Cnut Raises His Hand by Marc Woodward

Cnut Raises His Hand

Henry of Huntingdon, the 12th-century chronicler, tells how Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. Cnut leapt backwards and said “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.” He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

There at the blowing edge of land
pushed forward in hope, they brought me
enthroned in gold on trickling sand.
The broad sky decreasing; the infinite sea.
Wind whinnying over the Marram dunes
its cold, striating, whiplash tunes.
I raise my hand to the thoughtless sea
where grey waves curl, collapse, build;
come back voracious, oblivious to me.

My throng at last stand quiet and still.
I lift my head, my eyes, I drop my hand:
No sea has stopped at my command.
A wooden cross will wear my golden crown,
while I before a truer King kneel down.

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