The dance and song, the tales and juggleries, With which the wise Sultana-mother used To speed the laggard hours of harem life, Were good for folk with souls of every day; But Mahommed would nothing have that did Not stir his warrior sense. The cymbal's crash, And trumpet's strident notes, unmixed of plaint Or melody, could always bid him near And hold him fast, a wild-eyed listener; And with his urchin's fist he beat the drum, And trembled with delight to hear its roll Invade the silent places of the house, And die in distant halls. And all day long, With a heap of stippled ivory cubes, The gift antique of a forgotten prince Who erstwhile ruled a land of elephants Off in the sunrise somewhere, he would build Tall castle piles, and wall and moat them round, And when he thought them perfect for defence, Retire a little space, and with his bow And arrows shoot them into formless wrecks. But best of all he loved of afternoons, When, in the musky-shaded central court, The ladies of the household met to feast On spiced meats, and nuts, and snow-cooled draughts, And exchange trinketries and quips as rich, And chorus loud the while the slaves before Them spread what all the merchants from the gates Without had dared to send them—such the time The doughty child best loved to dight himself As Eastern knights for battle bound were wont, And on the Kislar-Aga's sword for steed, And yelling shrill, with undissembled rage And fury burst upon the startled groups, And send them screaming thence, and, doing so, Imagine that he did but re-enact The role of black Antar, who used alone To sheer ten thousand horsemen of their heads. Nor were there any of the Iuresome wiles With children potent since the world began Enough to lay the martial jealousy With which he held the court. Nor cared he more For truce proposed in form by heralds trained, And leading troops of buglers clad in gold, And blowing flourishes until the sky Were like to crack and fall. At length would come The high Sultana. In her deep reserve Of mother-love she held the only charm To calm his mood and raise the well-kept siege. "The battle's done. My lord must now dismount; And I will tell him of our Othman bold, And how he wooed and won his Malkatoon." And with the saying she would gravely reach Her hands to him, and he would run to her, And at her feet throw down his lance and shield; And haply seated then, his ruddy cheek Soft pillowed on her twin-orbed, ample breast, The tale she would unfold.
[* Máhommed, the son of Sultan Murad II., frequently called Amurath. Upon the death of his father, Máhommed succeeded to the Sultanate as Máhommed II., and after the fall of Constantinople surnominally he added The Conqueror to the title.]
"My lord must know That in the ancient time, near Eskischeer, A many-gated town, there dwelt a Sheik, Edebali by name. A chambered cave He had for house, and wild vines made his door, Which was a nesting - place for singing birds. Two paths, divided by an olive-tree, Led from the door: one to a spring of cool, Sweet water bubbling out from moss-grown rocks, And it was narrow; while the other, broad And beaten, told of travel to and fro, And of the world a suitor to the man, For it is never proud when it has need. He had been Sheik in fact, but now was more— A Dervish old and saintly, and so close To Allah that the Golden Gate of Gifts Up Heaven's steep did open when he prayed. Wherefore the sick were brought him for a touch; And in their crowns his amulets were worn By kings and queens, and scarce a morning came Without a message—'In my tent last night A foal was born to me, and that in truth It grace its blood, I pray thee send a name To know it by.' Or, from a knight whose brand Had failed him, 'Hearken, O Edebali! Thou knowest by chosen texts to temper swords. The craftsman hath a new one now in hand, And in the rough it waits.' And men of high Degree came often asking this and that Of Heaven, and the Prophet, and the laws Of holy life. Nor was there ever one To go away unanswered, for he knew The Kur-án, verse and chapter, and to speak With finger on the line."
"And to the cave Our Othman often went, because he knew The good man loved him. Once he thither turned While hawking and athirst, and at the door Bethought him of the spring. So down the path, The narrow path, he went, but sudden stopt— Stopt with the babble of the brook in ear, And straight forgot his thirst in what he saw. Below the fountain's lip there was a pool O'er which a mottled rock of gray and green Rose high enough to cast the whole in shade; And in the shade unconscious sate a fair And slender girl. A yellow earthen jar, Which she had come to fill for household use, Stood upright by her, and he saw her face Above a fallen veil, a gleam of white, Made whiter by the blackness of the hair Through which it shone. And she, all childlike, hummed A wordless tune of sweet monotony, As in the hushed dowar at dead of night The Arab women, low-voiced, sing to dull The grinding of their mills. And to her knees Her limbs were bare, and as the eddies brought The bubbles round she beat them with her foot, Which glistened mid the splashes like the pink And snow enamel of a sea-washed shell; And by the throbbing of his heart he knew Her beautiful, and turned and walked away, Himself unseen. And up the path he went, A stately youth, and tall, and self-contained As any proven man."
"'A quest I bring, O saintly Dervish!' Thus, when in the cave, Our Othman spake. "The elder to him turned His face benignant. "'Is there in the Book* A saying that would make it sin for me To marry?'
[* The Kur-án.]
"'Nay, son, speak thou whole of heart.' "'Then be it whole of heart,' young Othman said, 'And to thy saintliness.' And stooping low, He raised the other's hand, and kissed it once, And then again, and humbly. 'At the brook But now I saw thy daughter Malkatoon— Nay, be thou restful!—Drink for soothe of thirst Was what I sought. Her presence made the place In holiness a Mosque, and bade me off, And I ran trembling here. And that which was Not more than thirst is now a fever grown, A fever of the soul. And if I may Not wed her, then it were not well to let My morning run to dismal noon of life; Nor shall it. See, now, O Edebali! Here at thy feet my soul. Save Malkatoon's. Thou canst not find one whiter.' "And he knelt, And laid his forehead lowly in the dust; And at the sight, Edebali made haste, And both hands helpful raised the suppliant, Saying, 'O gentle son of Ertoghrul! What Allah of his love and bounty gives, That we shall keep, and in the keeping make Our care of it becoming thanks and praise. Thou knowest I love thee'— "His farther speech Was tearful. "'I remember well the day A woman beautiful, and mine in love And wifely bonds, and dying of the birth, Gave me her baby, saying, I have named It Malkatoon,* and as thou dost by it, So Allah will by thee. Ah, verily! The Prophet measureth the very show Of evil 'gainst the good; and dost thou think It full enough with Him that I have kept. The child in bread and happy singing all The morning through, if now, her noon at hand, I give her up to certain misery? A prince art thou, and she but dervish born; And men will laugh, and with their laughter kill.'
"And to and fro he walked, and wrung his hands, While all the lineless wrinkling on his face From thought, and fast, and vigils long endured, The deeper pursed itself; and when he stopt, It was to say, 'To Allah let us leave The judgment, prince. Who dares in Him to trust May always hope. So canst thou hither bring A pigeon from an eagle's nest escaped Unruffled, or a lamb that overnight Hath harmless lain with lions, it will be As speech to me, and I will do His will. Knowest thou the Legend on the seal of God? Our lives are but the wax on which 'tis stamped. They call it Kismet.' "And with that he drew His robe, long, loose, and trimmed with yellow About him close, and left the youth alone And wonder-struck, but none the less in love Then down the broad and travel-beaten road Our Othman, pensive, went to where his train Of tribesmen waited.
[* Treasure of a woman.]
"'Ho, now! Hood the hawks, And leash the whimpering hounds. The day is done.' Thus he to them. "They stared, and in his palm One whispered,'Oh! It is the evil eye.' "A bolder spake, 'My lord, it is but noon.' "And yet a third addressed his hunter's love In strain more cunning, 'Has my lord forgot The heron in the marsh?' "But he, low-voiced And patient, answered them, 'Nor hawk, nor hound, Nor heron more for me, for I have seen A lily with a star's light in its cup. 'Tis something by the breath of Allah blown This way from Paradise, I swiftly thought, And all impulsive would have made it mine But that a voice forbade; and now I go To find what never mortal eyes have seen— A pigeon from an eagle's nest escaped, Or in a lion's den a lamb alive. So on my breast the lily I may wear, And in my heart the star's light.' "Then their eyes Were hot with dew of tears repressed by awe. For strangers to the sweet delirium Which only lovers know, and know to make The gentle-hearted gentler, and the brave More covetous as errants in the Land Of the Impossible, they thought him mad; And at his feet one wistful flung himself, With outcry, 'I was born to serve my lord, And go with him.' "Whereat the others drowned His voice with theirs united, 'And so were we.' "But Othman waved them off: 'Bring me my horse. But yesterday from noon to set of sun He kept the shadow of the flying hawk A plaything 'neath his music-making feet. I will not comrade else.' "Tent born and bred, The steed was brought, its hoofs like agate bowls, Its breast a vast and rounded hemisphere, With lungs to gulf a north wind at a draught. Under its forelock, copious and soft As tresses of a woman loosely combed, He set a kiss, and in its nostrils breathed An exhalation, saying, to be heard By all around, ' Antar, now art thou brute No longer. I have given thee a soul, Even my own.' "And as he said, it was, And not miraculously, as the fool Declares; for midst the other harmonies By Allah wrought, the hero and his horse Have always been as one. "And when they saw Him in the saddle, face and eyes aglow With the low-burning, splendor-chastened flame That serves the Angel of the pallid wing In lighting martyrs on their rueful way, They closed around him, and of their charms And priceless amulets despoiled themselves, And tied them on Antar until his mane And forelock jangled as with little bells, And glistened merrily, though all the time The true men moaned, 'Oh! Oh! What shall we tell The good Sheik Ertoghrul?'* "And in reply, He bade them, 'Say that I to-day have learned The Legend graven on the seal of God, And that it is a holy law in need Of holy lives to prove it.'
[* Othman's father.]
"Thereupon He rode away, clad all in hunter's garb, And all unarmed, save at his belt a sword, And at his back a shield—into the East He rode bareheaded, and under a sky Thrice plated with molten brass of noon, Nor once looked back. Into the Wilderness, The far and purple-curtained distances, Where Nature holds her everlasting courts, With beasts of prey and hordes of savage men To keep their portals, questionless he passed In leading of his faith.
"And to a land Of lions come at last, of all he met, Even the women at the black-tent doors, He asked if lately they had lost a lamb? And where the tawny thunder-makers kept Their dread abodes? Or if they knew the cliffs Whence through the many-folded turbaning Of sun-touched clouds the nesting eagles launched Themselves upon their prey? For he had heard From Allah that 'twas beautiful to love All helpless things, and shield them from their foes, And therefore was he come. "And all the men Who heard him laughed; the women, pitying, Were moved to tears, and gave him of their stores, And at his going blessed him. And in time He came to know the trails the maned brutes Affected most, and lay in wait to see With what of trophies of their craft they took Their homeward ways. Or on some barefaced rock, The sky above him like a stainless blue Pavilion, prone and patient he would watch The winged Sultans of the aerial world As forth they issued screaming to the sun, Which at the call seemed, comrade-like, to stand And wait for them. And well he came to know, When from their forays provident they flew, The victim in their talons. If a bird, He whistled to his horse, and followed them With loosened rein. And where they thought their nests Securest in their envelopes of cloud And dizzy height, he thither boldly climbed And gave them battle. "Thus into a year The months slow-melting fell, and he became A hero; so that, went he here or there, All living things remarked him. Did men see A troop of eagles circling in the sky They smiled, and said, 'Our Othman this way comes.' And mothers, from their midnight slumbers roused By lions, closer clasped their little ones, And calmed them, whispering—' Hush! and sleep again!' For gallop, gallop goes the gray-black steed, While Allah swings the moon-lamp overhead. And Othman, strong-armed, rides, and riding cries, 'Be still, O baby-hearts, be still, and sleep, For I am here.' "And 'gainst the friendly folk Who loved him so there one day chanced to come A horde of camel-drivers, skurrying From parched Oasian orchards in the South. To them sweet water was of more account Than blood of women. Then from far and wide The harried residents to Othman drew For guidance, and he led them never knight More truly. And the battle done and won, In league and gratefully, as warriors should, They flung the clashing of their steel-bossed shields Into the upper deeps, with rhythmic stops For outcry. ' Hear, O Allah!'—thus they said— ' The Wilderness hath travailed, and to-day A Tribe is born to Thee. Thy palm is large, And hollowed roomfully, and lined with gifts For all who couch their asking in the form Of humble prayer.' Thus Kara* Othman saith; And, as there is no fervid friend like him Of helpless things, who—who shall better speak To us of Thee, or better serve the Tribe, So in its new birth blind? Then live the Sheik— Sheik Othman! Live the Tribe!'
* Kara means Black. Othman was so called from his raven beard and hair.
"And when the spring, The second of his love-lorn wandering, Was pluming all the land, our Othman rose, And with the chosen of his just-fledged Tribe, A motley train of wild men, homeward rode, And coming to the cave where yet the sage And saintly Dervish dwelt, 'Is it not time,' He said, full risen from his low salaam, 'That love like mine should have surcease of test? Behold what it has done!' "And from his breast He drew a double string of eagle beaks, Each amber-hued and set with polished gold, And clear as honey from the comb thrice pressed Into a crystal cup. "'Thou didst require Of me a bird—dost thou remember it, Edebali? It was to be a sign From Allah, so thou saidst. Nor that alone— Right well I knew thy purpose by the task To try my faith, and find if well or ill The Prophet held me. Wherefore be thou judge. These were the blades with which the Kings of Air Were wont to rend the hapless feathered tribes, And keep their blue domain. Upon their thrones I slew the monsters. Count them if thou wilt, And take the trophies, trinkets now to please A maiden fair. Perhaps young Malkatoon Will wear them; only when thou comest to put Them in her hand—which in my dreams I kiss, The many thousand times I dare not say— I pray thee tell her how the gift was won, And fairly speak my name. Then if she smile, And ask of me, and why I dared such deeds, And what love is—ah, more than well enough! As singing birds in hush of summer nights, Calling their mates through green acacia groves, Have answer in the self-same melody Of speech, so she will love me for my love.' The Dervish stayed his hand. 'It was a bird I asked of thee, my son—a living bird— A pigeon—' "'Nay,' said Othman, patiently, 'I have no bird.' "'Oh, then thou hast the lamb?' "'Nor lamb have I. Yet, saintly though thou art, Be not in haste, as saying, "All the ways Are Allah's, and I know them."' "Answering The sign he made, a servant brought a bale Of lion skins, and cast it on the floor, And spread the pelts to view; and they were soft To eye and touch as rugs of Indian silk, Yet terrible withal, for each retained The head with all its armature of teeth, And bulk of yellow mane, the jaws agape And snarling. "'These were royal draperies, Good Dervish, yielded to me but with life. And when I took them, it was with the thought That thou, for whom all things, the quick and still Alike, have tongues, wouldst kindly hear them tell Of Allah's love for me, and ask not more Of sign from Him. And scarce less sweet it was To think that when their tale was haply told, They might find favor with young Malkatoon; And should she hear it said the hand that won The necklace from the eagles was the hand That spoiled the lions thus, and all for love, As carpets on her stony chamber floor, Or dressing for her couch such days and nights As chilly blow the mountain winds, they might Well keep me in her mind, and even nurse A wish to learn yet more of that which drove Me to the errantry. And now thy hand?— And graciously, I pray. A crown were reft Of half its honor did the giver give It grudgingly. No? Oh, I see! It is Because these witnesses are in their speech Uncertain. I have better. Wilt thou go And hear them?—Only to the door; they wait Us there.' "And to the vine-clad door they went, The old man in the leading of the young; And looking out, lo! cumbering the road, In the white noon, and plainly not yet used To bonds of lawfulness, a medley blent Of lowing cows, and camels malcontent And overladen, hungry, wolf-like dogs, And travel-stained sheep, else spotless black, And horses beautiful enough for kings, And by their owners far more loved than were Their youthless wives, mere handmaids of the brutes— In the noon, lo! the Tribe. "'Came these with thee?' The Dervish asked. "And Othman, pleased to mark His wonder, smiled, and said, 'I am their Sheik. The Wilderness hath rendered them to me, And they are Prophets now.' "Then, half in quest And half in scorn, the elder's brow and hand Impulsive rose. But Othman meekly bowed, And answered, patient still, 'Ah me! They were So true thy words the day I boldly asked The hand of Malkatoon: "For men will laugh, And with their laughter kill." In other phrase, The jesting critics in my father's halls Would make a plaything of her simple soul, And drive it weeping back to Paradise, With none to know how lavishly of charms And all perfections it was clothed on, Save thou, and I, and Allah. And the thought Went with me down into the No Man's Land, Whither I betook myself companionless, A question ever present, How to keep My love the child she is, and harmless save Her from the courtly brood? At last I had An answer. You must know the land was wild, Uncastled, townless, and the people dwelt Apart as enemies, and ruthless preyed Upon each other, making mock of love And Allah; and when I shewed them trust They laughed at me, and let me go in peace, A dreaming madman. But in time there came A hopeful change. By what 'twas wrought I leave The necklace and yon bale of robes to tell. Out of the farther South there one day rose A cloud of war with grim necessities They knew not of before; and it blew fire Upon them, and calamities so fierce They came to me, and in large charity I yielded to their prayer, and ordered them, And with them took the field. And as we charged I shouted Allah! Allah! And they caught The holy name, and with it swung their swords, And aimed their lances, all so joyously, It seemed the blood they shed had turned to wine, And made them sudden drunk. We won the fight, And they are Moslem now. Then as I sat My horse the children and the women came And kissed his bloody front, and caught my hand And stirrups, painted with the same red drip, Proclaiming, Live Sheik Othman! And the men Made answer, Live Sheik Othman! Then a new, Exquisite pleasure wrapt me in a glow Of strange delight, and, looking up, I saw The moon a crescent in the day-sky's depth, And by it, lustrous clear, the star assigned To wait on it, as page upon a queen. Some childish thought—a wonder if the sun Were not enough to show the havoc strewn Along the field—was passing through my mind, When suddenly the face of Malkatoon Appeared to me, a fleck of brighter light, Resilvering the silver of the moon. I raised my hands as worshippers are wont; I could not speak, for all my senses swam In dim confusion; and before I woke The apparition drew the coarser rays Of star and planet round it, and was veiled From sight. And when 'twas gone, I knew myself, By certain intuition of the soul, In Allah's care. I knew that Malkatoon Would be my wife. I knew the warrior-cries For me as Sheik was Allah making known What He would have. Wherefore, behold my Tribe— The Tribe of Othman! Prophets of the State Which I will build with them! And as thou lovest His officers, the little and the great, Look kindly on them, father, for they know Right well to follow where I dare to lead. And think'st thou they will laugh at Malkatoon? Or wound her gentle soul with glance or speech Unseemly? Nay, good Dervish, say the word, And here before thy door the Tribe shall pitch My great black tent and set the wedding - feast, And hold it on with story, meat, and drink, And merry joust, until the new year come, Unless thou sooner say that never bride Had truer welcome to a truer home. I ask it—I, Othman—who never prayed To other man.' "And then the Dervish said, Slow speaking, 'To my cave there often come Ambassadors of kings, and yesterday The high Sultan of ancient Samarkand Saluted me in person royally, And in his shower of gifts my feet were hid, Or had I stept, it would have been on pearls And precious stones; and yet more welcome thou, 0 son of Ertoghrul, than all of them— A messenger from Allah with the key He keeps upon the door above the vault Where things to come lie hidden' gainst their day— Take thou salute, and hear, then go thy way. The wise man reads the name of Allah writ On everything in Nature—on the stone, The wasting leaf, the glittering water-drop— And comes at last to look for prophecy In all the unaccounted trifles strewn By chance along the blind-worn paths of life. These trophies are not voiceless as they seem. 1 listen, and they tell me of the East By thee again restored and masterful; I listen, and they tell how turbaned hosts Devout shall come from every land to light The ready torches of their faith at thine; I listen, and from out the upper depths I hear a voice declare thy name shall be Forever on the lips of fighting men A battle-cry, and that in times of peace Even the winds, unsteady passengers And lawless though they are, shall take and blow It up and down the world a melody Of bugles. Up—up to the storied plains Of glory thine forewritten 'tis to climb; And bending ear, and listening wistfully, I hear the music thence of horns and drums, And cymbals ringing, and the high acclaims Of countless men in arms; and if I look, It is at thee enthroned on battle-fields, And conquered cities crowding with their keys On golden plates, and clamorous to buy Thy better will. And yet, alas! I dare Not speak the word besought. In truth, it is Thy destiny I fear. When greatness cloaks Thee like a tabard more than courtly dight, What then of Malkatoon? Mayhap, 'twill be For me, O son of Ertoghrul, to seek A lion's den or eagle's nest for lamb Alive or dove unharmed, and fail as thou Hast failed. A question—one; then peace to thee, And all of thine. Where doth that holy thing, A trusting woman's simple love, fare worst? And I will tell: 'Tis in the heart by years Of kingly usage into marble turned— Thou hast my answer.' "And with that he took The young man's hand in both of his, and held It tenderly, as loath to let him go So sadly burdened; then when he had back His voice, he said, 'The Wilderness hath kept Itself unlocked, and rendered thee the Tribe In sacred trust for Allah; whence 'tis thine To wait on it, and bend its stubborn will To honor Him. The truest blades are those Most frequent in the fire, and thus may He Be chastening thee. Thy faith to this hath been In purity like pearls in Heaven's gate. Forget not now that all the times are His, The morrows and the years, in which to send The sign I ask.' "He turned, but at the door, The inner door of heavy camel's-hair, He left the parting speech. 'A woman dead, And in her grave, but with a promise had, May hold a man when even Allah's word Hath spent its force with him. Now, good my lord, In going ponder this: The world is old, And there were loves and lovers ere thou earnest.' "The daylight, gray along the cavern floor, Went out on Othman, yet, with upraised face, He prayed—' O Allah! To a moon's scant breadth The sky is shrunk; for I am in a well, And darkness, cold as water, covers me Still sinking. Amin! Thou didst dig the deeps, Or else there were no heights; and I will find Thee at the bottom.' "Then a lightning flashed Within his mind, that he alone might see The answer Allah made—A woman dead, And in her grave, but oh! so beautiful, And so like Malkatoon! Her hair as dark, Her face as oval, with a brow as white, And even in its childishness her form The very same! And he began to shake With mighty madnesses of word and act, Thinking it was indeed his love he saw There lying lost to him; but he was saved From them; for it is as the saintly say, They to whom Heaven kindly sends a light Not only see but understand as well. And he was glad, and shouted so the birds Nest-keeping in the leafage of the door Affrighted sprang to wing, and Darkness leaped Into the grave and bore away the ghost— So loud he cried, 'O Dervish, peace to thee! And all the charmed sweetnesses of peace To thine! Be Allah praised, for He but now Laid bare the narrow room where, as in life, And wanting only breath to be alive, The woman sleeps who holds thee promise-bound; And while I looked at her, I heard thee say Again, The world is old, and there were loves And lovers ere I came. And then I knew Thy meaning. (Ah, never was selfish youth So gently chidden!) And now, clothed all In patience, and with my hand in the hand Of Faith, I go.'"
"And home again, from good Sheik Ertoghrul our Othman had a gift Of hill-lands rich with groves of terebinth, And brooks which, flitting down by tangled glades, And babbling over beds of marble float, Did often pause in open pools to mock The skies above with bluer skies below. And there in one dowar, most like a town Of many brown-black tents, he drew his Tribe, That" they might learn how pleasant are the ways Of peace, and that an hundred spears may gain, And safely keep, what ten were sure to lose. "And next he built a Mosque of unhewn stone, But with a tall and stately minaret; Then with the help of holy men he taught His children of the Wilderness the creed— Allak-il-Allah—simple to the ear, Yet deep in meaning—deeper than the earth Hangs swinging 'neath the amethystine floor Of Paradise. And shortly they could give The Fah-hat, word and rik-rath, and salute With hand on brow and breast; then in their midst He pitched two greater tents. "'For whom are these?' The tribesmen asked. "'This one is for the poor; And comes a stranger hungry, or pursued By night or enemies, it is for him. This other'—and his voice sank low and shook With sudden eagerness—' is Malkatoon's.' "'And who is Malkatoon?' "'A benison Withheld by Allah until my trial day Is done—a Spirit out of Paradise— And this way comes an Angel leading her, For in the distance I have heard him cry, Be ready.'" "Here the high Sultana paused To closer clasp and kiss the little lord Upon her breast for pride, and then again For love o'erbrimming. 'Oh, my Máhommed! 'Tis love that makes the bread and pours the wine, And is in turn the bread and wine for love.' The words were dark, and yet, as morning falls On struggling mist, the look she gave him saved The meaning of the thought. Then, to the tale Returning, she, " And so the Tribe was cared For by the Sheik, with everything of theirs, The winged and hoofed, the speaking and the dumb; The dogs had meat, the cattle pasturage; Even the camels shed their foxen shag, And ere long rounded into comeliness Of health and strength. And when at last There was no charity or duty more To others owing, he arose, and up To Allah's gate despatched his patient soul In ihram white and seamless, there to sit, And watch and pray the breaking of the sign The Dervish asked of him.
"And Othman had A bosom friend, the Lord of Eskischeer, Youthful and warm of fancy, like himself; And him he one day told of Malkatoon, And of her sire ascetic in the cave Above the spring; and of the spring he spake, A wayside comforter of suffering men, With endless cheer of draught and song and dance, Lest that way they should pass, and scoffing say, It is not true that God is everywhere. And then he told of how he came to see The wondrous child, and paused to bless the chance— A favor shaken from the Prophet's sleeve! And since that hour, he said, the beautiful Apparent in the other fairest things Was not for him. Nay, looked he in the sky At night, the utmost splendor of the stars Was all a-rust. "'And is she then so fair?' The listener asked. "'I know not in the world,' Our Othman said, 'by which to make thee know How fair she is, surpassing all her kind— Nothing of perfume to the nostrils sweet, Nothing lovely to the eye, or to ear, Nothing of music' "Thereupon they gave Each other hand, and went their several ways: Othman, a lover with his love in love, And doing childish things, as if the air Were not alive with elves to laugh at him; Now grumbling to his horse of Malkatoon; Now whipping quatrains rude and cradleish Until they sung of her as heroine; Or when a breeze came stepping o'er the grass, Lusty with life, and promising to go A distance, with finger or his sword Upon the sluggish air he wrote her name, And bade the breeze, 'Ho! slave of Solomon! Take thou this writing to my Malkatoon, Nor say thou canst not find her. In a cave Scarce two hours hence by measure of my steed In easy gait, a daughter's part she doth By old Edebali, the Dervish saint Well known alike to kings and common men. Below the cave, and in its shade at noon, There is a spring, the mother of a pool Of lucent water. There I saw her first, And there with equal fortune it may be That, hasting, thou shalt find her; and if so— O happy breeze!—be careful not to give Her fright by any rudeness, but approach Her gently—gently—would 'twere mine to teach Thee by example! Fingers of the air Should have a tender touch; therefore I yield Thee leave to lift her hair—'tis black as night— And bare her brow, and blow upon her eyes A breath not strong enough to more than cool The dewy lids; or thou mayst fluff her hair, And with it whip the whiteness of her neck, So thou disturb her not; for it may be She dreams of me. Begone!' "Thus Othman went, Never a man so with his love in love. Far otherwise the Lord of Eskischeer! The reins hung low upon his courser's neck, And nigh asleep, it drowsed and drowsed along, While he, forgetful of his armed heels, And of his journey, and the mine of things About him and above, in grim debate, But silent rode, his mien that of one Just stumbled upon a wonder of the world Within him, half a feeling, half a thought, A fancy formless, faint, a vague desire At first without an object, and so strange He could but question it. So on a waste Of waters from the bursting of a wave There springs a spray so pale and thin it seems To mock the searching eye; and so as clouds That ere long mantle Heaven, and possess It utterly, are first but pallid mist Of breaking waves, the small desire became A passion with the Lord of Eskischeer. And on a hill-top, looking back, he stopt At sight of Othman in the vale below, And shook his hand at him, and said aloud: "'Thou black-browed son of Islam, go thy way, For 'tis the fool's, and thou becomest it, A torch not more the night. Thou not to know That every sense we have is but a gate, An airy gate on downy hinges hung, For Love to come and go! Keep the way; pave It end to end with fantasies in rhyme, And dreams of Allah, and Edebali, And Malkatoon, and, with thy comrade fools, Chatter and sing, and plague the fainting sky With beat of drums and flaunt of flags; nor leave Behind the combings of the Wilderness Thou callest thy Tribe. And I will to the cave; And should the Dervish give the girl to me, Vex not the sun or moon or tender stars With antics of a child. I had not loved Her but for thee.' "Then to the cave he sped With might of galloping. "A thousand knights In gold-gilt steel, and girt with belts of gold, And trebly proud of azure blades, new moons In curvature, and casting brightness far As stars ablaze in cold Caucasian skies, Held all the space about the beaten road Uptrending to the leafy door; their tents Enwhitened linen circling one of silk Capacious as a field, and dyed in green And purple, graceful as a peacock's neck, And full as iridescent; and the air Above the camp was glorified with flags And bannerets, one richer than the rest, And heavy with symbolic broidery, Bespeaking old Iran. Yet, passion-mad, The Lord of Eskischeer thrust through the maze Of martial splendor.
"'Art thou he men call Edebali the Dervish?' "'I am he,' The sage replied. "'Thou hast a maid of age To marry, and indeed they call her good And beautiful.' "The Dervish knit his brows Till in the sudden gloom his eyes became Like blossom coals of fire. "'Now, who art thou?' He asked. "'I am thy neighbor—Eskischeer, My castle, turreting upon a hill Of wide espial, and a town with gates Many as thou hast fingers on thy hands. My hall hath space to dine five hundred guests, And bring they horses, each may have a stall. And for this cave I offer her a roof, And safety well assured by mangonels, And arbalists, and cranes, and bows of steel, And trained men breastplated, and myself, By no means least of them.' "The Dervish put A bit upon his soul. "'But thou art Greek, While she was born the daughter of a Tribe.' "'She shall forget the Tribe.' "'Can we forget So easily, my lord?' "'A woman can.' "'Then what of holy Faith? Thou holdest Christ, While she—' "'Nay, Dervish, jesters I have known, But never one with face so gray as thine. Or if thou must amuse thyself with me, Be it, I pray, with something serious— A ribbon, bright or dull, which I can skein About my finger, or a flower of spring, Which stales at noon of plucking in the morn— For they are solid things compared with faith In women.' "Then the Dervish meekly said, His soul in curbing yet, 'In Paradise, O good my lord, when all was dewy fresh And garden-like, the Maker—be His name A prayer forever!—with the first man walked Familiarly, and from a mountain bade Him view the world, and asked, " How seemeth it?" And the man, then of nature firmly fixed, Took time to answer. "Lord," at length he said, "I see a wondrous glistering below The daisies and the grass." "'The Maker's brow Lost half its halo, and in the falling robbed The wide-spread scene of more than half its light; But with His awful glance askant, He said, "The first is gold; the next thou seest is white, And it is silver." "'And the man's eyes flashed With covetous delight. "And are they mine?" He asked, in heedlessness of selfish greed. "'And slowly he had answer: "They are thine; I made them, and the world, and everything In sight beneath the welkin's bending arch For thee and thine." "'And still the creature stood Fast-holden by the glisters visible Below the daisies. Then the Lord was stirred With jealousy. "Thou fool"" and down the height The deep voice rolled, and smote the smiling vales, And shook them as with thunder. "Turnest thou From Me to them so soon?" "'And then the man, Remorseful, washed his face in dust, and cried, "I will not other God than Thee—I swear!" "'"I thought to win thy faith"—thus spake the Lord; "Thou hast not other pledge to give for love ^ And worship." "But the wretch's grovelling, And tears, and prayers, and promises prevailed Upon the Maker. "Ask Me not to trust Thee ever. Yet"—and in the pause His voice From fiercest chiding passed to tenderness— "The earth shall praise Me for its loveliness; And that it have a tongue in lieu of thine, O ingrate! I upon thy throne will seat A woman to divide the power with thee, And in her being, in the galleries Of her heart, I will hang my lamps of faith, And keep them burning. Or should Darkness blow Them out, all this so passing fair to sight, The beauty and perfections, and the gold And silver thou hast taken for thy gods, Shall crumble, and to nothingness return. Amin!"' "With that the Dervish, all uprist, And towering, in the instant flung his mask Of meekness off. 'Reviler thou of God And woman! Get thee hence,' he said, 'and try Repentance. Though in riches thou surpass Kàroon,* my Malkatoon 'gainst thee shall bide In sweet reserve, a pledge of love and peace From Allah.' "And he gave the Greek his back, And left him dumb-struck.
[* The story of Kàroon is given in the Kur-án. He is represented as the most beautiful of the Israelites who went out with Moses: and "Rich as Kàroon" became a proverb.]
"Then when brooding night Was fallen, and the air so drenched with rain Of darkness that a mousing fox had lost His homeward way, Edebali forsook The friendly cavern, and with Malkatoon, And all his houseling and priceless store Of gifts and honors, fled to Ertoghrul, The thousand Persian knights in snowy tents Encamped before his door at set of sun Escorting him. The famous Sheik received The saintly guest with rites by custom long Prescribed, and in an ample plane-tree grove He pitched for him a tent but lately loomed Of clippings from his brown-black flock, more worth Indeed than royal robes. 'Dervish'—thus the Sheik, While making offer of the leben-draught In shadow of the woven door—'a cup Of welcome! Drink, and dread naught.' "Homeward rode The Lord of Eskischeer to nurse his hate Of Othman. Fifty lances, with their steeds Accoutred, kept he bedded in the stalls Beneath his banquet-hall; while through the nights The iron baskets of the linkmen flamed, And filled the portal's hollow arch with light, So if now or then a courier came Fast riding, and with news, 'To saddle, all! Sheik Othman is abroad!' one bugle note Would mount the troop, and down the bridge would go, And flying hoofs in tumult pass the moat, Rolling and rumbling drumlike, but with thrice The thunder. "Chance as often favors wrong As right. Another dweller in a house Well castellated—Iname by name— To Othman sent a message: 'Come, I pray, And be my guest!' And so it came to pass That Othman and his brother, Goundonloup, Were two of many friends, from near and far, Assembled by the Lord of Inaene To test his cheer and hospitality. And wine and meat within the walls were free As sun and air without, and every mood And habit had its pastime day and night— Chess for the old, and for the robust games With coloring of royal war. "One day The sport swelled loud at table—loud the jest, And louder yet the laugh—when from the gate A guard appeared. 'My lord, a company Of strangers stand before the barbican. The chief invites the Lord of Insene To parley there.' 'The chief? Gave he his name?' 'He called himself a friend, and gave his name. The Lord of Eskischeer. And with him ride A soldier, Michael of the Peaked Beard, And fifty pennoned lances.' The host arose. 'I know this errant lord, a man of note And courtesy. Come, let us to the gate.' And they arose, Othman and Goundonloup, And all the noble guests in festal garbs, And went with him; and on the battlement Above the barbican, secure behind The massive merlons, they stood and heard The parley. And the Lord of Inaene Was first to speak. 'Lo, here am I,' he said. Then he of Eskischeer: ' Take thou salute, And since in blood and faith thou art a Greek, I bring thee chance to prove how much thou lov'st The Virgin Mother, and her Sinless Son, The Only Resurrected. Unaware Thou dost high Christian honors render one Who Pagan prophets proudly say was born To undo Christ and Holy Church, and give The East, and all of us, and all we have, To Islam.' "Then the Lord of Inaene, In wrath and 'mazement, 'Take thee hence, or name The monster!' And the guests, their voices shrill With passion—' Name him! Name him!' And the Lord Of Eskischeer—'There!—see him at thy side— Sheik Othman!—If a Sheik can be whose Tribe Hath life from camel-eaters, altar-thieves, And overflow of spawn from hatcheries A-fester in the desert. I demand Him of thee, and to scruple now were sin. God-service his who cuts him off betimes. Make haste, my lord.' "Then every eye was turned To Othman, and he asked, 'My fellow-guests, What faith have ye in trials by the sword?' And they returned, 'The faith we have in God.' To which he, smiling, as if more than pleased, 'So think I.' Then with changed voice and brow, And sternly, to the host—'Six tribesmen brought I hither, newly mailed and horsed, and they, And I, and this my brother—eight in all— Will ride against the Lord of Eskischeer And caitiff Michael of the Peaked Beard.' "The noble company, though belted knights, And often battle-tried, recast their looks, Each mutely measuring the deed proposed By other deeds in song and story long Adjudged heroic; and in the while, a breath's Brief space, from out a sea within their breasts, Unknown to them, a wave of tenderness Arose and thrilled them all—so young he seemed, And in his high resolve so beautiful! And into words they ran: 'It shall not be If thou art lost, then is my honor lost,' Thus the host; and another, 'Stay, and count Their lances—fifty trained and merciless!' But Othman answered, 'What have we to fear, Who ride with Truth and Right?' And to his host Again, and cheerily—'The parley keep While we to horse, and when below thou seest Me signal with my hand, then let there be No toying at the gate, but fling it wide— Both valves at once—and leave us to our swords, And Allah.'
"Variant and loud and hot The wordy strife the Lord of Inaene Provoked and waged with him of Eskischeer; As when two winds in mimicry of war 'Counter each other swirling round a house Of many angles. Then, all eagerly, That they might hear, the hirelings in the road To shoulder swung their shields, and careless brake Their fine array. And presently the gate Opening moved—slowly first—noiselessly— And then the hinges shrieked as if a ghost In pain were giving up, and on the right And left clang!—clang!—the sturdy, steel-bossed valves Rolled swiftly back, uncurtaining an arch, Shallow and tunnel-like, through which a glare Of daylight from the thither side, snow-white And blinding, smote the startled leaguerers. Then, ere a man of them could frame a thought, Or whisper of the treachery he feared, They heard a cry, 'Take, all, the stirrup now, And follow me!' And in the voice there was The ring and searching quality of calls By trumpet wildly blown, which, when they find A spirit, seem to say, 'Oh-ho! Awake! For here is bloom of glory roseate, And thine the gathering!' "And wider grew The stare of those in hire beneath the wall, When through the gateway burst the beat of hoofs Rumbling the earth as 'twere a slackened drum By drunken drummers beaten. Motionless, Their senses in a listless pause, they stared, And waited what might come. So, when a cloud Low overhead has clapped its mighty hands, And, bidden halt, the startled traveller stands, And bates his heart and breath, unknowing where, If deadly bolt there be, the bolt may strike. And then the meaning brake! "Into a court, House-bound and narrow, but aglow with light, A horse appeared outstretched, and leaping long, Its head low borne, its nostrils flashing red, And straight upon the riven air back streamed Its forelock, black, and plentiful, and long, In freedom flying with the flying mane; And on toward the open gate it ran, Ringing the roughhewn flagging underfoot As with their hammers anxious swordsmiths ring The bladed steel fast chilling in the tongs. And when the rider, all in linked mail, And of the steed a part—so easily He kept his seat—beheld the enemy, He dropt the bridle-rein, and raised his shield And scimitar full arm's-length up, and prayed, 'Shadow me now, O Allah!' Then to those Behind him following close—Goundonloup And the six tribesmen—half he turned his face, And shouted,'On, O brethren! This the way To Paradise! Forward, and strike, and cry "Allah, O Allah!"' Then frontward he set His face all radiant with battle-light, And shouting 'Allah! Allah!' as he bade His men, into the vaulted gate he plunged, And the great stones above him and below Shook as he passed. "And then a terror struck The leaguerers, and every bridle-hand 'Gan tugging at the reins in selfish haste To get away; whereat the guests in perch Between the merlons, looking down at them, Brake into gibes and laughter, and the host Cried out, 'Oh-ho, my Lord of Eskischeer! That infidel and traitor to the Truth Ye asked of me—the Sheik without a Tribe— Is coming—nay, is here!' "And at the word, As if it were some cabalistic sign, Out of the hollow arch, then darkening With turbaned friends fast trooping at his heels, Blatant and eager—out into the hard And trodden space before the portal front, Our Othman rode. One buffet with his shield, And Michael of the Peaked Beard went down, Not slain, but sorely hurt, and tasting dust In bloody mouthfuls, and all his wits awing, As in some placid evening sky at play With swallows. "Then the end rushed in apace. From Michael to the Lord of Eskischeer Sheik Othman wheeled Antar, and in the two, The horse and man, there was so much of force, So much of all a victim sees and hears To stop the beating of his baser heart What time the lion makes his flying leap, The Greek turned sick with fear, and, borrowing From panic, flung about, and fled amain. And on his back, unwrit, yet plain as moon In freshness burst above a scumbled hill, The word that sent his hirelings down the road They came, a scuffling, dizzened mass in blind And headlong flight for life. Wherewith it seemed The guests went mad with very ecstasy, And merry-making set the stones they stood Upon astir with laughter. But the voice Of Othman through the din shore sharp and high, 'The rakhem* ruffling yonder—take thou these, The sword-hands of my choice, and follow them; The craven lord, their master, leave to me,' Thus he to Goundonloup.
"There was a path By usage long and wearing won from sward And broken place, and, like a rusted belt Around a woman's waist, it girt the wall, The blackened gate in lieu of silvern clasp— A narrow way, and sinuous, and sown With flinty fragments sharp and dangerous, And never traversed save by sandaled men, And kine, slow-footed, watchful—such the road The Lord of Eskischeer in panic took, And now was spurring down. And seeing him, Again Sheik Othman in his stirrups rose, And lifting sword and shield and shining face, 'Shadow me now, O Allah!' thus he prayed. And bending low along his courser's neck, As spirit unto spirit speaking, said, 'Antar! Antar! O king of running kings! Forget not now the soul thou hadst from me The day we journeyed down to No Man's Land. Forget not now the many other days We gave to hunting lions, and in chase Of eagles. Here, ignobler work—a wolf, Only a wolf—but ours no less to give The world a long, sweet rest by making end Of him. So now, take thou the reins, and go In freedom. Only bring me to his side, And hold me there a time to strike a blow For Malkatoon and holy love; and she Shall feed thee from the palm-cup of her hands, And comb thy mane, and braid thy forelock ply And ply with night-black tresses of her own. To thy wings, O Antar!' "The reins dropt loose; Then as a hound unleashed and bidden go Leaps whimpering up with eyes afire to see The game, and take direction from its flight, So from a gallop, kept that it might hear The master's promises—or so it seemed— The willing courser tossed its shapely head On high—a moment thus—then off it sped In quickening leaps, of lions none so strong, Of eagles none more swift; yet scarce less strong, "Othman in his stirrups rose And swift, and sure of foot the steed that bore The craven Greek. Two boles of furbished steel, In passage trailing light, like moving flames— Such the men. Ledge-rocks wrenched from cloudy height, And plunging down a graded mountain-side In rivalry of ruin—such the steeds; One bearing Love, and all its urgencies, The other scourged by Fear, gray-faced and blind. And answering the calls by Rumor passed From court to hall and kitchen, noisily And fast the castle poured its tenantry Upon the wall, and from the vantage-points— Embrasure, mullioned-port, and hanging-tower— They viewed the race, in silent wonder first, And then with gusts of clamor.
"And thus once Around and to the gate again! And scant The time allowed the guests still waiting there To speed their friend; for past the yawning arch, And over Michael, writhing where he fell, His senses yet abroad—on unseeing, And hearing nothing save the steady roll Of hoofs behind him—on into the path The very same but then so hotly come, The Lord of Eskischeer went thundering, His shield-arm nerveless as an empty sleeve, His sword forgotten. Like a flash he passed, And then another flash, and Othman passed, And still the reins hung loose, and still he talked As to a boon companion. 'Not so fast, O brave Antar!—I see his rowels drip— And as our enemies the eagles used When they would see if Jinn of Solomon's It was pursuing them, a little stay Thy wings, and hover—hover! There—now hold The flight at that until I bid thee swoop— And doubt her not—doubt not that she will feed Thee with her dainty hands, and comb thy mane, And braid thy forelock. Never amulet Of pearl in lucent bar from Persian sea Thrice laid upon the Kaabah's sacred stone So blessed and blessing as a tress of hers!' And then there was a yellow cloud of dust, And withered grass, and leaves, and blasted shreds Of rue from out the wrinkles of the wall, Awhirl and breaking into lesser clouds, And thence a muffled pounding of the earth In rapid strokes, as if an hundred hands Were breaking sheaves of corn with iron flails; And so from view of those above the gate The racers vanished. "On, nathless, they went— On over levels, meagre, green, and scant— On into shallow brookways then but beds Of rattling shingles—on—and as they went The air they tore through sounded in their ears Like wanton winds in revelry with waves; And all the shouts dropt ringing from the wall, The taunting and the laughter, mixed with cheers, Passed them unheard. But coming presently To a long, upward slant of hardened road, Bent sharply round an angle turreted And next the gate, our Othman woke to life. 'I saw the quarry stagger—there—again! The time is come! Drink now thy fill of air, Antar, and, by thy Nejdee blood, set on, And prove thyself!' And crying thus, he snatched And shook the reins, and as a swimmer breasts A foaming current, leant against the breeze. No more of waiting! Forward—forward sprang The gray-black king of coursers, free and fresh, The morning's vigor in his lissome limbs, And in his spacious breast a hero's heart; And this the prayer he heard at every leap: 'Speed, speed, O gallant friend! For Prophet's grace, And holy love, and honor, and the Tribe; Stumble not now, nor tire.' "Nor vain the prayer! There where the road, its gentle rise complete, Around the castle's corner wound itself In broadened loop, returning to the gate, Sheik Othman had his wish, and by a thrust Half given he could have reached his foeman's back, And that way set his swooning spirit free. But all his scorn of doubtful ruse and mean Advantage rose betime. ' Show me thy front, And up with shield!' So bugle-clear his voice, And loud, they heard it on the turret's top; Yet, save to deeper stab his failing barb And closer cringe, the Lord of Eskischeer Rode signless on. Then once, and silently, Above the Nejdee's neck our Othman shook The flying reins. A leap, and flank and flank, Stirrup 'gainst stirrup, on the straining steeds Like shallops lashed in waters rough and swift, Together drave. 'That thou, O craven Greek! So much the lower of thy high degree, Didst dream or think of loving Malkatoon, Or fancy Heaven had bred such rose to waste Its perfume on thy breast, were scarlet shame To innocence.' Thus Othman, speaking low; And then aloud, and near the gate, 'Awake! It is for life, if not for love. Thy sword Is there, and here thy shield, and under eyes We come.' Moved then the wretch's bloodless lips, 'For the dear Christ'—he stopt. And in upon The naked space before the gate they burst With beat and gride, and on the battlement There was nor laugh nor cheer; for overhead The sword of Othman fashioned coils of flame, And hissed like angry serpents. And he said, 'False friend and coward—liar—this the fate The sinless Christ reserves for all thy kind! Amin!' A shriek responsive to the blade In practised stroke—a clang of shield and sword, And steel in loosened links—a lifeless bulk Full length in dust—these held the guests in awe And speechless, while the courser of the Greek Ran on alone. "Then Othman stayed to say, 'My Lord of Inaene, I pray thou have A care of this one, Michael; he is hurt, Not dead. I will return.' With that, he rode Off after Goundonloup; and together, As tireless huntsmen follow skulking wolves, Up to the very bridge of Eskischeer The eight their harry of the hirelings kept. And loud the greeting when to Inaene The victors drave the harvest of the fray— Well harnessed horses, lances, swords, and shields Enriched with many strange devices done In gold and staring pigment, spurs of gold, And armor silver-gilt. And of it all The host with deftest art made pyramids, And sheaves, and radiates, and glorified The banquet hall." "And here, as was her wont, The fair Sultana-mother, wise and good As she was fair, allowed herself to rest The brave recital, and observe the child, And wonder at his wonder; then, her arms About him, and with kiss, she pledged the world Another Othman, and in softer tone Renewed the tale.
"It seemed then that all The things of farthest flight, the birds and winds, The mornings, and the weird Invisibles Of Night which, as Voices, direct the winds In ministry to men by Allah loved, Made minstrels of themselves, and went about Through Islam, even to its border-lands, Singing of Othman and his victory; And there was never fame so sudden won, Or name so easy on the trumpet's lip. And he was great, and—to the common heart No sweet its like in life—his greatness came To him in youth, when fronds of green enwreathed Become a brow as light becomes a star. It is the homage of his fellow-men, And not the crown, that makes a real king. And such was Othman; yet a lover more Than king was he. "Then in the prime of spring, The third since Othman saw his Malkatoon, A gentle child with fluffy night-black hair, And brow and breast of sun-illumined snow, And seeming of the bubbling runlet born, Back to the cave the saintly Dervish went Without an enemy to give him fear, Or break his thought on holy things intent. And thither Othman often followed him; At times sky-blind from overwatch of hawk And heron heavenward in the blue blaze Of hottest noon; at other times to pace The cavern floor, and bear the elder's hand Upon his shoulder, listening while he talked Familiarly of Allah, and His laws, And what might be if men but heeded them; And always, sooth to say, it was a hope, Or flutter of a wish almost a hope, Which lured him to the good man's vine-clad door, That something haply come, though but a dream, Or nightly incident of fateful stars, Would erewhile close the dreary trial term Imposed on him. And many times there were In which he overstayed the shortening day; And then the sage and reverend host would roll A bale of lion skins upon the floor For couch, and smile, and say good-night, and leave Him pillowed in the Prophet's nursing hands. "One summer night—'twas in the red-moon month Of nightingales, and sweetest rivalry Of rose and jasmine—Othman, all belate, Upon the couch of trophies stretched his limbs; And over him Edebali had said The parting speech wherewith the day is done, And sleep invited in, when Othman caught The sage's robe, and held it by the hem, And in the tone a weary santon begs The rich for dole to help him on his way, Besought him,' Stay, and tell me—thou who hast The recollections of its joys to soothe The pangs of love in loss—thou who canst tell— No other can—ah, when—when is this dure Of winter on my love to pass?' "The look The Dervish gave the eager supplicant Was wavering and cloudy; yet he could But stay and hear. "'Here, father, are thy beads,' Thus Othman further. 'See how dull and blurred The ambers are from counting! And the cord Of sacred green which holds them to thy belt— The gray Scherif of Mecca blessed it thrice, Then sent it thee from holy Arafat— How worn and thin it is, and like to break! O Dervish, pity me! As is the cord, My hope is wearing out, and like the beads, My days and hours. Ah, when shall I have done With counting them?' "And lower, lower drooped The listener's cowled head, and not from age Or wing of spirit noiseless in the air The tremor of the taper in his hand. And Othman hurried. "It was in the spring I asked for Malkatoon. Before your door The birds were making nests, and easing toil With blithesome songs; yet thrice since then the world Has summered—thrice, and never word or sign From her to me. Was ever honest love So starved as mine has been? A little speech— Good-morning, or, May Allah comfort thee— Enough to tell me I was known to her As friend to friend, and that she wished me well, My soul had magnified into a song As soaring and divine as Genii sing To Israfil across the bridgeless voids. Stoop lower, Dervish—stoop, and take my hand, And tell me—thou whose wisdom is a gift By gracious Heaven—tell me how my love Has lived through all the going of the years Without caressment, smile, or glance of eyes Awake and shooting flatteries as stars Shoot radiance—without the pleasant sting Of rosy fingers softly laid in palm Outstretched—without the music of a voice In promises of deeper soothe than sleep Or any drug. O Dervish, wanting these, The daily bread and spiced luxuries Of common passion, why should not my love Have died of cold neglect, and been erased From memory, if not itself the sign Of Allah's favor you so long have asked Of me? Yet here it is—at thy feet laid Low again.' "Still the Dervish held his peace. "'Art thou afraid? Or'—Othman's voice sank down And trembled plaintively—'Or didst thou think My love a childish whim to change or go With cunning play of truce? There have been times I stopt the vagrant winds that seemed in flight To where she lay, and charged them, Take her this Or that—some airy frill of loving thought Uprisen from the moment's wish like spume From gushing wine; and still, so weak the years To reave the passion of its early pulse, To-day while coming here I heard the hist And whisper of a breeze which might have been From her to me, and straight, as king to slave, I bade it, Stay, and give me that she sent By thee, and as 'twas rudely malcontent, I slave-like prayed it, Be thou merciful, And tell me if ye heard her speak my name, And sigh when speaking it, as if she longed To have me near her.' "Then Othman closer drew The good man's hand, and said with urgent look, And voice impatient, ' There was one who spake Of mighty deeds reserved for me to do, And long and far his walk had been in thought Of life and death, and what must come to pass For sake of peace 'mongst men, and I believed In him, and did the things he bade me do, Nor gave a care to what was said of me; And of my faith in him there grew a hope Which should have been my steadfast law of life. And of that hope—how often I have laid My sword across my knees, and in its depth Of blue reflection, limpid as the sky Above me, seen the glory of the East From out its wane emerge, and heard my name Go down the winds a lasting melody Of bugles. Prophet—say, dost thou recall The lordly words? Yet marvellous and true, That hope is not at all, or if it lives, 'Tis as an echo, lifeless of itself. A dream arose, and blew its splendors out, And left it hiding placeless in the dark, A servant bounden to the dream.' "Thereat The taper waved, and outbrake all the face Of him who held it, reddening in the light. 'What is the dream?' he asked. "Then Othman's face To scarlet turned, and, 'neath the searching eye, Flamed like a poppy blooming in a field Of yellow corn. 'I pray thee, turn thy gaze, And waste its burning in the darkness there; For that thou seekest I am moved to give,' Thus he with purest modesty. 'For grace I called it dream yet asks it naught from night, Or sleep, or waking reverie of day; And if it goes, it comes again the same In kind and radiance. 'Tis not a dream, But living thought by sweetest fancies fired, And always forward-flying to the hour, The happy hour, when I can go alone To Malkatoon, and raise her bridal veil, And kiss the maiden blushes from her brow And childish cheeks. O Dervish—by thy beard, And Allah lending ear!—that joyous time Were more to me than any fame of sword Or deftest rhyme.' "In lowlands, after rain Has washed the copse and of the earth made reek, And mists of fleecy whiteness rise in clouds, And through the tangle slowly drive like sheep Unshorn and browsing, one looks up and sees The stars in dewy faintness shimmering, As if they were aswim in ruffled light; So to the young man shone the elder's eyes, Tremulous in their fixedness, and dim With tears half-risen. Then the elder knelt Upon the shaggy couch, and put an arm About the younger's neck, and in the dale Between the brows he kissed him twice, and said, With struggling voice,' Commend thyself to Him, The Merciful and most Compassionate, And sleep forgetful of the world and life; And if thou hast a dream, on waking call Me, mindless of the hour, and I will come To thee.' Therewith he left another kiss, And rising, round him drew his robe of fur, And disappeared. "And later, when the clock Of planets in the spacious heavens marked A moment early in the afternoon Of night, the chambers of the cavern rang With loud alarms: 'Awake—Edebali— Awake, and come to me!' And presently, With taper lit, and robed, his face aglow With sharp expectancy, the holy man Upon the pallet sate himself in front Of Othman. 'Thou hast dreamed a dream,' So simply he invited confidence. And Othman,' Nay, a Vision came to me— It was a Vision, Dervish.' 'Be thy care Never so awful!' Thus, with caution large, The elder spake. 'And know, my son, how broad And grave the difference. Our dreams we have From Angels—seven good, and seven bad; And as the Angels, so the dreams they bring. But Visions are from Allah, and He keeps Them for His prophets, and for other men A little lower, and already passed Within the saving circle of His love And mercy—Now I will not break thy thread Of speech again.'
"And Othman took the sign, And slowly said,' Upon this rugged couch, O Dervish, I was lying by thy side, And sleep was on us both. And in the drown Of senses, dim and purple-sweet, there came A sexless Genius, winged, and all unclad, Except with starlight streaming from its brow. And standing by me tall as any palm, And whiter than a marble minaret, It shot delicious waking from its touch. "Soul of this man," it said, "attend." And straight My soul had eyes and ears beyond the strength Of mortals.
"'"Look now!" and I could but look. And the gray vestments on thy breast began To stir and break, and forth appeared a moon Full orbed, and with a rich enamelling That made its light a lustrous pleasantry. And over us it hung in far suspense; Then like a feathered atom in a lake Of crystal air, so lightly down it sunk, And in my bosom vanished. Then in sway Of mute perplexity my spirit stood, And to the Genius turned; whereat it smiled, And said, " The moon is fairer than a star, And so is Malkatoon. But look again!" And fain I looked, and saw a seminal Of brightest velvet-green begin to rise, There where the moon went down. And kneeling low, The Genius breathed upon the tender spray, And joined its palms above it, and arose, And the plant, still in hover of the palms, And rising with them, grew to be a shrub, And then a tree; wherewith the Genius left It to itself. But staying not, it reached Its branches out, and covered us with shade; And still outspreading, soon in need of rest, It leaned its mighty arms on Caucasus, And Haemus, Atlas, Taurus, brethren all From eld unspeakable. Nor did it stop When hoarsely bidden by the restless seas, Or spare the upper cloudways of the sky; And everywhere that horizons had been, And raised their baseless walls, and overhung Them with deceptive veils of frailest blue And purple, there was naught but foliage And oaken glory. And then miracle On miracle! The Genius did but lift Its open hand, and speak some simple word, Lo this or that! and fast the marvels came, As they were hawks, and it their falconer— Scarce faster break the ocean's turquoise waves At beckon of the wind upon the beach. In air I heard a whir of beating wings, And looking, lo! the tree was filled with birds, And butterflies besprent the living sod. I heard a thunder of the quaking earth, As if the sea had found its hollow heart, And looking, lo! the granite rocks beneath The sacred tree were rent, and forth the Nile Upburst, and after it the Euphrates, The Tigris, and the Danube, and when each Of them had won its way apart and down The wrinkled world, a holy calm befell. And while I wondering looked, the Genius spake, " This is the hour by men to Allah given. Why stand'st thou there?" And to my knees I sank, Thence on my face, and from the dust my lips Sang worshipfully, God alone is great— There is no God but God! And with the last Refrain the Genius smiled, and waved its hand; Thereat the realms in umbrage of the tree, Now more a gilding splendor than a shade, Unrolled before me to the farthest marge. And on the mountain sides I saw the flocks To fatness feeding; on the seas, I saw The galleys ride the jealous dolphins down, And flash their dripping oars in merriment I saw the hills put on their castle-crowns, And in the plains, and by the littorals, The crowded cities hold their courtly fairs, And royal-wise, like queens in vanity Of state, make high display of obelisk And pyramid, and humbler towers and mosques In princely fusion blent. And on my knees, And near afaint, I heard the Genius say, "Lo, this last—Look up!" And I could but look. And all the singing birds grew still as death, Then took to wing; and hardly were they gone, When every leaf alive upon the tree Became a curved and flashing scimitar; And swinging pendulous and free, each rang The other, so it seemed to me the whole Vast overarch of air and sky became A golden bell confused by silver tongues Innumerable. And while thus the land Was music-swept as by a throbbing tide, An angry wind from out the Orient Rushed at the sounding cone of flaming blades, And in a twinkling every point was turned In one direction. Whither? And to what? I could but look. And on the farther shore, Beyond a summer sea, I saw a town Of palaces, and in its midst a hill, And on the hill a church, and on the church A dome whose lines seemed all to parallel The smiling sky, and on the dome, itself Of gold, a cross with arms and tree of gold, So tall and beautiful it blazed afar In fervid opposition to the sun. 0 Dervish, thine it is to marvel now! 1 could but gaze, and covet what I saw; And in a trice the cross upon the dome— No hand appearing—vanished with a crash, And in its place I saw a crescent stoop, And plant itself in moonlike loveliness— Whereat I woke.' "Thus Othman closed the tale, And then, like doomed men who calmly wait The ruthless bowman's string, with folded hands, And breathless, bowed his head. And presently The Dervish, risen, touched the jetty curls With trembling fingers, saying, ' Thou hast had A wondrous Vision, Son of Ertoghrul— A Vision, not a dream. A sentinel, The whitest winged of all the white-winged host That keeps the azure arch of Paradise, Beheld thy spirit in the sapphire waves Of deepest sleep submerged, yet making moan, And struggling, so their ever-silent flow Was broken; and he took it in his arms, And mounted to the pitch above the sky Whence it might see the World of Things to Come, Apart from Heaven. Wherefore all that passed Before thee in the Vision shall come to pass In very order as 'twas given thee To see them. That thou leav'st undone And wanting shall remain a heritage Of labor for thy sons, and sons of theirs, Till all is done. Look, Son of Ertoghrul! Lift up thine eyes, and with me see the Sign So long in prayer at last by Allah sent To make us glad! And, lo! his Will in love, And the one Right Way by the Prophet stretched Before me, like a path of gold aglow; And she, the mother of thy Malkatoon, So young, so fair, so pure the very grave Did borrow beauty from her life that was, Must now release me of the promise made To her that awful hour when Death was come And pouring darkness in her wistful eyes, Which yet he could not all put out or reave Of loving light; and if the Way should dim, Or lose itself, or any need of help O'ertake me, she, sweet soul, will hear my call, And even guide me with her cheery voice In lieu of helping hand.' "And then again The Dervish kissed his guest with joy amazed And stupefied; but in his open palm He kissed him, saying, so the gray-faced walls Brake into loud alarms of ecstasy, 1 Young father of my Tribe! Lord! Lord! my Lord 1' And so the old man sware himself thenceforth A tribesman of the Tribe. Then he arose, And going, turned to say full pleasantly, 'When hence thou goest, be it to appoint The wedding-day, and with the feast concern Thyself, remembering to make it large And kingly. Every destiny must have Its morning, noon, and night'"