A Song in the Desert
(P.L. Ob. Jan. 1927)
FRIEND, thou beholdest the lightning? Who has the charge of it—
To decree which rock-ridge shall receive—shall be chosen for targe of it?
Which crown among palms shall go down, by the thunderbolt broken;
While the floods drown the sere wadis where no bud is token?
First for my eyes, above all, he made show of his treasure.
First in his ear, before all, I made sure of my measure.
If it were good—what acclaim! None other so moved me.
If it were faulty—what shame? While he mocked me he loved me.
Friend, thou hast seen in Rida’ar, the low moon descending,
One silent, swart, swift-striding camel, oceanward wending?
Browbound and jawbound the rider, his shadow in front of him,
Ceaselessly eating the distances? That was the wont of him.
Whether the cliff-walled defiles, the ambush prepared for him;
Whether the wave-crested dunes—a single sword bared for him—
Whether cold danger fore-weighed, or quick peril that took him
Alone, out of comfort or aid, no breath of it shook him.
Whether he feasted or fasted, sweated or shivered,
There was no proof of the matter—no sign was delivered.
Whatever this dust or that heat, or those fools that he laboured with,
He forgot and forbore no observance towards any he neighboured with.
Friend, thou hast known at Rida’ar, when the Council was bidden,
One face among faces that leaped to the light and were hidden?
One voice among night-wasting voices of boasting and shouting?
And that face and that voice abide with thee? His beyond doubting!
Never again in Rida’ar, my watch-fire burning,
That he might see from afar, shall I wait his returning;
Or the roar of his beast as she knelt and he leaped to unlade her,
Two-handedly tossing me jewels. He was no trader!
Gems and wrought gold, never sold—brought for me to behold them;
Tales of far magic unrolled—to me only he told them,
With the light, easy laugh of dismissal ’twixt story and story—
As a man brushes sand from his hand, or the great dismiss glory.
Never again in Rida’ar! My ways are made black to me!
Whether I sing or am silent, he shall not come back to me!
There is no measure for trial, nor treasure for bringing.
Allah divides the Companions. (Yet he said—yet he said:—“Cease not from singing.”)