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Poem by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The Pilgrim of the Desert

  Wearily flaggeth my Soul in the Desert;
                      Wearily, wearily.
  Sand, ever sand, not a gleam of the fountain;
  Sun, ever sun, not a shade from the mountain;
  Wave after wave flows the sea of the Desert,
                      Drearily, drearily.

  Life dwelt with life in my far native valleys,
                      Nightly and daily;
  Labour had brothers to aid and beguile;
  A tear for my tear, and a smile for my smile;
  And the sweet human voices rang out; and the valleys
                      Echoed them gaily.

  Under the almond-tree, once in the spring-time,
                      Careless reclining;
  The sigh of my Leila was hush'd on my breast,
  As the note of the last bird had died in its nest;
  Calm look'd the stars on the buds of the spring-time,
                      Calm--but how shining!

  Below on the herbage there darken'd a shadow;
                      Stirr'd the boughs o'er me;
  Dropp'd from the almond-tree, sighing, the blossom;
  Trembling the maiden sprang up from my bosom;
  Then the step of a stranger came mute through the shadow,
                      Pausing before me.

  He stood grey with age in the robe of a Dervise,
                      As a king awe-compelling;
  And the cold of his eye like the diamond was bright,
  As if years from the hardness had fashion'd the light,
  "A draught from thy spring for the way-weary Dervise,
                      And rest in thy dwelling."

  And my herds gave the milk, and my tent gave the shelter;
                      And the stranger spell-bound me
  With his tales, all the night, of the far world of wonder,
  Of the ocean of Oman with pearls gleaming under;
  And I thought, "O, how mean are the tents' simple shelter
                      And the valleys around me!"

  I seized as I listen'd, in fancy, the treasures
                      By Afrites conceal'd;
  Scared the serpents that watch in the ruins afar
  O'er the hoards of the Persian in lost Chil-Menar;--
  Alas! ill that night happy youth had more treasures
                      Than Ormus can yield.

  Morn came, and I went with my guest through the gorges
                      In the rock hollow'd;
  The flocks bleated low as I pass'd them ungrieving,
  The almond-buds strew'd the sweet earth I was leaving;
  Slowly went Age through the gloom of the gorges,
                      Lightly Youth follow'd.

  We won through the Pass--the Unknown lay before me,
                      Sun-lighted and wide;
  Then I turn'd to my guest, but how languid his tread,
  And the awe I had felt in his presence was fled,
  And I cried, "Can thy age in the journey before me
                      Still keep by my side?"

  "Hope and Wisdom soon part; be it so," said the Dervise,
                      "My mission is done."
  As he spoke, came the gleam of the crescent and spear,
  Chimed the bells of the camel more sweet and more near;--
  "Go, and march with the Caravan, youth," sigh'd the Dervise,
                      "Fare thee well!"--he was gone.

  What profits to speak of the wastes I have traversed
                      Since that early time?
  One by one the procession, replacing the guide,
  Have dropp'd on the sands, or have stray'd from my side;
  And I hear never more in the solitudes traversed
                      The camel-bell's chime.

  How oft I have yearn'd for the old happy valley,
                      But the sands have no track;
  He who scorn'd what was near must advance to the far,
  Who forsaketh the landmark must march by the star,
  And the steps that once part from the peace of the valley
                      Can never come back.

  So on, ever on, spreads the path of the Desert,
                      Wearily, wearily;
  Sand, ever sand--not a gleam of the fountain;
  Sun, ever sun--not a shade from the mountain;
  As a sea on a sea, flows the width of the Desert,
                      Drearily, drearily.

  How narrow content, and how infinite knowledge!
                      Lost vale, and lost maiden!
  Enclosed in the garden the mortal was blest:
  A world with its wonders lay round him unguest;
  That world was his own when he tasted of knowledge--
                      Was it worth Aden?

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Edward Bulwer-Lytton's other poems:
  1. The Love of Maturer Years
  2. The True Joy-Giver
  3. On the Reperusal of Letters Written in Youth
  4. The Loyalty of Love
  5. Address to the Soul in Despondency

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