Pardon, dear reader.
The stranger at thy gate, hailing from the Orient, holds out to thee a gaunt and tatooed [sic] hand. This hand has often made mud-pies from earth that might have once mapped out the stars; or, in a drunken vision, heard the grumblings of a god and made of them a captivating creed: the brain of an ancient Assyrian astronomer; the spine of a Semitic sage; the cheeks of a Jezebel or a St. Takla; the heart of a slave that added beauty and horror to the chariot of a Babylonian king or a Roman conqueror: —any or all of these might have besmeared this hand.
Wilt thou take it? The hand of a personified illusion, of an exiled dream, of an Oriental who makes himself thy guest.
He comes not to preach Buddhism to thee; nor Mohammedanism; nor Babyism; nor any other ism made picturesque and alluring by red caftans, white turbans, blue sashes and amber-gris-scented lies.
The only message he brings from his vine-crowned and pine-girdled Mother to bewitching and enriching America is that of love and longing and lacrimal. He came from the Mountains of Lebanon, from under the shadow of the Acropolis of Baalbak, to learn from the Yankees the way to do things—the way to rise and flourish and expand; or, as they put it, the way to get there and be it—from a mundane point of view, of course. It has been observed, however, that the spots of a leopard are irremovable; and so is the lethargy of an Oriental. The writer has found the strenuous life to be as depressing and dwarfing as prison itself; and so he has fallen back to the habit of dreaming, and singing, and taking things easy, even in restless and dreamless America. This sounds paradoxical; it is like going from the country of Trusts and Equality to establish a trolley-car system in the Lebanons. Even this might be possible fifty years hence, despite the opposition of those ancient hills. The writer has forsaken their cedars and pines, their vineyards and fig groves to walk in the shadows of sky-scrapers and watch the sun rise languidly from behind a mound of bricks or a smoking chimney, and sink a-blushing behind the grimy walls of a gaseous Communipaw.
“So far a sun
Setting over so foul a town!”
one would exclaim; but nature delights in paradoxes, and freaks, and rococo. These songs, dear reader, might not even deserve to be classified with like phenomena; but, as the sincere expression of a soul just emerging from the abyss, they deserve to stand. If, however, thou thinkest them no worse in spirit and merit than the amyelencephalic discourses of a pundit, or the emetic dissertations of a Zamackshary [sic], then remember as thou settest the book aside that the author does not appeal to your charity, nor to your justice. Thou art the host, gentle reader; and he relies on the hospitality and cordiality due a guest.