Edwin Arnold ( )

The Caliph's Draught

Upon a day in Ramadan 
When sunset brought an end of fast,
And in his station every man
Prepard to share the glad repast
Sate Mohtasim in royal state,
The pillaw smokd upon the gold;
The fairest slave of those that wait
Mohtasims jewelld cup did hold.

Of crystal carven was the cup,
With turquoise set along the brim,
A lid of amber closd it up;
T was a great king that gave it him.
The slave pourd sherbet to the brink,
Stirrd in wild honey and pomegranate,
With snow and rose-leaves coold the drink,
And bore it where the Caliph sate.

The Caliphs mouth was dry as bone,
He swept his beard aside to quaff:
The news-reader beneath the throne
Went droning on with ghain and kaf.
The Caliph drew a mighty breath,
Just then the reader read a word
And Mohtasim, as grim as death,
Set down the cup and snatchd his sword.

Ann amratan shureefatee!
Speak clear! cries angry Mohtasim;
Fe lasr ind ilj min ulji,
Trembling the newsman read to him
How in Ammoria, far from home,
An Arab girl of noble race
Was captive to a lord of Roum;
And how he smote her on the face,

And how she cried, for life afraid,
Ya, Mohtasim! help, O my king!
And how the Kafir mockd the maid,
And laughd, and spake a bitter thing,
Call louder, fool! Mohtasims ears
Are long as Baraksif he heed
Your prophets ass; and when he hears,
He ll come upon a spotted steed!

The Caliphs face was stern and red,
He snappd the lid upon the cup;
Keep this same sherbet, slave, he said,
Till such time as I drink it up.
Wallah! the stream my drink shall be,
My hallowd palm my only bowl,
Till I have set that lady free,
And seen that Roumi dogs head roll.

At dawn the drums of war were beat,
Proclaiming, Thus saith Mohtasim,
Let all my valiant horsemen meet,
And every soldier bring with him
A spotted steed. So rode they forth,
A sight of marvel and of fear;
Pied horses prancing fiercely north,
Three lakhsthe cup borne in the rear!

When to Ammoria he did win,
He smote and drove the dogs of Roum,
And rode his spotted stallion in,
Crying Labbayki! I am come!
Then downward from her prison-place
Joyful the Arab lady crept;
She held her hair before her face,
She kissd his feet, she laughd and wept.

She pointed where that lord was laid:
They drew him forth, he whind for grace:
Then with fierce eyes Mohtaism said
She whom thou smotest on the face
Had scorn, because she calld her king:
Lo! he is come! and dost thou think
To live, who didst this bitter thing
While Mohtasim at peace did drink?

Flashd the fierce swordrolld the lords head;
The wicked blood smokd in the sand.
Now bring my cup! the Caliph said.
Lightly he took it in his hand,
As down his throat the sweet drink ran
Mohtasim in his saddle laughd,
And cried, Taiba asshrab alan!
By God! delicious is this draught!

Edwin Arnold's other poems:
  1. The Rhine and The Moselle
  2. The Division of Poland
  3. With a Bracelet in the Form of a Snake
  4. The Falcon-Feast
  5. The Eygptian Princess

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