King Solomon's Horses




"When the horses, standing on three feet and
touching the ground with the edge of the fourth foot,
swift in the course, were set in parade before him,
King Solomon in the evening said:—
"Verily, I have I loved the love of earthly good
above the rememberance of my Lord, and I have
spent the time in viewing these horses till
the sun is hidden by the veil of night.
Bring the horses back unto me.'
And when they were brought back, he began
to cut off their legs and their necks.—Al Koran"


The black Egyptian coursers of the sands,
Grey stallions from the North, the beasts I love,
Red-nostrilled, river-maned, I slew them all
As a child smites in anger. Oh! wise King!
And foolish past the folly of all fools.

Not anger wholly. Hiram at the gate
Reined in his chariot crying:—'Let them go;'
And I, because I knew the minds of men,
Who cannot rule my own, bade strike afresh,
Assured the fame of such a sacrifice
Would spread to Tyre and the isles beyond.
My honour and not God's I sought herein—
My honour and men's wonder. Who but I
Dare slay a thousand horses of the best,
As Hiram slays his score of starveling goats
To Ashtaroth?
What sin was theirs who lie
Gaunt carcasses beneath the moonlight–speed,
Strength, and the glorious beauty of their kind?
The thunder of the storm was in their feet;
The lightning of the storm was in their eyes;
The power of ten thousand men was theirs;
And one old man, chafed at his own neglect,
Has taken strength and beauty, speed and power.
Yea, they fought well. My reeking spearmen ran
Thrice from their furious onset, when we penned
The flying hundreds in the Palace Porch,
And I had slain the fairest steed of all-—
The great grey stallion with the iron mane.
I chose him for my chariot ere the dusk
Fell and my wisdom left me. Mild was he;
Kingly as I have been. He bowed his neck
To the sharp point and stumbled at my feet,
Still kingly, pleading with great liquid eyes,
And died in silence.
Then I saw my sin
But dared not stay the slaughter. Hiram's eye
Alight with wonder at the gate forbade;
And some old lust of bloodshed spurred me on.
Wherefore I loosed my spearmen, till the Porch
Filled with the tumult of the flying steeds,
The screams of men and horses, kicks and blows;
The sharp, quick bubble of the stabbing-spears;
Fall of great hoofs that plashed in pools of blood
And the low gurgle of the dying. Last,
Out of the press, a red horse reared himself
Black with the sweat of horror, white with foam.
(Accursed be my knowledge of brute speech!)
Crying:—'What sin is ours that we die
My brother?' Then I would have stayed the spears,
But that none heard me till the last was slain;
And I was left alone among the dead—
The raw, sick smell of blood upon the air—
And Hiram's voice across the silent court
Crying:—'All honour to King Solomon!'
All honour to the wisdom of the King!
Wrath and mad lust for honour—Honour these!
Small profit unto God the sacrifice;
And to myself the gain of my own scorn.
All honour to the wisdom of the King!
The grey was beautiful above his kind,
And Hiram's fleet has sailed, nor brings again
Another steed as fair . .. Oh! most wise King!