The Works of Sydney Fowler Wright 1874 - 1965

The Song Of Song And Other Poems

by S. Fowler Wright

Cosmopolitan Book Corporation
New York. $2.50
March 1925
Printed by: J.J. Little & Ives Co.

Buy this book at Wildside Books

(Merton Press edition 'The Song of Songs' does not have 'The Marriage Song of Durräk' at the end)

Inside front cover: Mr. Wright has reconstructed in a beautifully clear sequence of scenes the age-old love story of Solomon and the Shulamite girl. Throughout runs a perfectly cadenced melody. Other poems, culled from backgrounds of curious lore, go to make up a distinguished book of verse.

Is ashes all the verse I made,
              The verse for only you.
Retrieveless, save the years return,
              The years that proved it true.

More deep the living sights we saw
              The dying days conceal,
- (Our Warwicks on the Flanders plain,
              Zouaves at Abbeville) -

More dark around the land you loved
              The clouds of winter close:
Amid surrendered seas we steer
              To rocks that no man knows.

I see not from what separate ways
              In other dawn we meet,
Nor how shall He Whose thought we are
              His broken tale complete,

But spring has found your daffodils
              With gallant hearts and high
That like in your birth-month are born,
              And like in April die,

And till this dark earth's mystery
              Its hidden end fulfils
The ring is on your hand, - and on
              Your heart the daffodils.

March 1925






              THE first poem in this book, "The Song of Songs," originally appeared in Poetry (February, 1925), and the first edition of the present volume was issued in the autumn of the same year.
              In preparing a second edition, I think it may be advantageous to reproduce an explanatory note on the poem that appeared in the above-mentioned issue of Poetry.
              "Having expressed the opinion," I wrote, "that the free verse of the Authorised Version is unapproachably excellent, it may seem surprising that I should have attempted a rendering of the 'Song of Songs' in a regular stanzaic form. My aim has been not to offer an alternative translation, but to reconstruct a poem the original of which exists only in disordered and inconsequent fragments; and, in doing this, I have preferred a form of verse that I am least incompetent to handle.
              "The difficulties of interpretation are very great, under any of the conflicting theories that have been advanced by successive commentators. The mystical or allegorical theory, which held the field for many centuries, has few advocates today. Its weakness lies in the fact that it is entirely arbitrary, being unsupported by any internal evidence; and, in any case, it is unsatisfactory, because it does nothing to elucidate the narrative itself, and even an allegory must be understood before its mystical meaning can be pursued to any likely capture.
              "The more popular modern view presents it as a moral tale, in which a virtuous maiden of northern Palestine resists the allurements of Solomon's harem, in fervour of a shepherd, to whom she is finally restored by the magnanimity of the king.
              "There is nothing inherently impossible, or even absurd, in this theory, if we remove the modern garb in which it is presented, and realise that, though the young lady might have acted in this manner (human nature being unchangeable), it would not have been any more 'virtuous,' in view of the national customs of her time, than had she preferred to join the royal establishment.
              "The theory postulates a moral convention which was simply not there, or, at most, it was the propriety of Solomon's conduct in unusual circumstances, and not that of the Shulamite, which would have been placed in the balance.
              "The authorship is too doubtful for any argument to be based upon it, and it is not impossible, though it may seem unlikely, that Solomon himself should have written a poem with such a theme; but, whether this interpretation be plausible or not, it is certain that it has gained advocacy through the desire of the theologians to introduce what they suppose to be a moral value into a poem of an obviously erotic kind.
              "If we put this bias aside, and examine it with an open mind, we find, under this interpretation, that which was previously disorder increased to chaos.
              "Briefly, I regard the following propositions as defensible:

1.              That the poem has reached us only in an incomplete form, and that the parts of what remains are probably disordered.
2.               That, even in its present form, the evidences of its original structure are sufficient to show that it was dramatic rather than lyric, being in the same tradition as the later Hellenic dramas of the fifth century B.C., the main action taking place off the stage in the same way, and being in the mouths of the chorus, though the choral elaborations of strophe, antistrophe, and epode may not have been within the conception of the Hebrew poet.
3.               That the main outlines of the plot are these: Solomon, visiting his vineyards at Baal-Hamon, makes the acquaintance, and wins the love, of a Shulamite girl who is employed there, and leaves her without disclosing his identity. She follows him to Jerusalem, where a dream that he is at her door causes her to walk out in her sleep to find him when she is arrested by the night-watch, but subsequently released. Afterwards, recognising the King, she boldly - and successfully - claims that he should acknowledge the bond between them. In the last scene, they have returned to Baal-Hamon together, where the Shulamite realises and laments the precarious nature of her hold upon Solomon, in contrast to the confidence she had felt at their first meeting, and is reassured by Solomon and the Chorus, so far as reassurance is possible.
              "However early difficulties may be surmounted, I do not see how the final chapter can be made to support any other interpretation.
              "The passionate and despairing cry with which it opens:

'O that thou wert as my brother - !'

simply has no meaning, if we suppose her to be restored to a lover of her own rank, and the development of the argument is incomprehensible.
              "Finally, I have made it a primary aim, as I always do in work of this kind, to maintain the integrity of the author's conception, so far as I am able to understand it. In this endeavour, and in reshaping a broken thing, I found it necessary first to write a long poem and then to reduce it to a very moderate compass.
              "I have possibly used the pruning-knife with too great a severity. I am conscious of having sacrificed some stanzas that may be individually better than others that have survived them, but it has appeared to me to be a primary consideration to maintain the unity and the simplicity of the original poem, with the fewest possible additions of extraneous matter.
              "In one or two details in which I have deviated from the accepted translations, as in reversing the implication of Chapter II, v. 17 -

. . . not yet the shadows close,
Not yet the night is nigh,

I am supported both by modern scholarship and by literary probability. In others, such as the reference to the 'little sister,' which seems to be impossible of any certain decision, I have at least suggested a plausible sequence of argument on the part of the Chorus - that it is better to have taken the adventure of love, with all its dangers, 'than never to have loved at all,' instead of the orthodox explanation of the commentators, which is both inconsequent and unconvincing; and the response of the Shulamite supports my interpretation.
              "Still, this is merely guessing a way out of an obscurity, and I am probably mistaken.
              "The most frequent, and, at first sight, the strongest objection to this construction is that the book would never have found a place in the sacred canon of Hebrew writings if it had not been regarded as having some 'moral' significance, such as is supposed to lie in the loyalty of the Shulamite to a poor and distant lover. I reply that such a theme would have had no moral significance, whatever its romantic attraction might have been, and I suggest that the book was not included in the Hebrew canon till its original meaning had been lost, after more than one century of precarious wandering and mutilation, and when its actual significance may have been almost as conjectural as it is today. Further, the Hebrew canon accepted the tale of Esther, in which no human ingenuity could discover any religious or ethical altitude, incidentally demonstrating that historical novels were written somewhat earlier than the eighteenth century."
              The second section of the book, the 'Songs of Bilitis', owe obvious acknowledgement to Pierre Louys; and the 'Songs of Balochistan' to originals collected orally, and transcribed by Longworth Dames in the later part of the nineteenth century.

S. Fowler Wright.


Scene 1. - Outside the Palace of Solomon.
Scene 2. - At the Gate of Jerusalem.
Scene 3. - The Judgement Seat of Solomon.
Scene 4. - In the Palace of Solomon.
Scene 5. - The Vineyards of Baal-Hamon.

The Shulamite
Chorus of the Daughters of Jerusalem

Heed not behind, beyond, the while ye kiss
              On throat, and lips, and eyes.
Be nought the primal void, the last abyss,
              Where the spent darkness lies.


[Outside the Palace of Solomon.]


O that the kisses of his mouth again
              My lips might taste and live!
Were here delight, though here delight was slain,
              More than the grape could give.


Who art thou that the watchmen found by night
              In darkened streets astray?
Are hundreds gathered for their lord's delight,
              But fairer thou than they.

We saw thee fairer in their place than all
              That grace the great king's train,
Behind whose feet the harem's curtains fall,
              Or Kedar's tents contain.


Behold, O daughters of Jerusalem,
              From cedared hills I come,
Dove-haunted, that, to hear the voice of them,
              The summer winds are dumb.

I take no shame for aught that once hath been,
              I take no shame that now
Above the fairness of my breasts is seen
              Darkness of throat and brow.

In the long vales beneath El Hamon lie
              The vineyards of the king.
There would I watch the waiting hours go by
              From dawn to evening.

When sleeping silent in the noonday glare
              The stilled zenanas lay,
I wandered on the sun-loved slopes to scare
              The seeking fox away.

I kept full harvest on the planted lands
              For the king's slaves to reap.
The full grape-clusters hung for gleaning hands,
              - But mine I did not keep.

A shepherd from the further hills he came.
              No nearer name I knew.
Love to swift love outleaped so clear a flame
              That shame and fear it slew.


O fairest of all daughters born of men,
              If nothing more he told,
Return, and seek from sheltered glen to glen,
              From builded fold to fold.

The footsteps of the feeding flocks behind
              Were better path to try.
Here where ye seek your shepherd love to find
              The city streets deny.


I seek him here, for well my heart replied
              That city streets he trod.
No shepherd he, that down the mountain side
              Strayed like a lonely god.

He called me through the dreams the darkness bears:
              The pleading voice I knew:
I heard his steps upon the outer stairs:
              His hair was dank with dew.

While calling in the outer dark he stands,
              Shall I not meet his prayer?
I felt along the night with empty hands,
              And there was no man there.

The watchmen found me where I walked astray,
              The keepers of the gate.
They seized me there as one that brawls, - as they
              The night's importunate.


They fared as those on whom the sunlight shines,
              From darkened rooms who tread.
They found thee fairer than the concubines
              Far lands have tributed.


I felt rude hands upon my shoulders lie,
              I heard rude voices call,
Aware of night-wind, and the open sky,
              Of moonlight on the wall,

Of shadowed houses on the long street-side,
              Of bare and bleeding feet,
Was here no dream, but all my grief I cried
              Along the startled street.


They seized thee rudely as a thing unclean,
              But when thy veil was rent
Was no such star their humbled eyes had seen
              In all love's firmament.

They brought thee to the palace doors at last,
              In the king's ward to bide.
The queens upon thy face their glances cast:
              The eunuchs spake aside.

They bid thee seek him whom thy soul allied
              In thy familiar north.
The queens in haste thy present needs supplied:
              The eunuchs thrust thee forth.


[At the Gate of Jerusalem.]


Far down from where the coastward mountains bend
              The Sheban queen hath gone.
Her camels from Beth-Horon's pass descend
              The Vale of Ajalon.


Who comes in purple from the wilderness?
              The city gates are wide.
Four after four, to break the thronging press,
              The serried horsemen ride.


Behold, he enters from a queen's farewell,
              Great David's heir is he.
His right hand reaches to Palmyra's well,
              His left to Egypt's sea.

Lord is he of strange lands Arabian,
              Of desert routes away,
Of Red Sea fleets that lean Sidonians man,
              Of cargoes of Cathay.

He takes the tributes of a hundred kings,
              Gold and chalcedony,
With all the powders that the merchant brings,
              And apes and ivory.


I see, three-score, Benaiah's ranks advance,
              The guard of Israel's lord.
Gleams down the file Judea's shortened lance:
              Gleams the Assyrian sword.


On chariot-housings, fold on Tyrian fold,
              The dazzling sunlight smites;
On weaponed guards agleam with Ophir's gold;
              And brass-greaved Pelethites.

He cometh midmost of his glorious train,
              The wide land's lord is he.
His chariot's purples are an army slain:
              Its stems are ivory:

Great Zion's virgins pave its floor with love:
              Its panelled sides are bright
With silvered cedar, and with gold above,
              For all his ways are light.


Behold, my lover and my prince is mine:
              My shepherd-king is one.
Well spake, from those dove-haunted rocks of thine,
              Ye winds of Lebanon!


[The Judgement Seat of Solomon.]


Who dares to thrust her nobler lords aside
              Along the rising hall?
Who fails unmeet her waiting place to bide
              At this high festival?


Why should I leave for aught my taken mate,
              With other flocks to stray?
I seek him whom my soul desires, so late
              Between my breasts who lay.

For lo! no more the winter rains were blind,
              The winter dark was done.
I looked from out my lattice screen to find
              The over-mounting sun.

Again in all the winds his voice I heard,
              The winds afore that sighed
Through the high pillars, where the mating bird
              Moaned in our House of Pride.

Again as in the summer grass we lay,
              The cedars branched above,
The pines' great rafters stretched their curtains grey,
              That roofed our House of Love.

As once I led thee to Amana's height,
              On Hermon's mountains wide,
Where roared the lions through the frighted night,

And Senir's caves replied, -

As once we dared the triple peaks of snow,
              The leopard-dens we found,
The forests dwindled in the vales below,
              The eagles screamed around, -

Shall I not dare thee in thy seated state?
              Shalt thou not own my plea?
What though thy captains close with swords await?
              For what are these to thee?


He looketh from his lioned throne and high;
              The crown Bath-sheba placed
On brows made glad for Egypt's nuptials nigh
              His royal state hath graced.


Among the maidens of thy land thou art
              The lily's crimson ray,
That through the choking brambles breaks apart:
              The piercing thorns are they.


Thou art the tree that all the noonday heat
              Shades from me where I lie,
The while I reach its pleasant fruits to eat.
              The sheltered flower am I.


Thou art the iris of the watered plain.
              The weary days are gone.
Thou bringest to my longing thought again
              The scent of Lebanon.


Behold, he brings her to his banquet hall,
              To the High Seat. Above
The haughtier blazons of the trophied wall
              The banner hangs of Love.


[In the Palace of Solomon.]


Return, return, thy peasant dress forget,
              Return, O Shulamite!
Then shall we see as whom from Gilead met
              The shining Sons of Light.


I heard the queens, among themselves who spake,
              "Behold, the moon is bare;
The blue night pauses, lest a cloud should flake
              A visioned sight so fair."

I heard the virgins of Jerusalem,
              Among themselves who said,
"Behold, she is the dawn on Bethlehem,
              When the cold night is fled."

I heard the voices of the concubines,
              When that clear sun they saw,
"Behold, the lighting of her eyes outshines
              The thousand blades of war."


The night is breathless where she comes. The day
              Of all her light is full.
She is two armies in their joined array,
              And both invincible.


She cometh as a dove from distant heights,
              From cliffs inviolate,
Where the moon wanders in the lonely nights
              On hills inanimate.


O prince's daughter! how thy beauties rise,
              From small feet silken-shod:
The pillared smoothness of thy perfect thighs
              Shaped by an Egean god.

Thy belly is a rounded goblet filled
              With love's delighting wine;
A threshold where the ready wheat is hilled;
              A lily-fragranced shrine.

As two young roes thy level breasts are twin;
              Thy neck an ivory tower;
Thine eyes are pools, with shadowed lights therein,
              When falls the twilight hour,

Are pools of Heshbon which the darkness hoods,
              Bath-Rabbim's gate below:
Thine head is Carmel, clothed in purple woods,
              Before the month of snow.

Thy stature is a palm in shadeless sand,
              Stately, and straight, and tall.
Thy breasts are grapes that wait the gleaner's hand:
              There is no grape shall fall.


Thou art a garden where no eyes intrude,
              A garden walled; and I,
As wide above thy terraced pools doth brood
              The overclosing sky.


Thou art a garden for thy chosen king,
              High-walled and gated thus.
Planted with choice of every scented thing,
              And fruits delicious.


To him be nought denied, and nought be hid,
              Thicket and vale, and hill;
But he shall walk their pleasant paths amid,
              Rejoicing where he will.


There in the place of grapes and garnage fair
              I tread my paths alone.
Shall no man reach its ripened fruits and rare,
              Shall no man share my throne.


O north wind, rise! O pleasant south, awake!
              And on my garden blow,
That from stooped boughs the ready fruit he break;
              And all its odours know.


Treads the young roe adown the flowery way,
              The snowy heights behind,
Where lurks the doe that loves the shaded day,
              Her darkened couch to find.


Be here thy coming as the eager roe,
              Down scented ways to tread,
Between the lifted hills of warmer snow
              To find thy fragrant bed.


More than the pride his kingly fate fulfils
              Is his desire to her.
The lifted sweetness of her breasts is hills
              Of frankincense and myrrh.


Therefore is his right arm about me cast,
              His left beneath my head,
Finding its night, though longéd night be past,
              Where the loosed hair is shed


O hands, O lips, that conquer where they will,
              And where they conquer kiss!
Love leaps awake that so should life fulfil
              No lesser end than this.


O love, lie still! Not yet the shadows close,
              Not yet the night is nigh;
Behold, thou treadest as the feeding roes
              On Bethur's mountains high.


[The Vineyards of Baal-Hamon.]


Oh, let us with the longer days return
              To that north land we knew,
When first we joined the lores of love to learn;
              Where the green vineyards grew.


Who is it to her mother's place returned
              On her belov'd who leans,
Who once unveiled the summer suns had burned,
              Preferred to Israel's queens?


Oh, come we where the chestnut's leaves expand,
              For summer wins the year.
The vines are green along the singing land,
              The tender buds appear.

Alone once more in springing vales to stray;
              In village walls to dwell;
Far from the splendours of thy courts away,
              Our dearer loves to tell.

The cedars walled us, and the mighty pines
              Their rafters closed above;
No trophy of thy meaner halls outshines
              Our banner there of Love.


Once more beneath Amana's heights of snow
              Faint with great love to lie.
Thou wert the verdure of the vale below:
              The feeding hart was I.


Oh, that thou wert as one like-born to me,
              To peasant breasts that clung,
Joined the same toils in simple lives as we,
              And spake the mountain tongue!

Then wert thou at my mother's feet preferred,
              Our common loves to bless;
Nor other voice against its peace were heard
              Deflower love's wilderness.

Not then should wisdom call thine heart away,
              Nor foolish cares should rise,
Nor envy speak what love had shamed to say,
              Nor Egypt's queen despise.

I have no Gezer for thy gift. I lack
              Barbarian gauds to bring.
Spice-laden fleets the south winds bear thee back
              I cannot yield my king.

Oh, seal me to thee, compassed heart and arm,
              With stronger love than death,
That jealous hate may find no place to harm
              With its dividing breath!


The grave is cruel, and its grasp is cold,
              But here is darker death.
It seizeth with a most vehement hold,
              That all love sundereth.


There is no price the merchant's scales can tell
              That shall Love's purchase pay.
All that man hath, to reach His mart, were well
              Cast and contemned away.


There is no wealth that furthest orient flings
              Before the great king's feet,
No glory of supernal fire that springs
              Where night and morning meet,
But dulls to earth, or doth its wings retreat
In Love's full dawn, - a God
              Beneath the coming of Whose shining feet
The morning stars are trod.


There are no powers shall cast Love's empire down,
              There are no floods shall chill,
Earth hath not seas His chosen paths to drown,
              Who walketh where He will.


There are no fires but here their force were vain;
              There are no floods shall drown;
There are no gods that earth's last ends contain
              Powerful to cast Him down.


Where Baal-Hamon meets the morning light
              The royal vineyards lay.
I wandered on the sun-loved slopes to fright
              The thieving fox away.

I am the vineyard of my chosen king,
              His pleasant fruits to bear.
What pits hath Love, what nets shall Wisdom bring,
              The cunning fox to snare?


We have a sister, and she hath no breasts,
              She hath no breasts to give,
Where love might rest, when love from longing rests,
              Or feeding life might live.

A little sister, and she hath no breasts,
              Her hands, her lips, are cold.
Shall she have any comfort where she rests
              For cedar walls or gold?


But I am like a garnished hold and tall,
              My breasts are towers that stand
The outer corners of the fortressed wall,
              Lords of a conquered land.

*        *        *        *        *

Heed not behind, beyond, the while ye kiss
              On throat, and lips, and eyes.
Be naught the primal void, the last abyss,
              Where the spent darkness lies.

*        *        *        *        *



"My father was a wandering Greek."

My father was a wandering Greek. A fair
              Phoenician girl he saw,
Woo'd, and begot, and left who would not share
              His tribe's Odysseyan law.

Pamphylia saw my birth. My venturous feet
              Its wildest mountains trod.
I watched them from my bolder search retreat -
              Satyr, and nymph, and god.

The sources of the world were mine, beside
              Its secret streams. The same
Where Paris woo'd, and where OEnone died,
              And Aphrodite came.

And though close death my nearer sight may blind,
              Mine eyes' last light shall know
The great gloom of the mighty woods behind,
              The shining seas below.


'My hair was blown across my mouth."

My hair was blown across my mouth. My feet
              Sank in the mountain snow.
He said, What think ye in these wilds to meet,
              That in such haste ye go?

There was a satyr in the vale, I said;
              I traced it where it trod.
He said, The satyrs with the fauns are dead;
              Nor oread lives, nor god.

But rest thou by the fire I make, and I
              A naiad's tomb will show.

With iron-shod staff he smote the stream-bed dry,
              And told the tomb below.

He said, The winter binds the hills more fast
              Than ten years' space should know.

He bore me lamb-like o'er his shoulder cast
              Down the long slopes of snow.


"From when the night invades the woodland sky''

From when the night invades the woodland sky,
              Beneath the branches low,
The world is ours, its secret haunts to try,
              Its nameless ways to go.

The wild cat, hunting, heeds not where we tread;
              Shades of the night are we.
The wild deer, hearing, lifts a startled head,
              And turns mild eyes to see.

The stars can light not here, too faint and few,
              Through cypress, larch and fir.
The thickets where we break are drenched with dew,
              And when the night winds stir,

A meaning to the wakened sense is brought,
              Surer than sound or sight, -
Diviner is not than the scent unthought
              Of roses in the night.


"It is not for the shrine of Artemis."

It is not for the shrine of Artemis,
              Where those of Perga pray,
Though is not known a milder rule than this,
              And wise of heart are they.

It is not for Athene's awful brows,
              Though wharves of Sidon see
The wealth her grace her hardy sect allows,
              Piled gold and ivory.

It is for one that in my heart is throned,
              I twist the iris sweet,
Whose heart as mine its tender need hath owned -
              For Aphrodite's feet.

I will not speak aloud the thing I would,
              But I will whisper low,
Faint-heard as leaves that fall in Méla's wood,
              And she will hear and know.


'The children love me."

The children love me. Where I pass them by
              They overtake my way.
Caught in small hands by tunic, belt, and thigh,
              Of laughing need I stay.

Scarab or stone, or gathered flower, alike
              Their tribute-wealth they pay.
They draw me downward to the grassy dyke
              That lines the beaten way.

They draw me to themselves. They press more near
              On either hand. They lay
Their heads against my breast. Bilitis, dear,
              They lift large eyes, and say,

Tell us of Helen. Or the Beast that came
              Huge from the ocean bed,
Of Perseus from the skies the falling flame,
              And of the Gorgon's head.


"Still on the route they passed the roses lie."

Still on the route they passed the roses lie:
              Still here the torches burn.
Melissa goes beneath a kinder sky
              The joy of life to learn.

Not yet for me the bridal torches glow,
              Though like of years am I.
I think her first our equal hope to know,
              And as I think, I sigh.

Shall I not also hear the nuptial song,
              The train attendant see,
The olives arched the rose-strewn path along,
              Some other night, for me?

For I would also break the last conceal,
              Of love at night to know;
Nor later, dearer, at my breasts to feel
              The sweet small hands forego.


"I sing not loves long ceased."

I sing not loves long ceased, and lost within
              The cold receding sea.
What are the Paphian's woes, or Byblis' sin,
              Or Helen's arms to me?

What thirst of life was theirs, what hope, what fear,
              But in me beats today?
I spoil or lose, I reach or hunger here,
              And sterile shades are they.

In me, in me, the exultant pulses stir,
              As here supine I lie.
It is my life I sing. Shall life recur?
              Shall the great darkness die?

But when no more my veins their strength renew,
              When the last road I go,
Be then no cup I have not lifted too,
              No draught I did not know.


"Mother, self-born, from whom all births must be."

Mother, self-born, from whom all births must be,
              Astarte of the night,
Grant me the reading of thy mystery,
              For I would serve aright.

Between thy knees the gods were born: between
              Thy breasts the daemons lay.
Thou wast and wilt be when their times have been,
              For thou art more than they.

Formed of thy thought herself the Cyprian came
              From out the bright salt sea.
Virgin thou art and spouse, and chaste and flame,
              For all things meet in thee.

Grant me the reading of thy mystery,
              For I would serve aright,
Mother, self-born, from whom all births must be,
              Astarte of the night.


"The first had wealth."

The first had wealth beyond a dream's conceit.
              A rope of pearls he gave:
A city's worth, with palace, hall, and street,
              Market, and ware, and slave.

The second sang my hair, a cloud that lay
              Night on the moving mere:
My eyes that drew him from that night away
As though blue dawn were here.

The third had beauty, like a holding net
              To snare a girl's entreat.
His hands upon my naked knees he set,
              Bending to kiss my feet.

Thou hast no words to sing me (nay, not me!)
              Thou hast no pearls to pay;
Thou hast not beauty; yet I long for thee,
              And utter naught are they.


"Thou shalt not seek me."

Thou shalt not seek me, lest thy tender feet
              Bruise on the stony way,
But where thou art, thy present doom to meet,
              My coming haste shalt stay.

Thou shalt not braid thy hair in curious wise,
              Lest scorch or singe ye bear.
O Eros' victim! - loose it where it lies,
              Till I shall find thee there.

Thou shalt not clothe thee, lest the cincture press
              Too hard on loin or side.
Wait as thou art these hours that hourly less
              Thy maiden days divide.

I would not any flaw thy pride had marred,
              Nor any stain should wrong,
Save where I strain thee in embrace too hard,
              Or where I kiss too long.


"When the great river to the heights return."

When the great river to the heights return
              The snows from whence it grew,
Or when the ocean's liquid fields shall learn
              The sower's task to do.

When the great pines their rooted rocks shall cleave
              To seek the lakes below,
Or when the grass the sheltered lakes shall leave
              On the bleak heights to grow,

That morn, that only morn, the lighting sky
              Another's joys shall see.
That night another in thy place shall lie,
              Soul of my soul to me.

To me, when morning moved the eastern sky,
              The tender words he said.
Was ever night of bliss with mine to vie?
              Was ever dawn so red?


"The night is dark, it blinds me where I tread."

The night is dark, it blinds me where I tread;
              I cannot feel my way.
The forest climbs a tangled waste ahead, -
              Then wert thou wise to stay.

The noise of waters in the night is high:
              Loud is the fall, and near--,
Thou would'st not heed him though he passed thee by:
              His call thou would'st not hear

The odours of the flowers of night prevail,
              The heavy scents oppress, -
Thou would'st but swoon, that not the nightingale
              Should rouse, - and he the less.

Then must I wait, with all the hills between,
              For while I dreaming lie,
He comes again to where he once hath been,
              And I can feel him nigh.


"O sombre woods, reveal if here she came."

O sombre woods, reveal if here she came.
              She sought the vale below.
O vale, I call again my mistress' name.
              The river trail ye know.

O river, tell me, did she wander here?
              By the great road she goes.
O road, reveal. Thy barren course is clear.
              The city street she chose.

O happy street, that felt her naked tread, -
              She took the golden way.
O way, what closes all the space ahead?
              The palace gates are they.

O palace, yield her whom I seek so far.
              Beneath her breasts are bound
Pearls and great gems, for honour's fallen star
              Herself thou hast not found.


"Where the great cliffs repulse the Cyprian sea."

Where the great cliffs repulse the Cyprian sea,
              On the last verge I lie.
Scarcely the first faint lights of dawn to be
              Reach the deep vault of sky.

As ere the goddess to our blinded eyes
              The wine-dark waters pearled,
So, stretched beneath, more dusk than violets, lies
              The dawn-awaiting world.

The sudden sunlight comes. Across the deep
              An instant lance it drave.
Trance-held, I watch the blinding splendour leap
              From silvered wave to wave.

I hide mine eyes. From out the shining way
              The goddess' self doth show.
There is more wonder in the dawn today
              Than mortal thought should know.


"The dawn is near."

The dawn is near. The morning rains descend.
              Surely I watch too long.
Drop after drop on sill and porch they blend,
              Falling throughout my song.

The dawn is near. The western waves have wet
              The stars the midnight knew.
All night I watched them drown. What hope is yet
              When the whole arc is through?

The young men pass. The others laugh to see
              But shall they gain at last,
Thais, or Glykera, or Myrtale,
              When their good days are past?

The young men pass me, and the old forget.
              Sad and most lone am I.
But stars are mine that never wave shall wet,
              My songs, that shall not die.


"There is no laughter in my heart today."

There is no laughter in my heart today;
              There are no tears to shed.
Hope of delight of life is ceased away,
              And any fear is fled.

My petals fell long since in trampled ways;
              Dried is the empty stem.
The laurels only from my part of praise
              I have not left to them.

Is this the form that Mnasidika knew,
              That Sappho loved to sing,
When the day's strength would every night renew.
              And every month was spring?

Implacable goddess! thy withdrawn delight
              Shall never prayer recall.
There is no laughter in my heart tonight,
              Nor any fear at all.


"I feel tonight the shadow's cold decline."

I feel tonight the shadow's cold decline.
              The noonday's heat is fled.
The darkness nears. In other skies than mine
              The feet of morning tread.

But when from life's retreat of ended days
              My body's loss ye lay,
I would not that ye weep, nor chide, nor praise
              My laureled right, but say:

She lived with Sappho on the Lesbian shore,
              Freely she loved at will,
And whom did first her fervent youth adore,
              Dim-eyed, she worshipped still.

The gods who form us, and the fates who doom,
              Only her end can tell.
We leave her with the roses round her tomb,
              That once she loved so well.

*        *        *        *        *



The Song of the Footprints.

To Allah always be the praise,
For fertile plain, or rainless ways.

Though all things in their dust depart
He shall continue calm at heart.

From Hamza is our high descent:
Victory belongs the Holy Tent.

Still by the prophet's grace we are
Yäili's sons peculiar.

We came from Halab, fighting far
Through Bompür, and in Karbala.

Yazïd we fought and routed twice:
From Allah was the sacrifice.

The town of Sistän, street and store,
Dividing by the bows we bore.

At peace, while Shamsu'd-din was king,
We rested from our wandering.

Budru'-d-din, by evil chance,
Refused us from his countenance.

Then southward, led by Jäläl Khän,
We marched where Härïn held Makrän.

Härïn before our bowmen fled:
Through all Makrän and Këch we spread.

Then east and south, by gorge and fell,
We sought a surer land to dwell.

Höts in the lower plains remained:
Rinds and Lashärs the mountains gained.

Rinds in Shorän the streams divide:
Lashari holds Gandava-side.

A grazing-space the Dombki found
The running streams of Gäj around.

The Drishaks and Mazäris claim
The Rind support in land and name.

The Näli ground the Jistkanis
Joined with Nuhani's tribe to seize.

The Chandyas and the Kalmatis
Divided Haleb. Over these

To lead one nation, chief of all
From clouded height to water-call,

The Rind, Mïr Shaihak, ruled. Two score
Of thousands were the bows we bore.

This is the record of the race:
The mountains gave our resting-place.

When Chäkur ruled us, strife began
Between our nation, clan with clan.

War through the hills for thirty years
Saw kindred fall to kindred spears.

Lasharis and the Rinds were foes,
And neighbours fell to neighbours' bows.

This is the strife the old men tell
When Gwaharäm and Bakar fell,

Nodhbandagh of the liberal hand,
Haddë and Järo: and the band

Of Rinds red-booted, swordsmen all,
Mïr-Hän. Mïr-Hasän. first to fall

When Rinds fought backward, mile by mile,
The valley to the closed defile,

Till Ali and Bivaragh died,
Entrapped beneath the mountain-side.

Of Chäkur, at the last who fled,
And came years after down the head

Of Bolän pass, and smote Lashar
Through all Gandava to the far

Plain-country of the Höts. The breath
Of all things mortal ends in death.


The Song of Shambani.

Brahim Shambänï sings. I tell
              Of Allah, God of Israel.

The torrent through my heart is deep:
Murtaza in my thought I keep.

The dust beneath His passing feet
The name of Allah doth repeat.

Who shall reveal His natal day?
What scales of earth His might shall weigh?

No father's steps before him trod:
He is the first and final God.

No mother at her knees hath taught:
There is no sister keeps His court.

No son behind His steps shall tread:
He dwells alone in holihed.

He hath no greed Whose hands are full:
Patient He is: the Merciful.

Five angels at His service are,
To work His wonders wide and far.

The first, Wahï, interpreteth:
The second lifts the wings of death, -

He bears the name of Azräïl:
The third is Khwäja*: Isräïl

Is fourth, - he sounds the notes that stir
All the world's winds: the trumpeter.

The last is Shaitän, proud and blind,
Who strove when Allah made mankind.

Alone before His books He sits:
No thing He adds, and naught remits.

He writeth till the page is full:
Patient He is: the Merciful.

With each man in his turn to deal
He gives the sign to Azräïl.

The angel naught will heed thereon
Of any supplication.

Of ruth his stony eyes are bare:
His heart hath neither hate nor care.

Children he takes, and leaveth gold,
And all the wealth of flocks in fold.

He drags high princes by the hair,
From all they owned, and all they were.

These are the ways of Life and Death:
The word Brähïm Shambänï saith.

* Elijah. - But he has become a river-god
under this name in later Hindoo mythology !


The Wisdom of Chakur.

The grass is green beneath the hill.
O haste, Miralis, haste and fill
Your horses' nosebags ere ye ride,
For ours is now the jungle-side.

Haibat the son of Bïbrak found
Strange camels on his grazing-ground.

To Chäkur and the Rinds he spake,
"Too loose a rule your herdsmen take."

Three times he stroked his beard and swore,
"I will not backward bring them more.

"When next the Näri ridge they cross
Account them for a lasting loss."

*        *        *        *        *

The mëhr-sirän to Chäkur said,
"Your camels in the night are fled.

"We chased them down the mountain ways,
With Bïbrak's Näri herds they graze.

To reach their arms the tribe began,
Wide-wounding swords Egyptian,

Black-shafted spears, and matchlocks chased;
And called their feeding mares in haste.

But Chäkur spake the word that cools
Hot impulse in the hearts of fools, -

"Who breaks his own right arm in ire?
Who sets his jungle grass afire?

"Ye shall not with your kinsmen strive
For all the wandered beasts alive.

"How oft the lean fakïr will claim
Such tribute in the Sacred Name."

While thus with words their wrath he stayed
There came a swift Lashärï raid.

The horsemen fleet of Gwaharäm,
Ere the fled herdsmen waked alarm.

Had swept and rounded, wild as wind,
The grazing camels of the Rind.

Unchecked were now the cries that rose,
With bridling steeds, and cording bows,

But ere the chasing horsemen showed
Blurred colour the mountain road.

Far down the pass they drave their loot,
Remote from Chäkur's urged pursuit.

The Rinds their wearied mares at length
Must halt to save their stumbling strength.

Chäkur with shaded eyes surveyed
Bare hills for sideward hopes of aid,

But saw no movement, near or far,
Save where the children of Lashär

Crossed with their spoil, a lengthened mile,
The mouth of Näri's stark defile.

Sudden a whirl of dust there came
From Näri's gorge, and fierce as flame,

With shine of brandished spears on high,
And scarves and turbans blown awry,

The Son of Bïbrak's troop he knew
Charge down Lashärï's thieving crew.

Relentless in their tribal hate
No thirst their slitting swords abate

Till twice a hundred lives have paid
Blood tribute for the broken raid.

Still distant from the ended war,
The Rinds the men of Haibat saw

The spoil recaptured herding back
But turned at Näri's steeper track,

Up through that sunless gorge conveyed
The booty that their swords had stayed.

More fierce than erst, the Rinds renewed
Their clamour for a neighbour-feud, -

"Keep they our herds, and thine beside?"
But Chäkur yet their cries denied.

"The spoil that to our foes was lost
They rescued at a deadly cost.

"The strength on which your lives depend
Ye shall not in dissension end.

"Twice lost is that Lashärï shares,
But theirs is ours, and ours is theirs.

"My curse on whom this sword shall draw.
The ruling of your Mïr is law."

Days in this discord passed, until
Around that barren height of hill

The self-returning herds defiled;
Unmated fillies fleet and wild.

And playful foals that moved among
Deep-uddered dams, and big with young,

And savage sires the lines that led,
Till down their native vales they spread.

Then Chäkur gave to Bïbrak's son
Free-handed meed for service done,

The huts on Näri's stream, and all
The grazing to the mountain wall.

The grass is green beneath the hill.
O haste, Miralis, haste and fill
Your horses' nosebags ere ye ride,
For ours is now the jungle-side.


The Song of Bivaragh.*

The clouds on Sori's plains are low;
The thirsting desert yearns below.

Her body sways the winds to meet;
The flowers are fragrant round her feet.

"O stranger, wash thy clothes not here:
My camels soil the water clear."

"O maid, my cloak is naught to care:
It is not as thy raiment rare."

*        *        *        *        *

As on black cloud the lightning glows
The sudden jewel shifts and shows.

A jewel for her throat divine;
A häs of silver forged and fine.

"O minstrel, come when dawn is near,
The drunken Bhäni will not hear.

"Tread softly past the sleeping khän:
Avoid the huts of Ahmad-Hän.

''This gift thy secret hand shall bear:
This song shall speak my meaning there, -

"A day, and yet again a day:
The false world drifts like smoke away.

"A night, and yet again a night:
Recall me when the dawn is white.

"My heart is shaping to thy shape:
Thou shalt not with the noon escape.

"Dost feed in peace, thou lone gazelle?-
The while, upwind, I stalk thee well.

"Stretch thy swift limbs, thou racing mare?-
No less my weight thy back shall bear.

"For light thy petals wide are spread?-
The brown bee's shade is overhead.

*        *        *        *        *

The moons grow larger night by night.
Hast learnt the dangered paths aright?

The fourteenth moon is overhead, -
The brown bee in thy cup doth tread.

The lands of Sori, plain and plain,
Are dark with cloud and drifting rain.

*              The Balochi attribute this song to Bivaragh, but it is more probable that it was composed by Durräk, a poet of the 18th. century. As the Balochi have no written language, the only available evidences are those of oral tradition, and the structure of the poem, and the point is never likely to be determined with certainty.
              But whoever wrote the song, the incident on which it is founded is historical. Bivaragh, a Baloch of the Rind clan, successfully abducted the daughter of the Khan of Kandahar (1500 A.D.) under circumstances of exceptional audacity. He then fled for protection, not to his own clan, but to the Lashari, by which stategem he secured both sections of the Baloch nation to support his escapade.
              The indignant Khan collected an army for the recovery of his daughter, and invaded Balochistan. Bivaragh was unwilling to be the cause of a sanguinary battle, and as the Khan's army approached the position occupied by the Baloch tribesmen, he offered to go out alone to reconnoitre. He succeeded in stealing his way undetected into the tent of the Khan, and then, having him at his sword's mercy, surrendered himself unconditionally! On this, the Khan became reconciled to his son-in-law, and peace was made between the opposing armies.
              We learn from other legends that Bivaragh was a very prudent man.



What prince to loose her girdle claims?
Shirën is still the name of names.

The old king asked, "In lands afar
What princes as my daughter are?"

They told, "There is no prince is meet
To hold her velvet-sandalled feet.

"What hand the restless zebra tames?
Shirën is still the name of names."

A stone a hundred maunds in weight
Was rolled beside the temple gate.

"Who would Shirën, my daughter, wed
Must grind this stone to dust," he said.

*        *        *        *        *

The madman backward bound his hair:
He stripped his arm and shoulder bare.

Alone within her tent she prayed,
"Allah, my lover's smiting aid."

A year with ceaseless toil he smote: -
The dust is in his parching throat:

The stone dissolves beneath his blows:
As black surmä the powder flows.

*        *        *        *        *

The old king spake, "This churl to slay
I will not tale the price I pay.

"Red gold I will not count nor weigh
To whom shall steal his life away."

"For gold unweighed," the beldam said,
"Is none that lives who were not dead."

With words of craft she sought Parät -
"I greet thee with a grieving heart.

"In Alläh's book the maiden read:
The grave became her bridal bed."

*        *        *        *        *

Beneath the wall the bearers trod.
She asked, "Who goeth forth to God?"

"Tis young Parät," the bearers said,
"Who swifter than the dawn was dead."

"O nurse," she said, "the child ye nurst
Is for her lover's arms athirst;

"And you must rise and braid my hair,
And the red chädär I will wear."

"No prince was young Parät," she said,
"You would not weep a craftsman dead?"

"O Däï, foolish words we speak;
I was not made to princes meek."

In Alläh's book the maiden read:
The grave became her bridal bed.

He in that other world than this
Her velvet-sandalled feet shall kiss.

No prince to loose her girdle claims:
Shirën is still the name of names.


While dawn intends along the darkened sky,
              The praise to God I bring.
O friends, regard the lofty strain I try!
              O minstrels, touch my string!

O minstrels, sing it where the princes sit!
              The strings of golden gut
Shall find no song for royal mirth more fit
              Till the last chord is cut.

I met her singly in the thronged bazaar,
              In Dhädar's market-place.
Only I knew in all that wealthed darbär
              The temple of her face. (2)

I said, "A year of service-troth I pay.
              My palace-haunt is here."
Were all the undreamed delights an only day?
              Or all the days a year?

Three paroquets in my love's garden are.
              No fairer joys afford
The triple flowers like sistered pearls that star
              The garden of my Lord.

What braided crown as regal lifts as here?
              What other lips as red?
Pomegranates part a mouth as vermeil-dear
              Ere the full flower is spread.

Now face to face we take our final gain.
              Abundant beauties yield
Bright swords by which my former griefs are slain:
              Showers for a starving field.

Life makes unloth its last surrender now,
              Raptured, and held, and whole. . .
Jamäl and Zëwä (3) hear my bridal vow
              That evil leaves my soul.

1.     Jam Darrak was a Baluch poet, who lived in the eighteenth century. Tradition says that he fell in love with a girl attached to the zenana of the Khan of Kalät, and remained at his court in consequence, where he was subjected to many persecutions before he obtained the lady.
2.     It was not the custom of the women of Baluchistan to walk veiled at the period to which this poem belongs.
3     Peris who watch over the welfare of devout brides.

The End

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