(Being Certain Fragments from Scheherazade's Songs in 'The Thousand and One Nights')
by Charles Hanson Towne
O Queen of Beauty, who hast conquered kings,
O woman wonderful, in pity be
Most merciful to one who softly sings
Thy matchless glory; yea, to one who brings
His broken songs, sung but in praise of thee.
I am the prisoner of thy two eyes!
Roses nor lilies breathe a sweeter breath
Than thou, when Dawn's great minarets arise.
Thy breath is like a breeze from Paradise,
Yet languorous with the mystery of Death!
The Pleiades, which thro' the darkness blaze,
From thy great orbs have filched their wondrous light.
Only the stars, with their undying rays,
Shall make a necklace like a golden haze
To hang about thy throat, O woman white!
To kiss her! 'Tis with musk-perfume to grow
Drunken with joy--delirium to know!
To feel her body bend 'neath my embrace,
See the carved marble of her lily face!
To kiss her! I am drunk who have no wine--
Wild ecstasy, wild ecstasy divine!
Dizzy at eve, at sundown my heart sips
The perfumed nectar of her lips, her lips!
The praises of her beauty I shall sing,
Yea, though her beauty be my suffering!
Lo! one to me hath come and softly said,
'O thou who with Love's sorrowing hast bled,
'Rise! Here is Life's great music, Life's guitar,
Luring thy soul to some exquisite star!'
And I have said, 'How can my poor heart sing,
Since I have left Love's sharp and ceaseless sting?'
If one should ask of me, when all afire
My ravished heart might be,
'What is thy wish, thine utmost dear desire--
One draught from some cool spring to drain, or her white face to see?'--
I should make answer, though I fainted sore,
Tho' my pale lips were dry,
'Let me behold her, ere I pass the Door;
Let me drink of her pool-deep eyes--drink love,
drink love--and die!'
So much I love, that I
Faint with the joy I know;
Yea, for that love is pierced
With the great thorn of woe!
So much I love, that I
Envy the cup she sips,
When over-long it rests
On her soft, crimson lips!
What morn shall find thee, O departed one,
Under the fragrant dew?
Thou hast appeared, O gentle-hearted one,
Back to my famished view.
Clad in white vestments, thou who hast been banished
Out of this lonely place,
I saw thee once at dusk ... Now thou hast vanished,
And left, alas! no trace!
The myrtles of Damascus, when they smile,
Exalt my soul to some remote, high place--
But O thy face!
Roses of Baghdad, bathed in moonlight dew,
Make my heart drunk when all their joy it sips--
But O thy lips!
O form to which the palms have lent their grace,
And all the jasmines given their perfume,
What lovelier form goes wandering thro' earth's room?
O eyes to which the diamond lends its light,
And night its radiant stars,
What woman's eyes give forth a fire more bright?
O kiss more sweet than honey from her mouth,
What woman's kiss is fresher than the South?
O to caress thy hair! to feel my heart
Thrill against thine! ... Then to gaze in thine eyes,
And see the stars arise!
O tomb! within thy shadows can it be
My dear beloved hides away from me?
O tomb, by Allah, tell me, lest I die,
Is all her beauty vanished utterly?
Have her vast charms been blotted out?--her white
And pallid brow been lost in thy deep night?
Surely, O tomb! no bit of heaven is thine,
Who foldest close that wondrous love of mine.
Yet in thy depths, thy darkened depths, O tomb,
I see the stars shine and white lilies bloom!