Arabian Poetry, by W. A. Clouston, , at sacred-texts.com
[THE scene lies in the desert, where the poet is supposed to he travelling along with a caravan. The time is midnight, and while he is kept awake by his sorrows, his fellow-travellers are slumbering around him.
The author opens the poem with a panegyric upon his own integrity, and the magnanimity he has shown under various misfortunes; these he is proceeding to recount, when he seems suddenly struck with the sight of a friend lying asleep at some distance from him. The poet adjures this friend to arise, and accompany him in an enterprise, the object of which was to visit a lady, whose habitation was in the neighbourhood. Fired with the idea of his mistress, he breaks forth into a description of the happiness of those who are admitted to her society, and resolves that nothing shall divert him from his purpose. His friend, however, appearing unmoved by his solicitations, he at length gives up his intention in despair, and after many bitter invectives against cowardice and sloth, returns to the subject of his misfortunes, and concludes the poem with an ardent exhortation to mistrust mankind, and in every contingence to rely solely upon our own prudence and fortitude.]
For many a melancholy day
Through desert vales I've wound my way;
The faithful beast whose back I press
In groans laments her lord's distress;
In every quivering of my spear
A sympathetic sigh I hear;
The camel, bending with his load,
And struggling through the thorny road,
Midst the fatigues that bear him down,
In Hassan's woes forgets his own;—
Yet cruel friends my wanderings chide,
My sufferings slight, my toils deride.
Once wealth, I own, engrossed each thought;
There was a moment when I sought
The glittering stores Ambition claims
To feed the wants his fancy frames;
But now ’tis past: the changing day
Has snatched my high-built hopes away,
And bade this wish my labours close,—
Give me not riches, but repose.
What though, with magic influence, sleep
O’er every closing eyelid creep!
Though, drunk with its oblivious wine,
Our comrades on their bales recline,
My Selim's trance I sure can break—
Selim, ’tis I, ’tis I who speak!
Dangers on every side impend,
And sleep’st thou, careless of thy friend?
Thou sleep’st, while every star from high
Beholds me with a wakeful eye;
Thou changest, ere the changeful Night
Hath streaked her fleeting robe with white.
’Tis Love that hurries me along,
I'm deaf to Fear's repressive song;
The rocks of Idham I'll ascend,
Though adverse darts each path defend,
And hostile sabres glitter there,
To guard the tresses of the fair.
Come, Selim, let us pierce the grove,
While night befriends, to seek my love. p. 156
The clouds of fragrance, as they rise,
Shall mark the place where Abla lies.
Around her tent my jealous foes,
Like lions, spread their watchful rows;
Amidst their bands her bower appears,
Embosomed in a wood of spears—
A wood still nourished by the dews
Which smiles and softest looks diffuse.
Thrice happy youths! who midst yon shades
Sweet converse hold with Idham's maids!
What bliss to view them gild the hours,
And brighten Wit and Fancy's powers,
While every foible they disclose
New transport gives, new graces shows!
’Tis theirs to raise with conscious art
The flames of love in every heart;
’Tis yours to raise with festive glee
The flames of hospitality:
Smit by their glances lovers lie,
And helpless sink, and hopeless die;
While, slain by you, the stately steed
To crown the feast is doomed to bleed—
To crown the feast, where copious flows
The sparkling juice that soothes your woes,
That lulls each care and heals each wound,
As the enlivening bowl goes round.
Amidst those vales my eager feet
Shall trace my Abla's dear retreat; p. 157
A gale of health may hover there,
To breathe some solace to my care.
I fear not Love—I bless the dart
Sent in a glance to pierce the heart:
With willing breast the sword I hail
That wounds me through a half-closed veil;
Though lions, howling round the shade,
My footsteps haunt, my walks invade,
No fears shall drive me from the grove,
If Abla listen to my love.
Ah, Selim! shall the spells of ease
Thy friendship chain, thine ardour freeze?
Wilt thou, enchanted thus, decline
Each generous thought, each bold design?
Then far from men some cell prepare,
Or build a mansion in the air;
But yield to us ambition's tide
Who fearless on its waves can ride;—
Enough for thee, if thou receive
The scattered spray the billows leave.
Contempt and want the wretch await
Who slumbers in an abject state—
Midst rushing crowds, by toil and pain,
The meed of Honour we must gain;
At Honour's call, the camel hastes
Through trackless wilds and dreary wastes,
Till in the glorious race she find
The fleetest coursers left behind: p. 158
By toils like these alone, he cries,
Th’ adventurous youths to greatness rise:
If bloated indolence were fame,
And pompous ease our noblest aim,
The orb that regulates the day
Would ne’er from Aries’ mansion stray.
I've bent at Fortune's shrine too long;
Too oft she heard my suppliant tongue;
Too oft has mocked my idle prayers,
While fools and knaves engrossed her cares;
Awake for them, asleep to me,
Heedless of worth she scorned each plea.
Ah! had her eyes, more just, surveyed
The different claims which each displayed,
Those eyes, from partial fondness free,
Had slept to them, and waked for me.
But midst my sorrows and my toils,
Hope ever soothed my breast with smiles;
Her hand removed each gathering ill,
And oped life's closing prospects still.
Yet spite of all her friendly art,
The specious scene ne’er gained my heart:
I loved it not, although the day,
Met my approach, and cheered my way;
I loath it, now the hours retreat,
And fly me with reverted feet.
My soul, from every tarnish free,
May boldly vaunt her purity; p. 159
But ah, how keen, however bright
The sabre glitter to the sight,
Its splendour's lost, its polish vain,
Till some bold hand the steel sustain.
Why have my days been stretched by Fate
To see the vile and vicious great,
While I, who led the race so long,
Am last and meanest of the throng?
Ah, why has Death so long delayed
To wrap me in his friendly shade?—
Left me to wander thus alone,
When all my heart held dear is gone!
But let me check these fretful sighs—
Well may the base above me rise,
When yonder planets, as they run,
Mount in the sky above the sun.
Resigned I bow to Fate's decree,
Nor hope his laws will change for me:
Each shifting scene, each varying hour,
But proves the ruthless tyrant's power.
But though with ills unnumbered cursed,
We owe to faithless man the worst;
For man can smile with specious art,
And plant a dagger in the heart.
He only's fitted for the strife
Which fills the boist’rous paths of life,
Who, as he treads the crowded scenes,
Upon no kindred bosom leans. p. 160
Too long my foolish heart had deemed
Mankind as virtuous as they seemed;
The spell is broke, their faults are bare,
And now I see them as they are:
Truth from each tainted breast has flown,
And Falsehood marks them all her own.
Incredulous I listen now
To every tongue and every vow,
For still there yawns a gulf between
Those honeyed words and what they mean.
With honest pride elate I see
The sons of Falsehood shrink from me,
As from the right line's even way
The biassed curves deflecting stray.—
But what avails it to complain?
With souls like theirs reproof is vain;
If honour e’er such bosoms share,
The sabre's point must fix it there.
But why exhaust life's vapid bowl,
And suck the dregs with sorrow foul,
When long ere this my youth has drained
Whatever zest the cup contained?
Why should we mount upon the wave
And ocean's yawning horrors brave,
When we may swallow from the flask
Whate’er the wants of mortals ask?
Contentment's realms no fears invade,
No cares annoy, no sorrows shade; p. 161
There, placed secure, in peace we rest,
Nor aught demand to make us blest.
While Pleasure's gay fantastic bower,
The splendid pageant of an hour,
Like yonder meteor in the skies,
Flits with a breath, no more to rise.
As through life's various walks we're led,
May Prudence hover o’er our head!
May she our words, our actions guide,
Our faults correct, our secrets hide!
May she, where’er our footsteps stray,
Direct our paths and clear the way!
Till, every scene of tumult past,
She bring us to repose at last—
Teach us to love that peaceful shore,
And roam through Folly's wilds no more!