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FLECKER, James Elroy

The War Songs of the Saracens

We are they who come faster than fate:

We are they who ride early or late:

We storm at your ivory gate:

Pale Kings of the Sunset, beware!

Not on silk nor in samet we lie,

Not in curtained solemnity die

Among women who chatter and cry,

And children who mumble a prayer.

But we sleep by the ropes of the camp,

And we rise with a shout, and we tramp

With the sun or moon for a lamp,

And a spray of wind in our hair.

From the land where the elephants are,

To the forts of Merou and Balghar,

Our steel we have brought and our star

To shine on the ruins of Rum.

We have marched from the Indus to Spain,

And by God we will go there again;

We have stood on the shore of the plain

where the Waters of Destiny boom.

A mart of destruction we made

at Jalula where men were afraid,

For death was a difficult trade,

And the sword was a broker of doom;

And the Spear was a Desert Physician

who cured not a few of ambition,

And drave not a few to perdition

With medicine bitter and strong:

And the shield was a grief to the fool

And as bright as a desolate pool,

And as straight as the rock of Stamboul

When their cavalry thundered along:

For the coward was drowned with the brave

When our battle sheered up like a wave,

And the dead to the desert we gave,

and the glory to God in our song.

Tenebris Interlucentem V - II

A linnet who had lost her way

Sang on a blackened bough in Hell,

Till all the ghosts remembered well

The trees, the wind, the golden day.

At last they knew that they had died

When they heard music in that land,

And some one there stole forth a hand

To draw a brother to his side.


(A Ghazel)

How splendid in the morning glows the lily: with what grace he throws

His supplication to the rose: do roses nod the head, Yasmin?

But when the silver dove descends I find the little flower of friends

Whose very name that sweetly ends I say when I have said, Yasmin.

The morning light is clear and cold: I dare not in that light behold

A whiter light, a deeper gold, a glory too far shed, Yasmin.

But when the deep red eye of day is level with the lone highway,

And some to Mecca turn to pray, and I toward thy bed, Yasmin;

Or when the wind beneath the moon is drifting like a soul aswoon,

And harping planets talk love's tune with milky wings outspread, Yasmin,

Shower down thy love, O burning bright! For one night or the other night

Will come the Gardener in white, and gathered flowers are dead, Yasmin.

To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence

I who am dead a thousand years,

And wrote this sweet archaic song,

Send you my words for messengers

The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,

Or ride secure the cruel sky,

Or build consummate palaces

Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,

And statues and a bright-eyed love,

And foolish thoughts of good and ill,

And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind

That falls at eve our fancies blow,

And old Mæonides the blind

Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,

Student of our sweet English tongue,

Read out my words at night, alone:

I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,

And never shake you by the hand,

I send my soul through time and space

To greet you. You will understand.

The Golden Journey to Samarkand


We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage

And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die,

We Poets of the proud old lineage

Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why, -

What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales

Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest,

Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales,

And winds and shadows fall towards the West:

And there the world's first huge white-bearded kings

In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep,

And closer round their breasts the ivy clings,

Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep.


And how beguile you? Death has no repose

Warmer and deeper than the Orient sand

Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those

Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.

And now they wait and whiten peaceably,

Those conquerors, those poets, those so fair:

They know time comes, not only you and I,

But the whole world shall whiten, here or there;

When those long caravans that cross the plain

With dauntless feet and sound of silver bells

Put forth no more for glory or for gain,

Take no more solace from the palm-girt wells.

When the great markets by the sea shut fast

All that calm Sunday that goes on and on:

When even lovers find their peace at last,

And Earth is but a star, that once had shone.


Four great gates has the city of Damascus,
And four Grand Wardens, on their spears reclining,
All day long stand like tall stone men
And sleep on the towers when the moon is shining.

This is the song of the East Gate Warden
When he locks the great gate and smokes in his garden.

Postern of Fate, the Desert Gate, Disaster's Cavern, Fort of Fear,
The Portal of Bagdad am I, the Doorway of Diarbekir.
The Persian Dawn with new desires may net the flushing mountain spires:
But my gaunt buttress still rejects the suppliance of those mellow fires.

Pass not beneath, O Caravan, or pass not singing. Have you heard
That silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird?
Pass not beneath! Men say there blows in stony deserts still a rose
But with no scarlet to her leaf - and from whose heart no perfume flows.
Wilt thou bloom red where she buds pale, thy sister rose? Wilt thou not fail
When noonday flashes like a flail? Leave, nightingale, the caravan!

Pass then, pass all! "Bagdad!" ye cry, and down the billows of blue sky
Ye beat the bell that beats to hell, and who shall thrust ye back? Not I.
The Sun who flashes through the head and paints the shadows green and red, -
The Sun shall eat thy fleshless dead, O Caravan, O Caravan!

And one who licks his lips for thirst with fevered eyes shall face in fear
The palms that wave, the streams that burst, his last mirage, O Caravan!
And one - the bird-voiced Singing-man - shall fall behind thee, Caravan!
And God shall meet him in the night, and he shall sing as best he can.

And one the Bedouin shall slay, and one, sand-stricken on the way
Go dark and blind; and one shall say - "How lonely is the Caravan!"
Pass out beneath, O Caravan, Doom's Caravan, Death's Caravan!
I had not told ye, fools, so much, save that I heard your Singing-man.

This was sung by the West Gate's keeper
When heaven's hollow dome grew deeper.

I am the gate toward the sea: O sailor men, pass out from me!
I hear you high on Lebanon, singing the marvels of the sea.
The dragon-green, the luminous, the dark, the serpent- haunted sea,
The snow-besprinkled wine of earth, the white-and-blue-flower foaming sea.

Beyond the sea are towns with towers, carved with lions and lily flowers,
And not a soul in all those lonely streets to while away the hours.
Beyond the towns, an isle where, bound, a naked giant bites the ground:
The shadow of a monstrous wing looms on his back: and still no sound.

Beyond the isle a rock that screams like madmen shouting in their dreams,
From whose dark issues night and day blood crashes in a thousand streams.
Beyond the rock is Restful Bay, where no wind breathes or ripple stirs,
And there on Roman ships, they say, stand rows of metal mariners.

Beyond the bay in utmost West old Solomon the Jewish King
Sits with his beard upon his breast, and grips and guards his magic ring:
And when that ring is stolen, he will rise in outraged majesty,
And take the World upon his back, and fling the World beyond the sea.

This is the song of the North Gate's master,
Who singeth fast, but drinketh faster.

I am the gay Aleppo Gate: a dawn, a dawn and thou art there:
Eat not thy heart with fear and care, O brother of the beast we hate!
Thou hast not many miles to tread, nor other foes than fleas to dread;
Homs shall behold thy morning meal and Hama see thee safe in bed.

Take to Aleppo filigrane, and take them paste of apricots,
And coffe tables botched with pearl, and little beaten brassware pots:
And thou shalt sell thy wares for thrice the Damascene retailers' price,
And buy a fat Armenian slave who smelleth odorous and nice.

Some men of noble stock were made: some glory in the murder-blade:
Some praise a Science or an Art, but I like honourable Trade!
Sell them the rotten, buy the ripe! Their heads are weak; their pockets burn.
Aleppo men are mighty fools. Salaam Aleikum! Safe return!

This is the song of the South Gate Holder,
A silver man, but his song is older

I am the Gate that fears no fall: the Mihrab of Damascus wall,
The bridge of booming Sinai: the Arch of Allah all in all.
O spiritual pilgrim rise: the night has grown her single horn:
The voices of the souls unborn are half adream with Paradise.

To Meccah thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart and eyes that burn:
Ah Hajji, whither wilt thou turn when thou art there, when thou art there?
God be thy guide from camp to camp: God be thy shade from well to well:
God grant beneath the desert stars thou hear the Prophet's camel bell.

And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee knowledge to endure
This ghost-life's piercing phantom-pain, and bring thee out to Life again.

And God shall make thy soul a Glass where eighteen thousand æons pass,
And thou shalt see the gleaming Worlds as men see dew upon the grass.
And son of Islam, it may be that thou shalt learn at journey's end
Who walks thy garden eve on eve, and bows his head, and calls thee Friend.


At the Gate of the Sun, Bagdad, in olden time

Away, for we are ready to a man!
Our camels sniff the evening and are glad.
Lead on, O Master of the Caravan:
Lead on the Merchant-Princes of Bagdad.

Have we not Indian carpets dark as wine,
Turbans and sashes, gowns and bows and veils,
And broideries of intricate design,
And printed hangings in enormous bales?

We have rose-candy, we have spikenard,
Mastic and terebinth and oil and spice,
And such sweet jams meticulously jarred
As God's own Prophet eats in Paradise.

And we have manuscripts in peacock styles
By Ali of Damascus; we have swords
Engraved with storks and apes and crocodiles,
And heavy beaten necklaces, for Lords.

But you are nothing but a lot of Jews.

Sir, even dogs have daylight, and we pay.

But who are ye in rags and rotten shoes,
You dirty-bearded, blocking up the way?

We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.