All My Kingdoms

All my kingdoms and my crowns
They come tumbling down.
Paper castles, empty thrones
Revealed truly, I stand alone.

Where are the ramparts
From which I perched
To gaze upon my rule?
Under pride’s weight
They tumbled down
And revealed me as a fool.

The crown I wore –
A shroud of vain-glory.
The throne from which I reigned:
Merely a place
Entrusted to me
A season for me ordained.

My kingdom a vast
But empty land
In the end ’twas truly r’vealed.
For I had stocked
That which was not
Worth any, in any man’s field.

For what is gold
To a broken heart?
What is silver
To those who weep?
What is glory
To the friendless?
What is power
When, in death, asleep?

What treasure dare I boast
To show my kingly rule?
At the end when all is done
I truly am a fool.

O mortal man
Before the end
Seek now this sacred wisdom:
All that glitters
Is not gold
And great castles make not a kingdom.

This took a long time to write! I started this more than a year ago before finally finishing it. I was ruminating about how much I wanted to “succeed” in life – in a way that people around me, from my past, present and future, would be hard pressed to ignore. And then, suddenly, the first and second verses came to me and I realized that I was tempted to go where angels fear to tread. Then came the long hiatus before the rest of the poem finally arrived.

I still want to be successful, especially at the age of this writing (going on 25 this year!), but I’m hoping that my success would be in the end (and that’s when success is truly measured), not just paper castles and empty thrones.

Copyright (C) Wong Giok Leigh, 23 April 2003 – 2 July 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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