There was a rhapsody in all her moods,
A child-like grace, a passion unrestrained;
Her throne, which bard and saki shared, was stained
With virgin wine as with the blood of feuds;
And in her lyric-woven interludes,
Epitomizing destiny and time,
Her spirit, hid in opalescent rhyme,
The shades of Melancholy still eludes.
Where’er she trod, the rose and bulbul meet;
Where’er she revelled, gardens ever blow;
Where’er she danced, the henna of her feet
Yet lends a lustre to the poppy’s glow;—
Arabia, dark-eyed, light-hearted, fair,
Is but a flower in Andalusia’s hair.
Gods of the silence, still remembering
The dying echoes of her lute, bemoan,
In canticles of golden monotone,
Her Orient splendor too soon vanishing;
And while lions guard her courts, grey eagles wing
Around her turqoise domes, and seedlings blown
From distant lands to her hushed fountains cling,
Yea, and the sun himself sits in her throne.
Time, once her vassal, lingers near the streams
That woo the shadows of her crumbling walls,
And, musing of Alhambra’s glory, dreams
Of Elegance and Power in Myrtle Halls;—
Arabia, once counted of the strong,
Is but a sigh in Andalusia’s song.
In the bewildering grove of colonnades,
Once brilliant with a flood of saffron light,
Poured from ten thousand lanterns day and night,
Her memory, like spikenard in the glades
Of distant lnd or Yemen, never fades;
And her devotion, though the ages blight
The mystic bloom of her divine delight,
Still casts on alien altars longing shades.
But through the mihrabs which the humble hand
Of genius wrought, o’er marbles hollowed deep
By knees that only Piety could command,
I see Oblivion coming forth to reap;—
Arabia, in Allah’s chaplet strung,
Is but a word on Andalusia’s tongue.
Not with the Orient glamor of her pleasures,
Nor with fond rhapsodies of prayer or song
Could she her sovereign reign a day prolong;
Not in the things of beauty that man measures
By the variable humor of his leisures,
Or by the credibilities that change
From faith to fantasy to rumor strange,
Was she the mistress of immortal treasures.
But when the holy shrine Europa sought,
Herself of sin and witchcraft to assoil,
The sovereigns of Al-Zahra maxims wrought
And Averroes burned his midnight oil;—
Arabia, the bearer of the light,
Still sparkles in the diadem of Night.
From A Chant of Mystics (James T. White & Co., 1921) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.