The Proud King by William Morris is a poem about a king named

Jovinian. He woke very early in the morning and thought of all his

glories, wealth and status; he asked himself "What need have I for

temple or for priest/ Am I not God, whiles that I live at least."

(line 27-28).

He went back to sleep and woke when the day has properly broke. He

decided to go hunting with his servants but while he was swimming in a

river and angel took his robe and horse and started acting like him.

For two day he was naked not even recognised by everyone he

approached; he was mock, maltreated and called a mad man

He only regained his position when he repented and became sober.

The themes of the poem are as follows:

(1) The theme of Fear: King Jovinian was a no nonsense king and

whenever he speaks, no other dare speak; "From dusk to dawn kept many

a lord awake/ For fear of him did many a great man quake" (line 6-7)

And when he makes mistake, he "knew that none durst say_ when he did

wrong" (line 21). Later in the poem, fearless king Jovinian began to

fear the lost of all his possessions, and also began to fear God in

line 606 he says "Lord God, what bitter things are these?"

(2) The theme of Pride: The poem is centered round the king's pride

and how his pride almost cost him all he has had. Even his pride made

people to fear him unnecessarily; "But at the dais must he sit alone/

Nor durst a man speak to him for his life" (in lines 10-11) and his

pride made him referred to himself as God; "What need have I for

temple or for priest/ Am I not God, whiles that I live at least."

(line 27-28).

(3) The theme of Supremacy: The poet proves that the supremacy of God

is far better than that of the King Jovinian. Jovinian's supremacy

makes him maintain fear and respect for his positions and possessions

but the supremacy of God ripped him off his position, shamed him and

made him worth nothing in the eyes of everyone; "The hot sun sorely

burned his naked skin" (in line 100). The angel finally revealed

himself to King Jovinian from line 719-728:

"And now he spoke, "O King, be not dismayed

Or think my coming here so strange to be,

For oft ere this have I been close to thee.

And now thou knowest in how short a space

The God that made the world can unmake thee

And though He alter in no whit thy face

Can make all folk forget thee utterly

That thou to-day a nameless wretch mayst be

Who yesterday woke up without a peer

The wide world's marvel and people's fear."

(4) The theme of Repentance: Without repentance, the proud king

wouldn't have regain his position and wealths. King Jovinian's began

to surface in the poem in different forms. He began to wear heart of

regret; "Muttered, I wish the day would ne'er come back/ If all that

once I had I now must lack" (line 333-334) in his regrets, he still

has hope for "the fresh morning air/ The rising sun, and all things

fresh and fair/ Yet caused some little hope in him to rise" (in lines

347-349) and at a certain point he narrated his plight to Christopher

a-Green from line 365-370:

"And asked him of his name and misery;

Then in his throat a swelling passion rose,

Which yet he swallowed down, and, "Friend," said he,

"Last night I had the hap to meet the foes

Of God and man, who robbed me, and with blows

Stripped off my weed and left me on the way:"

When King Jovinian became so confused in his state of nothingness, he

called on God in line 435-436; "Ah, God!" said he, "is this another

earth/ From that whereon I stood two days ago?" he further begged God

from line 605-609 "Saying, "Lord God, what bitter things are these?/

What hast thou done, that every man that sees/ This wretched body, of

my death is fain?/ O Lord God, give me back myself again!".

(5) The theme of Arrogance: King Jovinian's arrogance went far even in

his situation of penury, he was arrogantly approaching the nobles; he

was banging the palace gate with a very heavy stone in line 143-144

"He hurdled himself against the mighty gate/ And beat upon it madly

with a stone" and in line 215-217, he was shouting at the ranger;

"Armies will rise up when I nod my head/ Slay me! _or cast thy

treachery away/ And have anew my favour from this day."

(6) The theme of Vanity and Death: The Proud King realised that all

human possessions without God is vain. He realised such when he met

his queen, she didnt recognize him, the duke didnt recognize him, the

soldiers didnt recognize, the Father that used to know him didnt

recognize him, he was wandering with beggars and low-lives. At point

of death feared that his fame and glories and possessions will turn to

vain; "Or else is this the ending of my life/ And no man henceforth

shall remember me/ And a vain name in records shall I be." (line

460-462). The Proud King made mockery of his dead ancestor beause he

believed he would never die "But he, who seldom yet had seen death

near/ Or heard his name, said, "Still I may not die/ Though underneath

the earth my fathers lie/ My sire indeed was called a mighty king/ Yet

in regard of mine, a little" but Jovinian also died.


Livia said…
Thanks! I found this very helpful
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