Abd-El-Kader at Toulon

William Makepeace Thackeray - 1811-1863

 No more, thou lithe and long-winged hawk, of desert-life for thee;
  No more across the sultry sands shalt thou go swooping free:
  Blunt idle talons, idle beak, with spurning of thy chain,
  Shatter against thy cage the wing thou ne'er may'st spread again.

  Long, sitting by their watchfires, shall the Kabyles tell the tale
  Of thy dash from Ben Halifa on the fat Metidja vale;
  How thou swept'st the desert over, bearing down the wild El Riff,
  From eastern Beni Salah to western Ouad Shelif;

  How thy white burnous welit streaming, like the storm-rack o'er the sea,
  When thou rodest in the vanward of the Moorish chivalry;
  How thy razzia was a whirlwind, thy onset a simoom,
  How thy sword-sweep was the lightning, dealing death from out the gloom!

  Nor less quick to slay in battle than in peace to spare and save,
  Of brave men wisest councillor, of wise councillors most brave;
  How the eye that flashed destruction could beam gentleness and love,
  How lion in thee mated lamb, how eagle mated dove!

  Availéd not or steel or shot 'gainst that charmed life secure,
  Till cunning France, in last resource, tossed up the golden lure;
  And the carrion buzzards round him stooped, faithless, to the cast,
  And the wild hawk of the desert is caught and caged at last.

  Weep, maidens of Zerifah, above the laden loom!
  Scar, chieftains of Al Elmah, your cheeks in grief and gloom!
  Sons of the Beni Snazam, throw down the useless lance,
  And stoop your necks and bare your backs to yoke and scourge of France!

  Twas not in fight they bore him down; he never cried amàn;
  He never sank his sword before the PRINCE OF FRANGHISTAN;
  But with traitors all around him, his star upon the wane,
  He heard the voice of ALLAH, and he would not strive in vain.

  They gave him what he asked them; from king to king he spake,
  As one that plighted word and seal not knoweth how to break;
  "Let me pass from out my deserts, be't mine own choice where to go,
  I brook no fettered life to live, a captive and a show."

  And they promised, and he trusted them, and proud and calm he came,
  Upon his black mare riding, girt with his sword of fame.
  Good steed, good sword, he rendered both unto the Frankish throng;
  He knew them false and fickle—but a Prince's word is strong.

  How have they kept their promise?  Turned they the vessel's prow
  Unto Acre, Alexandria, as they have sworn e'en now?
  Not so: from Oran northwards the white sails gleam and glance,
  And the wild hawk of the desert is borne away to France!

  Where Toulon's white-walled lazaret looks southward o'er the wave,
  Sits he that trusted in the word a son of Louis gave.
  O noble faith of noble heart!  And was the warning vain,
  The text writ by the BOURBON in the blurred black book of Spain?

  They have need of thee to gaze on, they have need of thee to grace
  The triumph of the Prince, to gild the pinchbeck of their race.
  Words are but wind, conditions must be construed by GUIZOT;
  Dash out thy heart, thou desert hawk, ere thou art made a show!

More by William Makepeace Thackeray

The Mahogany Tree

Christmas is here;
Winds whistle shrill,
Icy and chill,
Little care we;
Little we fear
Weather without,
Shelter'd about
The Mahogany Tree.

Once on the boughs
Birds of rare plume
Sang, in its bloom;
Night birds are we;
Here we carouse,
Singing, like them,
Perch'd round the stem
Of the jolly old tree.

Here let us sport,
Boys, as we sit—
Laughter and wit
Flashing so free.
Life is but short—
When we are gone,
Let them sing on,
Round the old tree.

Evenings we knew,
Happy as this;
Faces we miss,
Pleasant to see.
Kind hearts and true,
Gentle and just,
Peace to your dust!
We sing round the tree.

Care, like a dun,
Lurks at the gate:
Let the dog wait;
Happy we 'll be!
Drink every one;
Pile up the coals,
Fill the red bowls,
Round the old tree.

Drain we the cup.—
Friend, art afraid?
Spirits are laid
In the Red Sea.
Mantle it up;
Empty it yet;
Let us forget,
Round the old tree.

Sorrows, begone!
Life and its ills,
Duns and their bills,
Bid we to flee.
Come with the dawn,
Blue-devil sprite,
Leave us to-night,
Round the old tree.

At the Zoo

First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black;
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back;
Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wombat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant a-waving of his trunk;
Then I saw the monkeys—mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!

The Speculators

  The night was stormy and dark,
  The town was shut up in sleep:
  Only those were abroad who were out on a lark,
  Or those who'd no beds to keep.

  I pass'd through the lonely street,
  The wind did sing and blow;
  I could hear the policeman's feet
  Clapping to and fro.

  There stood a potato-man
  In the midst of all the wet;
  He stood with his 'tato-can
  In the lonely Hay-market.

  Two gents of dismal mien,
  And dank and greasy rags,
  Came out of a shop for gin,
  Swaggering over the flags:

  Swaggering over the stones,
  These shabby bucks did walk;
  And I went and followed those seedy ones,
  And listened to their talk.

  Was I sober or awake?
  Could I believe my ears?
  Those dismal beggars spake
  Of nothing but railroad shares.

  I wondered more and more:
  Says one—"Good friend of mine,
  How many shares have you wrote for,
  In the Diddlesex Junction line?"

  "I wrote for twenty," says Jim,
  "But they wouldn't give me one;"
  His comrade straight rebuked him
  For the folly he had done:

  "O Jim, you are unawares
  Of the ways of this bad town;
  I always write for five hundred shares,
  And THEN they put me down."

  "And yet you got no shares,"
  Says Jim, "for all your boast;"
  "I WOULD have wrote," says Jack, "but where
  Was the penny to pay the post?"

  "I lost, for I couldn't pay
  That first instalment up;
  But here's 'taters smoking hot—I say,
  Let's stop, my boy, and sup."

  And at this simple feast
  The while they did regale,
  I drew each ragged capitalist
  Down on my left thumbnail.

  Their talk did me perplex,
  All night I tumbled and tost,
  And thought of railroad specs,
  And how money was won and lost.

  "Bless railroads everywhere,"
  I said, "and the world's advance;
  Bless every railroad share
  In Italy, Ireland, France;
  For never a beggar need now despair,
  And every rogue has a chance."