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The King

Symbol Analysis

The king shows up in a surprising number of places here, but he's always a little bit of a mystery, too. We never hear about what he looks like, or anything like that, but he's at the center of the palace and the poem. Is he just a symbol or metaphor? Is there an actual ruler to go along with the palace? Is it a little bit of both? We think it's meant to be a little bit ambiguous, but the ways that the speaker talks about the king are definitely worth a look.

  • Line 5: This is the first time that the speaker mentions the king who goes along with this palace. He also gives him a name: "Thought." This strategy, where you make an abstract idea like "Thought" or "Justice" into a character in a poem, is called allegory. Actually, come to think of it, you could say that this entire poem is an allegory for human life and eventual death.
  • Line 24: Now we meet the king again, and we learn that the king is sitting in the middle of his palace, on a throne, with spirits dancing around him. Celebrate good times. If we follow the big metaphor that runs through this poem, then "Thought" is sitting in the middle of the symbolic human head, right where he belongs. Ooh, and check out the alliteration too here, with "the ruler of the realm." 
  • Line 34: Now the king (here the speaker calls him "the monarch") is under attack. He's not sitting stable and happy in the middle of singing spirits like he was when we met him last. Nope—party's over. He's being "assailed" by "evil things." The image we are finally left with is of the poor king alone and abandoned, completely "desolate" (36).

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