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sang a guest : “ The rose's cheeks are fair ;
It crowns the purple bowl, and no one knows
If the rose colors it, or it the rose.”
And sang another: “Crimson is its hue,
And on its breast the morning's crystal dew
Is changed to rubies.” Then a third replied:
" It blushes in the sun's enamoured sight,
As a young virgin on her wedding night,
When from her face the bridegroom lifts the veil."
When all had sung their songs, I, Hassan, tried.
“ The Rose,” I sang, “ is either red or pale,
Like maidens whom the flame of passion burns,
And Love or Jealousy controls, by turns.
Its buds are lips preparing for a kiss ;
flowers are like the blush of bliss
On lovers' cheeks; the thorns its armor are,
And in its centre shines a golden star,
As on a favorite's cheek a sequin glows —
And thus the garden's favorite is the Rose.”
The master from his open basket shook
The roses on my head. The others took
Their silver cups, and filling them with wine,
Cried, “ Pledge our singing, Hassan, as we thine!”
But I exclaimed, “ What is it I have heard ?
Wine is forbidden by the Prophet's word :
Surely, O Friends! ye would not lightly break
The laws which bring ye blessing ?” Then they
spake : “O Poet, learn thou that the law was made For men, and not for poets. Turn thine eye Within, and read the nature there displayed ; The gifts thou hast doth Allah's grace deny "To common men; they lift thee o’er the rules "The Prophet fixed for sinners and for fools. "The vine is Nature's poet: from his bloom "The air goes reeling, tipsy with perfume, And when the sun is warm within his blood It mounts and sparkles in a crimson flood; Rich with dumb songs he speaks not, till they find Interpretation in the Poet's mind. If Wine be evil, Song is evil too ; Then cease thy singing, lest it bring thee sin; But wouldst thou know the strains which Hafiz knew, Drink as he drank, and thus the secret win.” They clasped my glowing hands ; they held the bowl Up to my lips, till, losing all control of the fierce thirst, which at my scruples laughed, I drained the goblet at a single draught.
It ran through every limb like fluid fire:
“ More, O Friends !” I cried, the new desire
Raging within me: 66 this is life indeed !
From blood like this is coined the nobler seed
Whence poets are begotten. Drink again,
And give us music of a tender strain,
Linking your inspiration unto mine,
For music hovers on the lips of Wine ! ”
“ Music !” they shouted, echoing my demand,
And answered with a beckon of his hand
The gracious host, whereat a maiden, fair
As the last star that leaves the morning air,
Came down the leafy paths. Her veil revealed
The beauty of her face, which, half concealed
Behind its thin blue folds, showed like the moon
Behind a cloud that will forsake it soon.
Her hair was braided darkness, but the glance
Of lightning eyes shot from her countenance,
And showed her neck, that like an ivory tower
Rose o'er the twin domes of her marble breast.
Were all the beauty of this age compressed
Into one form, she would transcend its power.
Her step was lighter than the young gazelle's,
And as she walked, her anklet's golden bells
Tinkled with pleasure, but were quickly mute
With jealousy, as from a case she drew
With snowy hands the pieces of her lute,
And took her seat before me.
To perfect shape, her lovely arms she bent
Around the neck of the sweet instrument,
Till from her soft caresses it awoke
To consciousness, and thus its rapture spoke :
“I was a tree within an Indian vale,
When first I heard the love-sick nightingale
Declare his passion: every leaf was stirred
With the melodious sorrow of the bird,
And when he ceased, the song remained with me.
Men came anon, and felled the harmless tree,
But from the memory of the songs
The spoiler saved me from the destiny
Whereby my brethren perished. O'er the sea
and from its loud, tumultuous moan I caught a soft and solemn undertone ; And when I grew beneath the maker's hand To what thou seest, he sang (the while he planned) The mirthful measures of a careless heart, And of my soul his songs became a part. Now they have laid my head upon a breast
Whiter than marble, I am wholly blest.
The fair hands smite me, and my strings complain
With such melodious cries, they smite again,
Until, with passion and with sorrow swayed,
My torment moves the bosom of the maid,
Who hears it speak her own. I am the voice
Whereby the lovers languish or rejoice;
And they caress me, knowing that my strain
Alone can speak the language of their pain.”
Here ceased the fingers of the maid to stray
Over the strings; the sweet song died away
In mellow, drowsy murmurs, and the lute
Leaned on her fairest bosom, and was mute.
Better than wine that music was to me:
Not the lute only felt her hands, but she
Played on my heartstrings, till the sounds became
Incarnate in the pulses of my frame.
Speech left my tongue, and in my tears alone
Found utterance. With stretched arms I implored
Continuance, whereat her fingers poured
A tenderer music, answering the tone
Her parted lips released, the while her throat