Nectar and Blood


If I should worship at thine ancient shrine,
Where thy good sons, incensed by love of war,
Now clamor, as their fathers did of yore—
If I should sacrifice what is not mine,
Nor any living god’s, nor even thine—
If for the sake of honor I must pour
This cup of life upon thy barren shore,
How will it fare then with my love divine?

No! let thy sons go forth to burn and slay:
Let them for love of thee and glory smear
And tear the love of all that’s pure and dear;
Let them this loveless love in rage display;
I can not join them; no, I can not cheer
As they beneath my window pass to-day.


What care I for the tears the maudlin crowd
Sheds o’er my bier—for praise of Church and State—
For glory that remains within the gate
Of worldly things—for men’s esteem avowed—
For freedom that is not with love endowed—
For fame that lingers oft and comes too late,
When these the sorrow of my love create
And haunt her with the shadow of my shroud?

How cowardly, self-centered have I grown—
How dead to true and noble feelings all?
Why not, when they the human soul enthrall—
Why not, when they the beast in man enthrone?
I cling to love, and with love I will fall,
Unwept, unsung, unhonored and unknown.


What will these kings and war-lords of the land
And all their ministers of murder fell
Do with their arms and fleets—all tools of hell—
If every son of man resolve to stand
A-wielding, king-like, in his home the wand,
Beside the ones he loves and honors well?
Can force this gentle host of peace compel,
When loving hearts their amber wings expand?

O love, though hounded, outlawed we may be—
Though Slander, dagger-drawn, be on our trail—
Though Hatred with her hydra tongues should rail
At us, and though left sinking in the sea
Of ostracism, ay, never will I quail,
But will now and forever cling to thee.


From Myrtle and Myrrh (The Gorham Press, 1905) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.