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Poem by Henry Newbolt


Deep embowered beside the forest river,
  Where the flame of sunset only falls,
Lapped in silence lies the House of Dying,
  House of them to whom the twilight calls.

There within when day was near to ending,
  By her lord a woman young and strong,
By his chief a songman old and stricken
  Watched together till the hour of song.

"O my songman, now the bow is broken,
  Now the arrows one by one are sped,
Sing to me the song of Sráhmandázi,
  Sráhmandázi, home of all the dead."

Then the songman, flinging wide his songnet,
  On the last token laid his master's hand,
While he sang the song of Sráhmandázi,
  None but dying men can understand.

"Yonder sun that fierce and fiery-hearted
  Marches down the sky to vanish soon,
At the self-same hour in Sráhmandázi
  Rises pallid like the rainy moon.

"There he sees the heroes by their river,
  Where the great fish daily upward swim;
Yet they are but shadows hunting shadows,
  Phantom fish in waters drear and dim.

"There he sees the kings among their headmen,
  Women weaving, children playing games;
Yet they are but shadows ruling shadows,
  Phantom folk with dim forgotten names.

"Bid farewell to all that most thou lovest,
  Tell thy heart thy living life is done;
All the days and deeds of Sráhmandázi
  Are not worth an hour of yonder sun.

Dreamily the chief from out the songnet
  Drew his hand and touched the woman's head:
"Know they not, then, love in Sráhmandázi?
  Has a king no bride among the dead?"

Then the songman answered, "O my master,
  Love they know, but none may learn it there;
Only souls that reach that land together
  Keep their troth and find the twilight fair.

"Thou art still a king, and at thy passing
  By thy latest word must all abide:
If thou willest, here am I, thy songman;
  If thou lovest, here is she, thy bride."

Hushed and dreamy lay the House of Dying,
  Dreamily the sunlight upward failed,
Dreamily the chief on eyes that loved him
  Looked with eyes the coming twilight veiled.

Then he cried, "My songman, I am passing;
  Let her live, her life is but begun;
All the days and nights of Sráhmandázi
  Are not worth an hour of yonder sun."

Yet, when there within the House of Dying
  The last silence held the sunset air,
Not alone he came to Sráhmandázi,
  Not alone she found the twilight fair:

While the songman, far beneath the forest
  Sang of Srahmandazi all night through,
"Lovely be thy name, O Land of shadows,
  Land of meeting, Land of all the true!"

This ballad is founded on materials given to the author by the late Miss Mary Kingsley on her return from her last visit to the Bantu peoples of West Africa.

Henry Newbolt

Henry Newbolt's other poems:
  1. The Quarter-Gunner's Yarn
  2. The Non-Combatant
  3. Northumberland
  4. Waggon Hill
  5. O Pulchritudo

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