main: The Poetry of Arthur Henry King


Arthur Henry King is a distinguished poet, Shakespeare scholar, and teacher. A native of England, Brother King obtained degrees from Cambridge University and from Lund University, in Sweden, then went on to join the British Council, where for twenty-eight years he helped direct affairs of education. During this time, he lived in various countries throughout the world and was twice decorated by Queen Elizabeth. Brother King and his wife, Patricia, married after he joined the Church in 1966. In 1971, after several years as Assistant Director-General of the British Council, Brother King resigned to teach at BYU. He taught there until his call in 1986 to preside over the London Temple. Sister King serves with him as matron.

My Conversion

Late in August, early awake,
my windows wide on the mountain wall
and the full moon, I feel the winter cold
and, from the farm below,
I hear the cock crow.
The whisper of grass beneath a summer wind
rippling and veering like weed under running water,
and tree-spots of shade in the midst of shining grain
I must forgo
and wait for snow.
(It came one night on the heights and went next day,
and some night now it will return to stay.)
Nevertheless,
the harvest of the Lord is at all high times,
and most at the season of man’s gathering-in—
not that I am part of a passive crop,
but though hired late, a laborer; so let me get to work.
August/September 1971
(From Arthur Henry King, The Abundance of the Heart, Bookcraft, 1986. Copyright © Bookcraft, Inc., 1986. Used with permission.)

In Memoriam N.W. For J.W.

The boy turned at the corner to wave goodbye
in the height of his morning, the blue of noon.
He now has the shadowy seas for a sky,
the tide for wind, without sun or even moon;
the stars have gone out. But the noon is still there
down a lengthening passage, small, but very blue and clear;
and the boy still turns with young eyes and gleaming hair.
1957

Hymn

The Jordan creeps to its Dead Sea,
but at Bethabara ran sweet.
John held God’s lamb full righteously
and dipped Him: head, loins, hands, and feet.
The white light shone, the dove came down,
the Father spoke to praise and bless.
The Lord, with nothing of his own,
walked out into the wilderness.
When eighteen-hundred years were past,
in May John crowned a kneeling two
as priests of Aaron. Keyed at last,
they dazzled to a sight made new:
the Susquehanna. Down they leapt,
there in clear water found again
God’s grace, man’s joy; and smiling, wept.
This river flows from spring to main.
October 1976

Ripening Apples

Ripening apples
against a mackerel sky.
In the still morning
a finished leaf drifts spinning
and spiralling down to grass.

August 1980

At One

Thou sayest, Lord, that if we are not one,
we are not thine; and yet we would be thine.
So help us each to do what should be done,
whole-mindedly, with compass, book, or line.
Help wife and husband, one in holy love,
present united thoughts to thee above.
Help parents have such interest in each child
as makes their children one, and one with thee.
Help children grow spontaneous but not wild,
and learn that being one means being free.
Help us as neighbors through our work and play
towards union in the long millennial day.
So let us lose our envy in good will,
our slander in true harmony of soul,
our selfishness to aid the sad or ill,
our partial quarrels in the greater whole.
We hear, we pray, we sing as one this hour:
then teach us to remain one by thy power.

1974

Michaelmas Prayer For Don Shaefer

Father, we thank thee for this change of season:
late fruit and fallen leaves merged in our minds
with a first fruit
and a primal fall.
We thank thee that there is a season
to every thing under the heaven:
uneasy spring,
the summer’s fulfillment,
autumn’s reconciliation,
and the expectation of winter.
We ask thee for much patience
(and some premonitory joy—
for there is nothing better
than that a man should rejoice in his own works)
at each stage of our lives,
until we are gathered into thine eternal round
when all our times and seasons
(birth—a time—
hope—for who shall bring him
to see what shall be after him?—
peace—another time—
and the moment of the first and last fruits of them that slept,
the moment of change in the twinkling of an eye—
—again a time, and all times)—
when our seasons
whisper together
their litany of repentance and progression,
sing as one
their confident psalm,
and shout—
echoing their everlasting beginning
through their ever-and-ever endlessness—
for joy.

October/November 1974

The House and the Rooms

Today I suddenly realize—
Each of these rooms is a different place.
Each may help to make up a house,
but it’s a unit complete in itself.
I can be there without inhabiting in mind
the rest of the house.
The room, for the time being at least,
is sufficient.
Have I spent my whole existence living in a house
and not noticing the rooms as such?
No: this is how I felt about rooms
until the Fall of nineteen-sixteen;
and that was the time when my imaginative life indoors
was diverted outwards,
the time when I lost the sense of indoor permanence,
when we ceased to have what I called a house of our own;
the beginning of exile into ’the great outdoors,’
my centre no longer in the family.
And now, in exile, a late-summer oasis round me,
sixty-nine years later,
the sense of a room’s come back.
Each moment’s a room,
each room momentous.
As we move through a house,
we proceed from past through present to future;
but now I no longer need to avoid the immediate present.
I can sit at ease in a room.

17–18 August 1985

Death’s Ecstasy

From the death in nineteen-nineteen of my father
(crumpled with a bicycle under a bus),
I already knew my Lord would call me home;
and I’ve partly died in advance or absentia
through demise of elderly relatives,
the passing of friends (occasionally sudden),
the loss of a son (my one child, after seven days),
a wife (in lingering cancer of the lymph),
a mother (senile),
a cherished stepdaughter (drowned at twenty-seven),
and a sister (in scuttling crab of the liver);
and I have learnt the sweetness of the mortal enemy
as it increases love.
He is come that we might taste death through him
(he tasted death for us)
and sense it more abundantly,
a taste and scent of wild honey in manna
like that of our first
ecstatic primroses and cowslips
(and their offspring primula elatior),
flowering large and well-stalked along a ditch
aglitter in the fresh tears of day,
as my sister and I
(she three, I seven)
came hand in hand upon them.
I have sung my sorrows on the winds of morning,
and in the still of evening shed my dew and rejoiced.
The deepest grief and the highest joy
in the presence of death display and embrace:
elated inseparables that walk in love upon the Delectable Mountains,
and go down hand in hand into the River.
“The one shall be taken
and the other shall be left.”
But which is it that dies, and which lives?
Both are taken; both live.
We are all gathered and grow
from age to age
in the evening and the morning of the first and last day.

July 1984

His Love

Cast on the Lord your
burden of love. He will give you
his love in a breath
of air, a crust, a draught of
water, a tide of new blood.

July 1979

[illustration] “On the Bank of the River,” by Wulf Barsch

[illustration] “The Secret Garden,” by Wulf Barsch