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Throbbed, as a heavenly bird were fluttering there,
And gave her voice the wonder of his note.
“His brow,” she sang, " is white beneath his hair ;
The fertile beard is soft upon his chin,
Shading the mouth that nestles warm within,
As a rose nestles in its leaves ; I see
His eyes, but cannot tell what hue they be,
For the sharp eyelash, like a sabre, speaks
The martial law of Passion; in his cheeks
The quick blood mounts, and then as quickly goes,
Leaving a tint like marble when a rose
Is held beside it:- bid him veil his eyes,
Lest all my soul should unto mine arise,
And he behold it!” As she sang, her glance
Dwelt on my face; her beauty, like a lance,
Transfixed my heart. I melted into sighs,
Slain by the arrows of her beauteous eyes.
“Why is her bosom made” (I cried)
a snare? Why does a single ringlet of her hair Hold my heart captive?” “Would you know?
she said; “ It is that you are mad with love, and chains Were made for madmen.” Then she raised her head With answering love, that led to other strains, Until the lute, which shared with her the smart, Rocked as in storm upon her beating heart.
Thus to its wires she made impassioned cries :
“ I swear it by the brightness of his eyes ;
I swear it by the darkness of his hair ;
By the warm bloom his limbs and bosom wear;
By the fresh pearls his rosy lips enclose;
By the calm majesty of his repose ;
By smiles I coveted, and frowns I feared,
And by the shooting myrtles of his beard -
I swear it, that from him the morning drew
Its freshness, and the moon her silvery hue,
The sun his brightness, and the stars their fire,
And musk and camphor all their odorous breath :
And if he answer not my love's desire
Day will be night to me, and Life be Death!”
Scarce had she ceased, when, overcome, I fell
Upon her bosom, where the lute no more
That night was cradled; song was silenced well
With kisses, each one sweeter than before,
Until their fiery dew so long was quaffed,
I drank delirium in the infectious draught.
The guests departed, but the sounds they made
I heard not; in the fountain-haunted shade
The lamps burned out ; the moon rode far above,
But the trees chased her from our nest of love.
Dizzy with passion, in mine ears the blood
Tingled and hummed in a tumultuous flood,
Until from deep to deep I seemed to fall,
Like him, who from El Sirat's hair-drawn wall
Plunges to endless gulfs. In broken gleams
Glimmered the things I saw, so mixed with dreams
The vain confusion blinded every sense,
And knowledge left me. Then a sleep intense
Fell on my brain, and held me as the dead,
Until a sudden tumult smote my head,
And a strong glare, as when a torch is hurled
Before a sleeper's eyes, brought back the world.
Most wonderful! The fountain and the trees
Had disappeared, and in the place of these
I saw the well-known Gate of Victory.
The sun was high ; the people looked at me,
And marvelled that a sleeper should be there
On the hot pavement, for the second prayer
Was called from all the minarets. I passed
My hand across my eyes, and found at last
What man I was. Then straightway through my heart
There ran a double pang — the bitter smart
Of evil knowledge, and the unhealthy lust
Of sinful pleasure ; and I threw the dust
Upon my head, the burial of my pride -
The ashen soil, wherein I plant the tree
Of Penitence. The people saw, and cried,
“May God reward thee, Hassan! Truly, thou,
Whom men have honored, addest to thy brow
The crowning lustre of Humility :
As thou abasest, God exalteth thee!”
Which when I heard, I shed such tears of shame
As might erase the record of my blame,
And from that time I have not dared to curse
The unrighteous, since the man who seemeth worse
Than I, may purer be ; for, when I fell,
Temptation reached a loftier pinnacle.
Therefore, O Man! be Charity thy aim:
Praise cannot harm, but weigh thy words of blame.
Distrust the Virtue that itself exalts,
But turn to that which doth avow its faults,
And from Repentance plucks a wholesome fruit.
Pardon, not Wrath, is God's best attribute.
“ The tale, O Poet! which thy lips have told,”
I said, " is words of rubies set in gold.
Precious the wisdom which from evil draws
Strength to fulfil the good, of Allah's laws.
But lift thy head, O Hassan! Thine own words
Shall best console thee, for my tongue affords
No phrase but thanks for what thou hast bestowed ;
And yet I fain would have thee shake the load
Of shame from off thy shoulders, seeing still
That by this fall thou hast increased thy will
To do the work which makes thee truly blest.”
Hassan Ben Khaled wept, and smote his breast :
“ Hold! hold, O Man!” he cried : “why make me
A deeper shame? Must I to thee reveal
That Sin is as the leprous taint no art
Can cleanse the blood from ? In my secret heart
I do believe I hold at dearer cost
The vanished Pleasure, than the Virtue lost.”
So saying, he arose and went his way;
And Allah grant he go no more astray.