The Pagan

I walked into her Temple, as of yore
  My Tyrian sires, allured by cryptic signs; 
But sudden as I entered closed the door 
  Upon the hope that mortal love resigns
   Before her ancient, myrtle-bowered shrines. 

I sorrowed not; though every lamp I lit 
  Flamed up in speech articulate and said, 
Beware, O foolish Worshipper! ’t is writ:
   “Who craves a gift shall give his soul instead, 
    Who lights a lamp is curséd of the dead.”

I did not heed; I passed from shrine to shrine, 
   Filling the lamps with oil, the Fane with light; 
But when I approached, O One Eternal, thine, 
   I heard the terror of her tongue, and Night 
   Was creeping on her brow of malachite. 

I did not stop, although the votive oil
   I poured into thine urn to water turned; 
But when the Dawn her enchantments came to foil, 
    The secret of thy clemency I learned—
    Again the oil thine altar burned. 

The suddenly the Temple shook and swayed, 
   And all the shrines, except thine, disappeared; 
Even so her heart, by knowledge undismayed, 
   On Love’s one altar with thy hand upreared, 
   To Love’s one God is evermore endeared. 


From A Chant of Mystics (James T. White & Co., 1921) by Ameen Rihani. This poem is in the public domain.